Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This Boat Won’t Float

As we head into December, the holiday season kicks into high gear and we are encouraged by the Bush administration, via newscasters across the country, to do our patriotic duty and spend, spend, spend (what do you have those credit cards for if not to give beyond your means) in order to keep the sinking ship USA afloat with deficit spending that will eventually bring about our personal and national ruin. But this year, in addition to Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa, December will also bring with it the 4th annual meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministries, to be held in Hong Kong.

With a trade deficit on the rise and the American worker sinking fast, our only contribution to the world economy is our dwindling cash. In other words, we are only useful if we keep buying, which for most of us means going further into debt. We are mere dollar signs to the multi-national corporations, and our ability and willingness to buy their cheap crap, manufactured at the expense of workers around the globe, is the only thing keeping our heads above water. This realization is what is driving more and more people into the anti-globalization camp, many of whom will be giving up their holidays to travel to Hong Kong in order to get the message out. How much we in the U.S. will actually see or hear of it is another story.

The protests during the Summit of the Americas in Argentina this past November, were labeled by the mainstream media as anti-Bush demonstrations, but that is only a small part of the story. Sure there were plenty of anti U.S. banners and hostile slogans regarding our Commander in Chief, but the thrust of the movement comes from a much broader agenda. Bush may bring them out into the streets, but the negative impact of so-called “free trade” agreements keeps them there. The American media treats these demonstrations as fringe lefties and anarchists, fueled by the rhetoric of the likes of Hugo Chavez, never bothering to examine the real message. It’s not that difficult to understand, but that’s the point, if they can confuse the issue, most viewers will not take the time to decipher the true meaning. The MSM in this country does their dutiful best to keep the electorate as uninformed as possible of the policies of this administration and downplays the negative effects of those policies at every turn. So when reporting on protests against US sponsored “free-trade” abroad, they are content to marginalize the message.

I walked in the protest march against the WTO here in Seattle in 1999 and it was the largest, most cohesive protest I had ever participated in. Those who came out that day to peacefully voice their dissent knew what was at stake. The WTO had provided a common enemy that pulled the myriad of leftist causes together and everyone understood that the growth of a World Economy was not going to raise the standard of living for those in underdeveloped countries, but rather would pull those of us already struggling to stay above the poverty line down below it. What we feared then has indeed come to pass, making the need for continuing protests that much greater. I was a first hand witness to the ferocity with which the government shut down dissent in Seattle, and that was with a Democrat in the White House, I shudder to think what would happen now.

The reason we are not seeing the same level of protest against “free-trade” policies in this country, is not because the sentiment has diminished, it’s merely fear of ending up on the “no-fly” list or getting a personal visit from Homeland Security. Plus, the main purpose of civil disobedience and political protest is to get media coverage for your message. With the mainstream media on the short leash of this administration, it hardly seems productive. Most of the time they don’t bother to show up, and if they do, they downplay the numbers and distort the message until it becomes unrecognizable, even to those fighting so desperately to get it out.

The problem is not globalization and the creation of a world economy, it’s that the people of the world, the workers who drive the global economy, are being left out of the process. The multi-national corporations who benefit from free trade are attempting to sell us on the idea that the rising tide of global trade will raise all boats, but the workers of the world are not buying it. We’re not stupid, we can feel the anchor around our collective neck holding us to the bottom, threatening to drown us every day. But as much as the American worker has suffered under the guiding hand of the WTO, NAFTA, GAT and now CAFTA, we are still sitting on top of the global food chain, so we have been slower to react and realize that our common interest lies with the poor workers of the world, not with our Corporate countrymen.

Activist are not anti-free trade as a concept, but rather as it has been practiced for the last 50 years. Americans have turned a blind eye to the application of capitalist free market ideals to under-developed countries and now the chickens are coming home to roost. We can no longer ignore the damage we have done abroad. The US has acted as a loan shark around the world, promoting a “free-market” economy that preaches debt as a way to get started. Here, borrow this money from us to build up your critical infrastructure so that you too can become a wealthy country, reaping the benefits of the global economy. The only problem is that the work in building that infrastructure goes not to the local economy, but home to the US and transnational corporations that get awarded the contracts. Public works programs help strengthen the economy by providing jobs to the people, thereby putting money into circulation that supports local businesses. This doesn’t work if the money goes to foreign companies and foreign workers who take the money back home. We may have missed this critical defect when it occurred in countries where Americans weren’t footing the bill, but now that our pockets are being picked to fund the same scheme in Iraq, the message may be getting through.

Most South American countries have either undergone this conversion to a free market economy or have seen it up close. The results were not thriving cities and booming economies, but rather a widening gap between rich and poor, and a hemorrhaging of national resources. It’s no wonder they are not jumping at the chance to sign away what little they have left to an imperialist power that has shown no mercy in the past.

So this holiday season, as we all sit down with our families and enjoy the festivities, we should give a collective thought to our brethren who are fighting the good fight in Hong Kong this year. The United States has a long way to go in repairing the damage to our relationships around the globe, and until we admit our part in their ugly history, we are doomed to repeat it, but this time around we will see it up close and personal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Boy In The White House

I am beginning to think that everything I need to know about President Bush, I can learn from watching my four-year-old son. I see how this little boy of mine craves my attention, but more importantly he seeks my approval and when he gets it, he struts around like a little peacock. He also likes to pretend he’s big and important and with each new popular super-hero, he puffs out his chest and demands to be called by that name. Every time I see our President speak, these same images come to mind, for our leader is nothing more than a little boy trying desperately to be big.

In the 1950’s, mothers taught their daughters how to be good wives by deferring to their husbands wishes, but the smart ones also told their daughters the secret of how to make their husband believe he is in control while getting him to do exactly what she wants. This style of manipulation seemed to work with GWB for the first four years, with the neo-cons allowing Bush to believe he was steering the ship as they rested comfortably in the knowledge that the controls had been cut, and the chief was merely spinning the wheel to no affect. But that was before he acquired his “political capital” that immediately began burning a hole in his pocket. He had finally found the approval he had been seeking; you’d better believe he was going to strut.

What we see now, in his failure to admit mistakes and in his determination to “stay the course” in Iraq is the legend of himself he is carefully constructing for the history books. He is a simple man with simple objectives, that is how he can look at the complexities of foreign policy and the nuances of diplomacy and quickly discern his course of action. For him there are only ever two choices; black or white, right or wrong, good or evil. It is how we all teach our children when they are young and unable to grasp the finer points of decision making. We give them two options so they feel in control although we have already decided that either is fine, having eliminated the less desirable choices. At a certain point our children require more and they no longer fall for the falseness inherent in having only two choices, my four year old is already beginning the process of expanding his thinking and demanding more independence. How sad that our President has not and most likely never will.

Monday, November 28, 2005

One Down. Many, Many More To Go

Let us hope that the spectacle of Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the Republican Congressman from California who resigned his office today, shamed to tears in front of national news cameras is the first in a long line of confessions from the crime laden Republican leadership still to come (Crooks & Liars has the video, it’s fun viewing). It doesn’t matter if their red faced sobs are the result of loosing their ill-gotten gains or for their fear of prison, as long as they are forced to suffer the indignity in public.

Some of them will choose the Tom DeLay route, clawing and scratching all the way down, but that’s fine too. DeLay will be throwing his own feces at prison guards soon, instead of shitting on our country and wiping his ass with the Constitution, not good for the guards but hey, they’ll be taking one for the team. I imagine Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove will follow DeLay’s lead, but others like Roy Blunt, Bill Frist and Denny Hastert all have Jimmy Swaggart moments in their future. Let’s hope that CNN runs them all on a continuous loop for our viewing pleasure.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sundays With Dr. Killjoy: Session Two

Dr. Killjoy: Before we get started, I first want to thank you Dick for your phone call earlier in the week, you brought up some interesting issues that I would like to explore further with the two of you together, but more importantly it tells me that you are taking these sessions seriously and I want to congratulate you on that.

Blackheart: Thanks, I had Lynn read your book and she thinks you may be able to help me improve my current situation.

Junior: Hey, what about me? I don’t think you two should be talking behind my back, how does that help me?

Dr. Killjoy: Rest assured George, we were not talking behind your back, Dick just brought to my attention some areas we may want to explore, such as your sudden fear of public speaking.

Junior: Oh man, why did you have to bring that up? I don’t have a fear of public speaking, I ain’t afraid of nothing. I have just been advised to keep it to a minimum, that’s all.

Blackheart: And I’d be happy if you listened to that advise.

Junior: I have been… but why should I? The people love me, and I love dressing up for them. Those outfits that Karen got for me are great and they force the American people see me as the true hero I am. Who really cares whether I served in combat, I look good in those combat fatigues.

Blackheart: This is the level of denial that I am trying desperately to deal with here Doc, can’t you help me out a bit?

Dr. Killjoy: I hear what you’re saying Dick, just let me see what I can do. George, don’t you think it’s time to go to the ranch in Crawford again? Dry out, I mean chill out, as much at you can and try to regain your strength?

Junior: I’m strong, I’m a leader and nowhere in the history books has there ever been a leader such as me. I am the king of the world, no matter what anyone says. The people love me and I will continue to lead them in the right direction. Mommy tells me that I am the best leader the world has ever seen and she’s married to my dad, so she would know.

Dr. Killjoy: I would like very much to explore your feelings about leadership next week, George, but until then, maybe you should listen to Dick and take that trip to Crawford.

Blackheart: Oh, he will Doc, we’ve got all the medicine he needs there.

Junior: What, there’s more of those happy pills there in Crawford? Why didn’t you say so, I’ll be on the next flight.

Blackheart: See what I mean Doc, I feel like we’re creating a monster here.

Junior: What, there are monsters here? I will slay every last one of them to protect America!!

Dr. Killjoy: Okay, go on your vacation and we will meet here next week.

Blackheart: I wonder each day if there will be a tomorrow, but I’m willing to play along. How about it Georgie, how does a vacation sound?

Junior: Great! Can I wear my pilot uniform?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Conga Line Of Corruption

The best argument against Impeachment is how far down the line of succession one must go in order to find someone better than Bush. More competent candidates can be found every step of the way, but Bush’s ineptitude may be the only thing standing between us, and a much bleaker future.

Let’s take a walk through the halls of power and see what we would have in store if by some wild chance, Impeachment did actually gain some traction.

First in line is Dick Cheney of course, and really, enough said. Any Impeachment proceeding that leaves Cheney in power is a non-starter on both sides of the aisle. With approval ratings slightly above Herpes, Republicans don’t want him and with his ties to Halliburton, secret Energy Task Force meetings and advocating torture at every turn, no one else in America does either.

Next up is Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert. Beyond the standard issue Republican wrong-headedness that lead him to say of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, “It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed,” he has more pressing problems. Earlier this month The Huffington Post reported that, “According to FEC reports, since 1999 Hastert has taken $49,000 from American Indian tribes while they were Jack Abramoff's clients. On June 3, 2003, Hastert held a fundraiser at Signatures, a Washington restaurant owned by Abramoff. He did not pay for the space until more than two years later, when Business Week began an in-depth investigation into use of Signatures.” In addition to the possibility of Hastert being sucked into the Abramoff vortex, he was also alleged to have taken Turkish bribes to stop a piece of legislation damaging to the Turkish government. The evidence supporting this allegation has been buried with the gag order rendered by the government against Sybil Edmonds, but may still see the light of day as her fight to speak the truth continues.

Then we come to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Ted Stevens (R-AL). Beyond his “bridge to nowhere” we have the ever present Republican conflict of interest and influence peddling with allegations he used his office to set up a fishery in Alaska that would supply fish worth millions of dollars a year to a seafood company that his son held a secret interest in. He is also under investigation by Congress for lying about his involvement in Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force. Considering who comes before and after him, a President Stevens is on the short list of best possible replacements.

Thanks to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, this is the point in which things really take a turn for the worst. After the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, we move to the Cabinet members, all of who were appointed by Bush and not a single one elected by the people. Those still serving in the cabinet have shown their undying loyalty to this President and have done everything in their power to protect and serve their leader.

Condoleeza Rice, or as my husband refers to her “The Wicked Witch of the West Wing” as Secretary of State is next in line. Her closeness to the President is enough to disqualify her from ascending to the Presidency, as she has been the mouthpiece of every failed foreign policy decision Bush has ever made. We have all heard her claims of Saddam’s ties to 9/11, her selling of mushroom clouds if we didn’t invade Iraq and most likely she is involved in the hyped intelligence as well as the smearing of Joe Wilson and the outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame. There are few people inside the White House who are more in the know than Condi. Whether she will be found culpable for any illegal activity is yet to be seen, but she is as guilty as Bush in leading the country astray.

Secretary of the Treasury John Snow is next in line. Calvin Trillon wrote a poem for The Nation magazine that sums up the failure of fiscal policy that is John Snow, but he may be the only one on our list that is not mired in criminal or congressional investigations. Once Paul O’Neill refused to continue being a shill for the Bush administration, they wasted no time in appointing Snow who would both do their bidding and sail through a congressional confirment with a unanimous vote of approval. John Snow may be covering up bad fiscal policy by massaging the numbers, but if he is involved in any illegal activity, he has covered his ass extremely well. On this list of criminals, he is by far the best option to replace GWB.

Don “Doublespeak” Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense is next up to bat. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the prospect of a President Rumsfeld. With ineptitude of this magnitude, we might as well stick with Bush. When Donald Rumsfeld still had ambitions of being President, he thought his best ticket to acclaim would be to re-open relations with Iraq in the mid 1980’s. We’ve all seen the pictures of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, back when Rummie thought Saddam could help his career, paying no mind to the fact that Saddam was gassing his own people. No doubt Rumsfeld would still love to be President, but his disastrous execution of the war in Iraq will forever keep him from his most ambitious desire.

Next in line is Alberto “Torture Man” Gonzales. Enough said.

Then comes the Secretary of the Interior, Gale “I’d Sell My Own Mother” Norton who most likely will soon be brought down in shame in the Abromoff case.

Next is, Secretary of Agriculture Mike “Let Them Eat Mad Cow Meat” Johanns.

Followed by the Secretary of Commerce, Carlos “No Conflict Of Interest” Gutierrez, who was CEO of Kellogg’s before accepting his current post.

I think you get the picture. We on the left seem to be holding tight to the idea that Impeachment is possible if the stars align properly for the 2006 mid-term elections, but we must be careful what we wish for. The rot is so deep and so wide that in order to come out better, we would have to get rid of the whole lot of them. Impeaching President Bush would do a lot to repair the divisions at home and our reputation abroad, but we would be trading the devil we know for one we don’t, or even worse, one we don’t want to know.

Impeachment may have been the answer for the vengeful Republican Party, willing to play gotcha over a sexual indiscretion, but Impeaching a President for high crimes against our country carry with it very serious consequences. While no President deserves the indignity more, in order to truly rid our government of the cancer that is killing our Republic, we must be willing to go to the mat and take it to it’s rightful conclusion. Impeachment yes, but let no man or woman ascend to the office of President without the full support of the people, even if that means going off the charts of what the Constitution provides for. Our forefathers could never have anticipated the level of corruption that is now plaguing our country, so we must be willing to go into uncharted territory to rectify our current situation. A constitutional crisis may sound scary, but when pitted against three more years of Bush and Co., it sounds down right exciting.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The News May Be Bad, But The Messengers Are Great

Just a quick roundup of my favorite articles this week. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading them already, I highly recommend you take the time.

For an insightful look at the most recent election in Ohio and the unbelievable difference between pre-election polls and the official results, read Robert C. Koehler’s Poll Shock.

One of my favorites this week was an unusual fantasy solution to our current crisis of leadership by Peter Lee, Bush and Cheney Hit The Bricks…McCain and Kerry in 2006.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich shrinks the Zarqawi myth down to size in his blog entry for The Huffington Post, The Specter of a Zarqawi Takeover Is As False As Saddam’s Mushroom Cloud.

And the ever amazing Bernard Weiner gives a warning of what Bush’s deteriorating leadership and lack of ability to hold it together may mean for the rest of us in Extreme Bush: The Good, Bad & Ugly.


Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, However Painful

It seems I spoke too soon and before doing my proper research when I said that none of our leaders are speaking out about Peak Oil. On October 17th 2005, seven Republican members of the House, led by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), brought the issue to the House floor. I’m just happy that I realized my mistake on my own rather that having it pointed out to me by one of my Bush loving stalkers, admitting a mistake is one thing but being forced to concede any point to a right-wing nut-job is an indignity I hope to forever avoid.

Following the lead of these forward thinking Republican Congressman, The Peak Oil Caucus was formed and a bi-partisan resolution was filed in the House on October 24th which reads in part, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the 'Man on the Moon' project to address the inevitable challenges of 'Peak Oil.'”

I must give credit where credit is due and Congressman Bartlett deserves some kudos for bringing the issue to the floor of the People’s House where it belongs. Yes, it should have been done long ago, but at least with Republicans bringing it up, our GOP controlled House may actually listen. The Democrats who signed on after the path was cleared, no doubt tell themselves this is precisely the reason they weren’t the ones leading the way. There may be some truth in that, but it certainly shouldn’t elevate them any in our esteem.

Now I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find some fault with Republicans “doing good”, so here is the other side of the story. In a speech to the House in April of this year, Rep. Bartlett talked a bit about conservation and clean energy sources such as solar and wind, but he clearly favored exploring the nuclear and agricultural options most. The nuclear option, well let’s just say there are many unresolved problems surrounding nuclear energy production. Bartlett also stresses the importance of investing in agricultural solutions including soy diesel, methanol and ethanol. Although this is certainly a step in the right direction, growing our way out of an energy crisis may not be feasible considering how much energy is required for our current form of farming which is still oil based (oil to get the water to the crops and petroleum based pesticides). In an effort to reduce the cost of growing fuel, bio-diesel farmers would likely opt for the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) route, and we simply do not yet know the full implications of this technology. Genetically modifying organisms in pursuit of fuel is certainly less frightening than when done with the food we eat, but one will most likely affect the other and the effects on the delicate balance of nature, of which humans are a part, are not fully known.

It is a complicated problem and will no doubt require great minds and great investment in new technologies to solve. At a time when there is so much rancor in Washington DC, I applaud Republicans who are willing to break ranks with their party and move away from violence as a solution to our energy needs and toward self reliant and self sustaining energy sources. As with most things, there are many different ways to go about finding a solution and Democrats better get in on the conversation before Republicans define the course of action. A philosophical chasm exists between a conservative and liberal approach to this crisis.

Republicans tend to favor solutions that will make money for those at the top regardless of the environmental impact and Democrats tend to favor more eco-friendly solutions that will not consolidate the power of controlling energy in a few hands. The Dems are late to the game and they have some ground to make up. There should be a focus on reducing our energy consumption, diversifying our sources of energy and incentives for individuals to provide for their own personal energy needs rather than focusing solely on a huge system of harnessing energy and delivering it to individuals that is centrally controlled.

Because the reality of Peak Oil is still not yet a mainstream topic, there is time for liberals to change to focus of the debate. Getting off of the war train is the first step, but Democrats need to simultaneously be honing a message of energy independence and a broad based solution that takes into consideration our long-term goals. A multi faceted approach to energy production carries with it huge benefits to our political and economic stability. I agree with Rep. Bartlett, the same level of money and commitment must be made to energy independence as was made to the “Man on the Moon” project, but how that money gets spent will make all the difference. The topic has been raised, now the debate must begin and our Democratic leaders need to fight to win. Whether we, the people, prosper from our national effort depends on how any new system is structured. Republicans will fight tooth and nail for a top down solution, leaving the power in the hands of big business and liberals must counter this with a vision of true independence; independence from foreign oil and freedom from reliance on energy companies who have exploited and ripped us off for years. If the Democrats can’t sell that to the American people, they may as well pack up and head home now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Giving Thanks

I am working on another more serious piece, but I wanted to get something up before I gorged myself on Thanksgiving dinner and found myself too full and too tired to write. The smells emanating from my kitchen tonight are a warning that I will in fact eat too much food, my husband is the chef in the family but I can eat like nobodies business.

I want to give thanks this year for many things, some of which I gave thanks for last year and some that are new. I will spare you the sappy appreciation I have for my family and friends and get to what may be relevant to you. I give thanks that I have a voice and that I am able to use it every day. I give thanks for the fact I can still express my opinion without fear of running afoul of the law. It is true that my opinions may cost me, but any attempt to stop my words would be illegal under the system in which we live. I realize that for someone like Jose Padilla, the law may not be worth much, but it still means that they are wrong and we are right, even if we sit in a jail cell with that knowledge.

I am thankful that there are so many good people in the world. We may not know what to do with our goodness at times, but it shines nonetheless. I am most thankful right this minute for the technology that has allowed for another kind of tribe to be possible. Where we used to be thrown together by geography, we are now able to come together based on a common ideology. The world will keep spinning and horrible things will continue to happen to good people, but by being connected and sharing our experiences and our thoughts, we can transcend what our leaders do. We no longer have to be perceived solely based on what our countries do to one another, but we can judge and be judged as individuals, joined together around the world by our common beliefs, our common ideals and our common dream of what is possible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

The war in Iraq is once again front-page news as the American people voice their concern over the deteriorating situation there and the growing sense that there is no victory possible. The Bush administration can beat the dead horse of “stay the course” but no one is listening, what little news we do get out of Iraq doesn’t jive with the rosy picture painted by Bush and company and the gap between their reality and ours is growing exponentially by the day. I can’t help but wonder, what happens now?

Polls show the public wants a withdrawal of our troops as soon as humanly possible although there is no real consensus as to what that means exactly. Bush erroneously believes that our lack of resolve can be exploited in order to serve his own purposes, which only he truly understands. I imagine that for him, it is a matter of posterity and his refusal to accept the place in history he is earning for himself with each lost soldier and every wasted dollar thrown at this tragedy of his own making.

We are funding a war by leveraging our children’s future while each of us struggles to make ends meet in an economy being devastated by our hemorrhaging of money and jobs as a result of Bush’s follies around the globe and his inattention to the serious business of running our country. And in all of this mess, we the people are finding it more and more difficult to see ourselves as right when it comes to this war, and increasingly easier to imagine we may be wronging the people of Iraq. It is not just about public support for the war, but about how we view ourselves as Americans.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we have never been the best global citizens but there was a veneer of goodness that we could cling to when faced with evidence of our misdeeds. When the Iran-Contra scandal entered the public consciousness we were allowed to be angry and repulsed by what was done in our name, for it was done in secret and in direct violation of our laws. We were not culpable because we were shielded from the truth. But the veneer has been ripped away by this administration, laying bare our sins and forcing the public to come to terms with how we must now see ourselves. Watching Jack Murtha’s struggle to own his part in this war is a mirror held up to the American people. As a country, we must accept what we have done before we will ever be able to move forward. Which again leaves me asking, what now?

Much of the debate about which course to take in Iraq has centered around our feuding leaders, which makes sense considering they are the ones with the authority to change our policies, but wars are not ended by the policy makers really, they are ended when the people refuse to support it. We didn’t leave Vietnam because Congress and the White House together decided it was the best course of action, our soldiers came home because the people had had enough.

I don’t pretend to know how we go about getting our country back, but I do know that we must try. In all likelihood we have three more years left to suffer under the thumb of the Bush administration, for as much as I would like to believe that a constitutional remedy for this crisis of leadership is on the horizon, I do not have the necessary faith in our elected officials to do right by the American people. Therefore it is up to us to convince those around us that the sky IS falling, we really have reached that point. Wedges have been driven between us by our leaders because that serves their purposes, so in response we must get closer, closer to each other, closer to the truth and hopefully closer to an end to this nightmare. We are living in the information age, so let’s use the tools that we have at our disposal to spread the facts amongst our friends, family and neighbors. Maybe we, the people, will be able to reach the consensus that seems to elude our public servants in Washington at every turn.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The War Hawks Want Out While Democrats Stay The Course

How is it that John Murtha, the war hawk within the Democratic Party, gets exactly what anti-war activists have been saying since long before the first bomb was dropped on Iraq, yet the leaders of the party are still lagging behind? It’s as if their political ambitions are blinding them to the facts that are before them. Murtha may not be my cup of tea, but at least he is speaking the truth and doing so in a blunt and straightforward manner. When asked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday if his vote to authorize the president to take us to war was a mistake, he answered flatly, “Of course it was a mistake.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

John Murtha is calling for an immediate redeployment of our troops, which he believes can be completed in six months. The public overwhelmingly supports this course of action and the White House will most likely follow Murtha’s plan without saying so publicly. How can the Democratic leadership still refuse to stand up for a plan with overwhelming public support that will most likely occur regardless of whether they support it or not? When the mid-term elections roll around and our troops are home, thanks to White House actions that were not supported by Democrats, how well are they going to fare with the voters?

The Democrats are about to be had by Rovian political maneuverings yet again and they took the first step into the trap on Friday when they voted down House Resolution 571, which called for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Yes, it was a stunt by the Republican controlled Congress and no, it wasn’t what Murtha had in mind exactly, but voting against what the majority of American’s are in favor of does the Democrats no favors. It was only a resolution expressing the sense of the House, by voting for it, however unrealistic an “immediate” withdrawal may be, would have shown that the members of the House had some sense left.

Expect to hear much more about this vote as we head into the mid-term elections. Republican Congressmen will say that they voted no because they have faith in the President’s ability to bring the troops home when the time is right. Be ready for these same Republicans to point out at every turn that if Democrats in the House didn’t have that same faith, they should have voted for the resolution calling the troops home. The vote was a no win situation for the Democrats, but they could have mitigated the damage by either voting for the resolution or abstaining from the vote altogether.

The only Democrats with any credibility left on the issue of the war are those who voted against giving Bush the authority to wage it in the first place, and those like John Murtha who are willing to say they were wrong. Not duped, not coerced, but wrong. Is it any wonder that the American people are skeptical of handing the reigns over to a party that can’t seem to make up its mind? They publicly call for an end to the war, yet continually vote to stay the course. I hear a lot of talk from Democrats about how Bush will never admit his mistakes, well now is the time to prove that they are better than that. Repeat after me, “I was wrong to vote for the war, and here is what I am going to do to bring it to an end.” There, was that so hard?

The Democrats in Congress need to take the opportunity this Thanksgiving recess provides them, to think long and hard about what comes next. No more whining about pre-war intelligence, let the investigations take care of that, and no more running from what the people want, immediate troop withdrawal. If they are unwilling to stand up and call for an end to what never should have started in the first place, they will continue to be the minority party, leaving most of America without a voice in government.

Chuck Hagel Watch

Some of you may think I am crazy for my seemingly outlandish ideas about Chuck Hagel being primed to be our next selected President, but I am seeing more and more evidence of the selling of President Hagel. I believe that the neo-cons with the help of the MSM are getting ready to put another of their own in office. For all of the hugs and kisses John McCain has showered on our President, I don’t think for a second he is going to get the support that I’m sure he has been promised. The Republican power brokers know that the country is in the mood for a change and unless they are willing to concede to a Democrat, they know they need a strong leader on their side who will stand up to the wrongdoing in their own party, thus the selling of Chuck Hagel as the maverick Republican candidate. McCain may still hold the title amongst the people, but Johnnie Boy is already being marginalized by his party and the media and Hagel is poised to take his place.

Sunday, Eleanor Clift wrote an opinion piece about Jack Murtha and his stand against the White House but also featured prominently is none other than Sen. Hagel. To hear Eleanor tell it, Chuck is every bit the hero that Murtha is in this fight with the White House. And last week the Washington Post printed an entire article presenting Hagel as the renegade Republican standing up for Americans and their right to speak out against the war. Don’t be surprised when Hagel gets much of the credit for the inevitable pull out of our troops from Iraq.

With the MSM firmly entrenched in their “fair and balanced” style of reporting, presenting two supposedly opposing sides as if that covers the spectrum of opinion, look for Hagel to be the dissenting voice of the Republican Party, leaving poor John McCain without the camera time he’s used to. I would feel sorry for McCain, but he made his deal with the devil and while he may hold up his end of the bargain, I’m afraid it will end up being a one-way street. He should have known that the devil should never be trusted.

However much I would like to believe that Chuck Hagel is the real deal, my common sense tells me to be skeptical. All evidence points to Hagel being a man on the inside, with his financial interest in ES&S still not completely severed and his miraculous win for his Senate seat from Nebraska (conducted on his own companies voting machines no less), I cannot believe that he is as independent as the MSM makes him out to be. Only time will tell and in the mean time, I will continue to point out what I see as the selling of President Hagel and the idea that “A vote for Hagel, is a vote for change”, don’t you dare believe it for a second.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sundays With Dr. Killjoy

Dr. Killjoy: When Laura called me and said that she wanted me to clear my schedule to help the two of you deal with the crisis in your relationship I didn’t hesitate for a second and I applaud the two of you for coming here in an effort to proactively deal with the issues that are hindering your ability to work together effectively as a team.

Blackheart: Well, I’m here, but I really don’t see a problem with the way things are going. Any issues we have can be worked out without your help, but Georgie here seems to need this so can we please just get started.

Junior: See how he talks to me? I’m just trying to make things better and he treats me like a… like a child.

Blackheart: If the booties fit son.

Dr. Killjoy: Okay, okay. Let’s start with you Georgie, I mean George. What is it you want out of this relationship that you feel you are not getting at the moment?

Junior: I want Dick to respect me and to recognisize my authority. He makes fun of me in front of other people and …

Dr. Killjoy: Instead of making accusations George, try to frame your statements in relation to how they make you feel. Go ahead.

Junior: I feel, uh, stupid when he makes fun of me in front of other people?

Dr. Killjoy: Good George, but stupid isn’t a feeling.

Junior: Really?

Dr. Killjoy: Now Dick, why do you ridicule George in public?

Blackheart: I don’t ridicule him you jackass, I simply try to clarify things when George here says something idiotic.

Dr. Killjoy: Okay, let’s try a different approach. Turn your chairs so that you are facing each other and let’s do a little role-playing.

Dr. Killjoy: Now George, I want you to pretend that you are Dick and I want you to talk to him in the same manner you perceive he talks to you. And Dick, I want you to respond as you would if someone spoke to you in that manner. Do you both understand?

Junior: Yeah, I guess so.

Blackheart: Whatever.

Dr. Killjoy: Okay, go ahead and start us off George.

Junior: I’m not sure I can do this doc.

Dr. Killjoy: Just give it a try.

Junior: Okay. Hey, you two-bit moron, don’t even think about singing that anti-torture bill or I will shove my hand even farther up your ass puppet boy!

Blackheart: Go Fuck yourself. There, that was easy. By the way, that was a pretty good impression of me son. See doc, everything is fine. I’m not going to mess with what’s working here and we all know there is no way in hell this little monkey is going to sign that bill so everyone wins, right son?

Junior: Whatever you say Dick.

Dr. Killjoy: Okay, I’m not sure that you both understood the concept behind the exercise but we’ll work on it later. Why don’t you each go home with my book, read it, and we’ll meet again next week, just see my secretary on the way out.

Blackheart: The hot one with the red hair? I’ll take care of that Georgie, you get the books and I’ll meet you outside.

Junior: Okie dokie, but Doc?

Dr. Killjoy: Yes George?

Junior: Can I be Dick again next week? It’s much more fun being him than me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Burning Down The House

Corruption has always been part of our political system- the money, access and power attainable through shady deals and pay-to-play schemes is often too enticing to resist. But the culture of corruption swept into Washington with the appointment of George W. Bush is a sight to behold. The tentacles of corruption have spread throughout the GOP and now that the bagman is under investigation, Republicans are running for cover.

Jack Abramoff is like a bad penny for the GOP and he keeps showing up in one investigation after another. He has already been indicted for crimes surrounding his purchase of SunCruz casino boats in which he claimed to have made a wire transfer of $23 million dollars as part of the purchase, but the transaction was fake and no money changed hands. Mr. Abramoff, it seems, was used to getting something for nothing (or something for an off the books something else). The owner of SunCruz, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, died shortly thereafter when someone pumped three hollow point bullets into his chest while he was driving home. Coincidence? Possibly, but Boulis’s murder is still under investigation.

Then there is the grand jury investigation into Abramoff’s dealings with Indian gaming casinos. Money taken from Indian tribes as payment for lobbying efforts was apparently funneled to a myriad of right wing organizations including Gover Norquist's foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and Ralph Reed’s political consulting firm in Georgia. It is unclear at this point who will be implicated in this investigation but Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Bob Ney and David Safavian are just a few of the Republican heavy-hitters who’s names have come up due to their close ties to Abramoff. DeLay and Safavian have both been indicted and Ney remains under investigation, as does Karl Rove, albeit for an unrelated potential crime. Another indicted GOP player is Tom Noe who bilked the Ohio State Workers Compensation fund out of millions and then allegedly funneled some of that money into the Bush/Cheney coffers. Noe’s wife got in on the action as well serving as Bush/Cheney campaign chairman while sitting on the election board of Lucas County during the fraud laden 2004 election. Bob Ney is under investigation for his part in this scheme and although it may not have direct ties to Abramoff, it does show that these dirty players can’t seem to stay out of bed with one another. So many political scandals, so little decency left.

With recent news that Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Tom DeLay and former partner of Jack Abramoff, will plead guilty and cooperate with the prosecution in the DeLay case, the truth may come out sooner than expected. Once the prosecutors in Austin are finished with him, they may send him to their colleagues in Florida who, no doubt have some questions for him regarding his dealings with Abramoff. Karl Rove, who is pre-occupied with his own legal battle with Special Council Patrick Fitzgerald, is desperately trying to hold on to power long enough to deliver the 2006 mid-term elections to the Republicans once again, but this news must have an already beleaguered Rove wondering if he can hold it together. Even the Machiavellian mastermind of the GOP’s rise to power may have too much on his plate this time.

The American public is not completely unaware of these seemingly disparate investigations, but most are not fully cognizant of the incestuous nature of the corruption. Once the full extent of Abramoff’s crimes is revealed, hopefully the connections will be made, of course hearing about it on the evening news is unlikely. The MSM see it as their job to report as little as possible on GOP wrongdoings and when they do, they make sure to frame it in such a way that gives the impression of a few bad apples, ignoring the fact that Congressional Republicans have been gorging themselves on this bad fruit for years. It is our job on the left to remind our fellow Americans that when you spend with someone, you are spending with everyone that person has ever spent with. They are all infected and it’s time to quarantine the whole lot of them and force-feed them their medicine before they infect the rest of our government.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sometimes Ice Cream Does Make Things All Better

I watched the proceedings in the House today and got all riled up.  At last some debate on the war in Iraq.  Yes, it was a Republican stunt and yes it was limited to an hour, but the Repugs found it ample time to drag out their tired and untrue catch phrase about “staying the course” and “we have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” crap. And the Dems pretended as if they had some credibility on the issue and that what they said would be reflected by their actions.  I was red hot and angry and ready to sit down and write and then an amazing thing happened.  Life.  

My nine year old daughter had a couple of friends come over and they immediately started chomping away on the fruit in the fruit bowl until my father in law suggested ice cream and received squeals of delight in response.  I was just going to eat a small scoop with the kids and then go write, but then the three girls started playing guitar and singing and I realized that there is more to life than being outraged at our government.  Here were three very amazing little American girls from different backgrounds sharing a common love of music and creating something out of nothing.  It was beautiful, a far too perfect image for me to tarnish by following it up with the venting of my anger over the state of our country.  There’s plenty of time for that tomorrow.

Peak Oil And The Resource Wars

These are critical times and we are a nation divided, a fact that is contributing to our inability to stop ourselves from making one mistake after another, but the first step in repairing the damage we have caused is to admit the truth to ourselves. For a start, let’s call the war in Iraq what it is, a resource war. While we’re at it, let’s stop calling it a war altogether, we all know the truth, it is a hostile occupation of a sovereign nation with the goal of controlling its oil. It’s not a secret so let’s stop whispering in the corner, winning the resource wars is a cornerstone of the neo-con agenda as spelled out in their own words in The Project For A New American Century. If you can’t beat OPEC, join them. Any thinking person knows this to be true, so let’s dispense with the illusions Americans hold so tightly to, that we are a great country with only the best of intentions, that we lead the world in innovation, education and economic strength. At some point in our history these things may have been true, but we have long since relinquished our claim to any, if not all. We have not only lost our status as an innovative, educated, economic powerhouse, but we are barely able to keep our head above water and our survival is only accomplished by our cache of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons coupled with our willingness to use them.

Energy independence is an idea that politicians throw out every so often, but only in a superficial way, as if merely mentioning it will give the impression that they are forward thinking. So far our leaders have been content to appear as if they care about sustainable energy without feeling the need to back it up with any substantive action. Bush is not the only president on the hook for our current predicament, perched precariously on the edge of an energy crisis. Reagan, Daddy Bush and especially Clinton should have done more to protect us from the neo-con world domination plan that has now been put into effect. If only they had started us on our way toward clean and sustainable energy sources, we may not have fallen prey to Little Bush’s imperial exploits in the Middle East. I think most Americans are in some way okay with the idea of war for oil, after all, what is the alternative? Crack has got nothing on oil, there are 279 million people in the United States addicted to oil and we are willing to kill to keep the tap from running dry.

How far are we willing to go to get the oil we need in order to keep our economy from crashing to the ground? And what will happen when it’s all gone? Hubbert’s theory of “peak oil” keeps me up at night. By most estimates we have already reached the point at which global oil production has reached its peak, meaning we are now on the downside of oil production which will go exponentially faster that the climb up. The other sticky wicket in this is, the last half of the oil is the hardest to extract, requiring more energy to drill it out than the output will provide. Not an ideal situation to say the least. The price of oil will not be going down, it will only continue to rise as long as the demand for oil worldwide remains the same. In order for oil prices to stay the same or not shoot up dramatically, we must reduce our consumption or fight wars to make sure that we are the ones controlling the spigot of the last remaining crude. We know on which side Bush and the neo-cons fall, but what about the rest of us?

The important thing to consider is that an oil shortage means higher prices at the pump and higher energy bills, but that is just the beginning, there is much more to consider. This problem is not alleviated simply by driving our cars less, although that would at least be a step in the right direction, this is about a way of life to which we have become accustomed and most of us do not fully realize the extent to which what we consume is fueled by oil (read Eating Fossil Fuels, by David Allen Pfeiffer for a detailed view of food production and its reliance on fossil fuels). Yes we use oil to heat our homes and drive our cars, but food production and its transportation to consumers relies not just on oil, but cheap oil to keep our economy going. Then you have plastics, pharmaceuticals and computers (the list is endless) that are petroleum based, try going a day without encountering plastic. Even solar panels are petroleum based. It is a far reaching problem and while our government tells us not to worry, many others propose doomsday scenarios predicting massive reductions in the world population and a complete collapse of the world economy, in essence bringing about a return to an agrarian society where only the strong will survive. As it is with most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in between the worst case scenario and the best possible outcome, but it is time for the American people to wake up from our 9-11 induced coma and contribute to the conversation.

If we are not okay with engaging in the resource wars, it is time to stand up and demand another way. It is not acceptable that our elected officials and those seeking our votes are ignoring the issue completely. We are well on the way down one road, but it’s still not to late to change course, but changing direction now requires swimming against the current for a while. War and domination of diminishing oil supplies is not the only way, but as much as we argue over the war in Iraq, it is still the easier choice from where we stand right now. In order to choose the other path, we must be willing to make some tough decisions and pay a hefty price. We need a national commitment to achieve energy independence, but considering that we are a country in decline, losing jobs and our security at an alarming rate, how much worse could it get? It is a choice between investing our money, resources and young people into creating new technologies or sending them into the sinkhole of war. The fact that our leaders choose the latter says a lot about them. What will our choice say about us?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

In The Muck

Now that Bush is in full blame dispersal mode, chances are no one will be left unscathed, but with his attack machine misfiring more often than not, he very well may take himself out before he mortally wounds his enemies. The American people have spoken and they said, “we don’t trust you Mr. Bush” and for whatever reason this seems to bother our Monkey in Chief. Probably it is his narcissism leading him down the wrong path, his need to be admired outweighing his common sense.

This is the wrong fight at the wrong time. On the face of it, the administration should be able to make some headway, given the fact that Democrats supported this war by giving Bush the authority to wage it. Presidential hopefuls can say they were misled and be factually correct, but they are simply attempting to minimize their own culpability in this disastrous affair. Many of us on the left could see that Bush was lying about pre-war intelligence and we did not need to see a single National Security Estimate to know it was a sham, so why should we for a second believe that our Congressmen and Senators were fooled? We know the truth, they simply caved in to the pressure created by the administration when Bush, Cheney, Condi and Rumsfeld bypassed Congress and took the case directly to the American people peddling images of mushroom clouds in our cities. Regardless of the Democrats weakness on this issue, the Bush smear machine is in need of some serious repairs and they should fix the glitches before sending it out for what could be its biggest job yet. This is a fight that the Bushies can’t afford to lose and so far, the mud doesn’t seem to be sticking to anyone but them.

When the people think you are straightforward and honest, you can get away with mud slinging, all you have to do is appear innocent and act as if you are above the fray as you let your operatives carry out the hit. Bush’s operatives are jumping off the sinking ship leaving the big boys with much of the heavy lifting and the American people are not inclined to believe them right now. The CIA leak investigation has hurt their credibility more than they are willing to admit, and with information seeping out from the edges of the many investigations into White House crimes and cover-ups, even Red State America is finding it difficult to stand by their man.

So as we watch the events play out in the papers and on our television sets, let’s remember that not one of the actors in this farce is without his or her share of blame. Of course we want to see the real villains pay and be brought to justice but there are no heroes on this stage, the real heroes are behind the scenes and in the audience who are hopefully ready to start lobbing the rotten fruit and bring the curtain down on this comedy turned tragedy once and for all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Real World Effects Of Bush’s Pre-emptive Strike Doctrine

The world looks much different when viewed from the Middle East. We in America are sheltered from the violence that is a daily reality for those living in Iraq, Afghanistan and many neighboring countries, and as we should expect, their attitudes toward us are colored by their dealings with our government that more often than not, leave them worse off after receiving our “help”. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden tied for fourth place of most admired world leaders among those polled by Zogby International last year in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. It should come as no surprise that in that same poll, negative opinion of the United States scored between 73-98%, with Egypt giving us the worst marks. Those are some sobering numbers but understandable given that the main reason cited for their unfavorable view is our foreign policy. Not our lack of morality or our conspicuous consumption but how we interact with the rest of the world. President Bush, who deserves all the credit for these numbers, has tried to sell the American people on the idea that “they hate our freedom” but that is utter crap, they do not hate who we are, they hate what we do.

After 9/11, the Bush regime message machine was in overdrive vilifying Saddam Hussein. Not the most difficult of tasks to be sure, but beyond the selling of Hussein as a monster, they dug deep into the intelligence files in an attempt to prove to the world that he was a threat without rival. Bush may have convinced a majority in Congress, a minority of the American people and Tony Blair that he was right, but the rest of the world was under-whelmed by his evidence and although some were strong armed into joining the “coalition of the shilling”, the countries in the Middle East see Bush’s war for what it is, a crusade. What is going to happen when the rest of the world catches up to the Middle East and their negative view of American foreign policy? Already, many are not far behind and every day, more people around the globe are identifying the real threat to world stability, the United States under President Bush.

Bush’s “get them before they get us” mentality has created a dangerous situation for America. He thumbed his nose at the United Nations and invaded a sovereign nation, unprovoked. That is what a pre-emptive strike means, and it is a legacy we are stuck with. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the international community lead by George H.W. Bush, kicked him out with brutal force in the first Gulf War. As a result of Saddam’s attempted land grab, Iraq suffered greatly under the sanctions put into effect, the inspection regime stripped him of most of his weapons capabilities and he was severely weakened as a leader. What is stopping a coalition from forming to kick us out of Iraq? Wouldn’t the international community be justified in invading our homeland? It would not be unprovoked. George W. Bush is occupying another nation in defiance of international law. He is ruthlessly squelching dissent at home and is known to possess biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as well as having shown a propensity for using them. Viewed in that light, I wonder how many Americans think a pre-emptive strike policy is such a good idea.

By abandoning our guiding principles of self-determination and democratic rule, and by allowing our President to ignore the rule of law, we have unleashed a menace on a world that may decide at some point to retaliate. We may have the weapons, but they would have the soldiers necessary to win. Given the right coalition, they would also have the economic power to bring us to our knees before the first shot was fired. And unlike Bush’s failure to find WMD in Iraq, the “liberators” of America would find a treasure trove of weapons providing proof to the world that a pre-emptive strike was necessary. I have a sneaking suspicion that Americans would have a much different view of the insurgency at that point. Bush has broken the rules and changed the game, but ultimately we are responsible for what our leaders do in our name and if we do not protest, we give our consent. Silence is no longer an option.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Before We Troll For A Candidate, Let's First Bait The Hook

While Bush’s poll numbers are circling the bowl, Democrats need to step up and start hurling the insults. The winning strategy is to expose Bush for the incompetent leader he is. The American people do not seem to care that he can barely string three words together without tripping himself up, they do not care that he doesn’t understand the finer points of debate, consensus building or international affairs. They do, however, care that he cannot command his troops overseas to a victory or command his staff here at home. He sold the country on his ability to lead and it is proving to be his Achilles heel. Now is the time for the Democrats to start hammering away.

We don’t have to stoop to Karl Rove’s level in order to win, but we do need to show up to the fight, preferably armed to the teeth. The Democrats need to quit being so mealy mouthed and actually say what is on their minds. America is pissed, so Democratic hopefuls should feel free to stand up and give a voice to the frustration we all feel, they are the ones with the microphone, we are the audience patiently waiting for the chorus to begin, believe me we will all join in. We have suffered through the age of incompetence, it is time to usher in the age of efficiency. No, Bush is not going to be on any future ballot, but running against him will be a winner in ’06 and ’08 by painting all Republicans with the same brush. After all, they were quick to jump into bed with him and we must not let them roll out so fast, they must be made to suffer for their choice at every turn. They rubber stamped his agenda, all we have to do is beat them over the head with it until they are so inked up, they will be able to serve as the pad for all of their friends when they are fingerprinted, photographed and booked.

Americans are still in the mood for an ass kicker, just one that will be roughing up the right people. We want criminal CEO’s walked out of their mansions in handcuffs after they’ve bilked us out of our retirement funds, we want crooked politicians bounced out of office when they deceive the public and we want terrorists captured when they commit crimes against America. What we do not want is Martha Stewart in jail, redistricting that makes it virtually impossible for an incumbent to lose and a war that creates terrorists faster than we can catch them. Democrats are poised to win, but from what they are showing us so far, it seems they are content to lose.

The Republicans told America that the best they had to offer was Bush, a trust fund baby who drove every company he ever ran into the ground. If the Democrats can’t make something out of that, they do not deserve our vote. The mid-term elections should be a cakewalk and the next Presidential election should be our victory lap, I just hope our party leaders are ready to pick up the baton and run.

We don’t need a new plan in Iraq, we need new leadership to get the job done and the Republicans ain’t it. We all agree that the war was a bad idea, that the justifications for it appear to have been made up out of whole cloth, that it’s time to cut our losses and start planning for a way out, but the disastrous execution of the war is the Democrats best shot at taking control.

We need to attack the Republicans on their greatest weakness, which has proved to be their lack of leadership abilities. This administration took us into this ill-fated war, so let’s get out in a way that will minimize the long-term damage and possibly even repair our reputation abroad. Bush promised America that we would be greeted as liberators, that the war would pay for itself and that it would even bring prices down at the pump. Another “trifecta” for Bush in that he was unable to accomplish any of the three. We cannot change history but we can start selling the American people on a better future, a way out of the fog we are in. If we can get the reconstruction of Iraq going we will be half way there. Cancel the contracts with Haliburton and Bechtel and start passing out lucrative building deals to local Iraqi firms using local raw materials. Get the oil back online so there is some money coming in and maybe the price of oil will go down a bit in the process. When there are jobs to be had and opportunities for their children, joining the insurgency will not be nearly as appealing. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what to do, but it will take some straight talk, real leadership and vision to give Americans a way out and Iraqis a new lease on life. They sure didn’t throw flowers at us when we arrived, but maybe, just maybe they will be able to bid us a fond farewell when we pack up and go.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

So Many Secrets, So Few Shredders

As a parent, nothing makes me more nervous and suspicious than absolute silence. If kids aren’t making noise, it’s a pretty safe bet there is trouble afoot. Likewise, a quiet Bush White House has me on edge. This is already the most secretive administration in American History and now they have clammed up like never before. With so many secrets to hide and so many fronts to defend, chances are, they are up to no good at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

With Bush’s poll numbers in the toilet, the word Impeachment is being bandied about. Even Zogby got off his ass and finally posed the question to the American people (after being paid by and surprise, surprise, 53% support an impeachment inquiry if Bush lied us into war. We all know that the intelligence was cherry picked, massaged and in some cases manufactured so the inquiry should be a slam-dunk, right? Wrong. This administration has classified more documents than any in our history, making the truth almost impossible to decipher. Anyone (Patrick Fitzgerald, the GAO, Senators and House members) trying to piece together a cohesive case against any member of this White House will hit this “classified documents” wall. Many decades from now a full accounting of the crimes perpetrated by this administration may come to light, but even that depends on a press that is willing to “catapult the propaganda” to get at the truth.

In the short term, the most we can hope for is that the public will infer from the administrations lack of candor that they have something to hide. This still leaves those of us trying to expose the fraud within our government open to the charge of being nothing more than “conspiracy theorists”. Without the facts all we have is theory, which in reality is the best possible conclusion based on incomplete data, usually assumed to be true until disproved when new facts come to light. But we no longer live in a country where facts and the scientific process hold the same power they once did. Just look at the recent CBS poll showing that 51% of Americans believe that God created humans in their current form. That is a frightening number, but it explains a lot. If the majority of Americans believe an unseen man in the sky created the earth and its inhabitants in 6 days a mere 10,000 years ago contrary to all scientific findings, why wouldn’t they believe that Saddam Hussein perpetrated 9/11 and was on the brink of launching nuclear weapons at the Continental U.S.? Why would they question the official story of 9/11? Would scientific data in the form of exit polls convince them of the impossibility of official vote tallies that defy explanation in the 2004 election? These are the most significant stories of our time and they are met with media silence and a citizenry incapable of deciphering fact from fiction.

There are serious questions regarding the official story of 9/11 and although more and more people are waking up to the inconsistencies, there is a significant segment of the population who will never question our government’s part in the disaster. For them, it is easier to believe that Islamic Fundamentalists who hate our freedom struck a mighty blow in the name of Allah, than it is to consider who benefited most from 9/11 and why it was an ex-CIA asset that was the mastermind. There are a few brave Senators and Congressmen using official channels to get more information from the White House and even speaking out in public about their concerns. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have been fighting it out with the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General, to release their findings to the public regarding investigations into what our government knew prior to 9/11 (here to view the letter). Both investigations stem from allegations made by Sibel Edmonds an FBI whistleblower and Indira Singh a Wall Street whistleblower (for an amazingly candid presentation by Indira Singh at the Citizen’s Commission on 9/11 go here for downloadable segments). New on the scene but just as vocal recently is Rep. Curt Weldon, R-PA, who has been trying to get traction on the Pentagon’s secret group “Able Danger” who apparently knew all about Mohammad Atta (and others) before the 9/11 tragedy but was conspicuously left out of the 9/11 Commission Report (here for an interview with Rep. Weldon on CNN). Even the Congress with its constitutional authority to check the power of the White House is not allowed to know what they are up to.

In addition to the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11, there are ongoing investigations into the 2004 Presidential election. Much of the work of uncovering the truth is being done in Ohio, as it was ground zero for the 2004 shenanigans. Rep. John Conyers has been tireless in his efforts to expose the inconsistencies in the official vote counts in his state, all done without the benefit of media attention. Although the most significant findings of election fraud will most likely come out of the local criminal investigations into the Coingate scandal and Tom Noe’s illegal contributions to the Bush/Cheney campaign from funds stolen from Ohio’s Worker’s Compensation Fund. For those who want to believe that Ohio in 2004 was a fluke and explained away by the ridiculous assertion that Bush voters were shy on election day and avoided being exit polled, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Ohio Free Press have blown that myth out of the water with their most recent article detailing the miraculous wins for the Conservative Right in their state on election day 2005. Sticking our heads in the sand a la John Kerry will not get us out of the mess we are in. Kerry may believe the Presidency was stolen from him in 2004, but unless he is willing to talk openly about it, he is merely dead weight dragging the party and our democracy down.

On the bright side, there are some government leaders fulfilling their responsibility to the people and attempting to get at the truth of what the Bush administration is trying so desperately to hide. With so many investigations into so many different aspects of this criminal regime, it is only a matter of time before we the people will know what has really happened in this country and how close we came to losing it all (assuming we haven’t already). No doubt the details will come to light when it no longer matters and when those who perpetrated the crimes are long gone, but whether they come out at all depends on what becomes of reporting in this country. Corporate controlled media will not expose the lies because they were complicit in them. Without the help of the evening news and the 24-hour cable news networks, none of what has happened could have occurred. They pounded the drumbeat to war and beamed it into every home in America, they legitimized the 2004 election and they sold the 9/11 Commission Report as the definitive truth. The MSM has become nothing more than the propaganda arm of the Bush administration, but that does not mean that reporting is dead, not by a long shot.

On-line independent media outlets have provided information to the public that was essentially banned from our newspapers and television news shows. Not banned as in they were told by the government not to report on certain stories, but it was simply not in their best interest to do so. What we have seen, or haven’t seen, from the MSM is self-censorship driven by greed. The pittance they receive from advertisers based on how many of our eyes are glued to the screen, pales in comparison to the cash giveaways provided by the Bush administration. In that light, who could blame them for dumping us overboard in favor of the bigger cash cow. Corporate ownership of the fourth estate is the death knell of democracy, but the estate isn’t gone, it’s just been broken up and sold. How about that, the market took care of that monopoly all on it’s own, economic theory at work. With television news turned infotainment and our nations newspapers turned stenography readouts, more and more people are getting their news on-line and although the big boys are there as well, the genesis of information is increasingly coming from the smaller, independent outlets. This can only be good for the country and it provides hope for a rebuilding of the estate we have lost.

So regardless of the news that 53% of Americans believe Bush should be impeached if he lied about pre-war intelligence, an impeachment hearing is unlikely, there are simply too many secrets to protect and too many roadblocks already set up to make sure it never gets that far. If by some miracle, the impeachment process does get started, we should all buy stock in manufacturers of shredding machines as they will likely be working overtime in the White House, the Capitol Building and the Corporate headquarters of every major news outlet in the country (well, maybe not Fox, because really, what’s the point). We may also want to consider that some of the 53% who favor impeachment, overlap with the 51% who seem willing to believe anything however far fetched, in fact the more unbelievable the better and preferably without concrete facts to back it up. An Impeachment trial filled with facts and figures but without salacious details of sexual misconduct simply wouldn’t hold their interest.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Do I Have To Applaud When The Majority Party Gets Majority Support?

Democrats shouldn’t be proud of making gains with the American public, they should be ashamed of losing their support in the first place.  I’m finding it difficult to applaud the leaders of my party for finally standing up and fighting for what they believe in when they were so quick to leave their ideals on the side of the road in order to make their stampede to the trough unencumbered.  Are we so desperate for guidance that we’ll pick any port in a storm?

They say an elephant never forgets but it seems a donkey can’t remember, but let us hope that the average Democratic voter can.  I remember my party leaders voting for the Bankruptcy Bill and CAFTA.  I remember them voting to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and I remember them sitting silent while thousands of voters were scrubbed from the rolls in Florida in 2000 and 2004 because of the color of their skin.  But most importantly, I will never forget that they abdicated their responsibility and gave this un-elected, unqualified, imbecilic President the authority to wage an illegal and immoral war on Iraq sacrificing our sons and daughters, squandering our treasury and soiling our national reputation around the world.  These are sins not easily forgiven.

I have yet to hear a call from anyone in a position of authority for the people of this great country to sacrifice anything other than our moral decency for the war in Iraq.  There was a time when everyone did their part to support our global ambitions, whether motivated by self-interest or a higher calling.  I never expected the call to come from the Bush White House, but I was stunned by the deafening silence from the left side of the aisle.  If the Democrats believed that the war was justified, there should have been a clear and compelling reason presented and a request for all Americans to do their part.  If the reason was simply to gain access to cheap oil for our debilitating addiction, we should have been allowed to make that call ourselves.  I’m not convinced we would have objected, but at least we would have known the stakes and more importantly we would have known the risks as well as what our choice would cost us, both monetarily and ethically.  But alas, we were not trusted to make the right decision.

It is one thing to be shut out by the money grubbing Republican elite but it is quite another to be sold out by the populist left.  When they have the majority of the American public behind them and their agenda, it is criminal to reward them for their meager accomplishments.  We deserve better and they have much to atone for.  I believe in the Democratic platform but I hold tighter to liberal ideals and the widening gap between the two is becoming harder and harder to ignore.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Tide May Be Turning But Watch Out For The Undertow

The liberal blogs are abuzz with the good news from Tuesday’s elections across the country. Democrats did well, taking the governors races in both New Jersey and Virginia (oh, those Red State victories are especially sweet) and the defeat of Governor Schwarzenegger’s pet initiatives sent his stock into the dumps as well. The only thing sweeter than the Govenator’s fall was the fact that President Bush proved to be the kiss of death to any candidate crazy enough to share a stage with our Commander in Chief. Even the Democratic Mayor of St. Paul was made to pay for his endorsement of Bush last year with a resounding rejection of his poor judgment that catapulted his Democratic challenger into office.

For the first time in a long time the election results are mirroring the sentiment of the voters and the message is, we’re done with Republican rule and are even willing to give the Democrats a shot at this point. But not being “them” will only take us so far and there are pitfalls inherent in a premature celebration. Yes, the country does appear to be waking up from its 9/11 induced coma and yes, the Washington press corps do seem to be sticking it to Stuttering Scotty on a regular basis, but so far these are mere stirrings and by no stretch a true awakening. Our eyes may no longer be shut tightly in fear, but they are not exactly wide open yet either.

Other than a shot in the arm for Democrats on the ground, Tuesday’s results are of little importance. With limited options, voters did the only sensible thing and voted for anyone but Bush. No, Bush was not on any ballot, but he was still the target of every vote cast for a Democratic candidate and we kid ourselves if we think differently. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good sign and surely something to build on, but a Democratic takeover next year is not going to happen organically we will have to coax it gently into fruition. The anti Bush sentiment was high in 2004 and regardless of what “really” happened in that election, not being Bush clearly was not enough for a convincing win and it will prove just as ineffective the next time around.

The first step is waking up but the steps that follow are more difficult. There is a consciousness being aroused within the Democratic Party and we liberals must not only nurture it, but we must continue to push it even further. Being a liberal is something to be proud of and we must encourage those who are willing to stand up and shout our ideals from center stage. Liberals must challenge the status quo of the party and demand our turn at the wheel. It is time for us to take control and drive the party out of the wilderness and into the hearts of Americans. We are the majority party and we enjoy majority support, now it’s time to start acting like it and provide the citizens of this country a true and honest alternative.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Inauguration 2008: “I Charles Timothy Hagel do solemnly swear…”

This is the nightmare that threatens the sleep of liberals everywhere, yet it is quickly and quietly becoming a forgone conclusion and the signs can be seen on the evening news and on your favorite cable talking head show. Chuck Hagel will be president.

Stuffing ballot boxes and fixing elections is a long standing tradition in these United States of America, but the opportunity to do so was universal. Anyone with the moxie to rig an election earned it with good old fashion grit and hard work. Now, even the stealing of elections has fallen prey to the lazy American syndrome. Instead of the corrupt boots on the ground needed to do it, we have allowed for institutionalized rigging of elections. Not a very hard working, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, might makes right, traditional American way of going about it. What has happened to our rugged individualism and national pride based on strength of character and cowboy bravado? What kind of wimpy country allows geeks backed by the soft-handed moneymen to run the show?

However it happened, it is the law of the land now thanks to HAVA and the show has already started. With the Republican leadership and the White House mired in political scandal, the pundits are looking for a new horse on which to shine their spotlight. McCain is old news and the Democrats have the same tired scraps on offer, so the chattering class have searched and found their next object of affection and are lavishly praising Sen. Hagel for having the guts to speak out against the culture of corruption in Washington and our deteriorating political discourse. He is the new media golden boy with silver hair and a bright future. With the help of the MSM, Hagel is positioning himself as a moderate Republican ready to stand up to the extreme right of his party and win the hearts of moderate Democrats in the process. I can already hear my liberal friends saying, “He’s not so bad, at least he’s not a religious nutjob and he did stand up to Bush.” An election has been rigged for a candidate Democrats find unpalatable, now it’s time to try it with one not quite so offensive. The Democrats are giddy with delight at the imploding Bush Administration and mistakenly believe that that translates into a win for them on the next go around. What they don’t realize is that they are bit players in this drama and the main event will stun them back into submission. The Democrats are not the opposition party, Chuck Hagel is.

If you ever needed proof that our democracy has been reduced to nothing more than political theater, look no further than the emergence of Chuck Hagel as the “outsider” candidate. Almost from the beginning of the Bush Regime, Hagel has been positioning himself as the “renegade” Republican, challenging the White House, standing up against cronyism and now he’s about to knock our socks off with his drumbeat to get out of Iraq. Yes, that’s right, Chuck Hagel will be the anti-war candidate and he’s not afraid to say what has Democrats cowering in the corner trying to figure out. To be fair, it is a challenge to find the exact right words that will show they were duped without making them appear weak. Hagel, on the other hand, can say whatever he wants because all he has to do is be believable. He doesn’t have to win an election, he merely has to make it appear possible, because he’s got an ace in the hole and it’s named Election Systems & Software or ES&S.

Before ol’ Chuck became Senator Hagel, he was chairman of American Information Systems (AIS) which later changed its name to ES&S, the very same company that provided his state of Nebraska with the voting machines used to count the votes for his 1996 Senate bid and surprise, surprise, he won. In an article written by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman that appeared in Mother Jones before the 2004 election they explain, “A little less than eight months after stepping down as director of AIS, Hagel surprised national pundits and defied early polls by defeating Benjamin Nelson, the state's popular former governor. It was Hagel's first try for public office. Nebraska elections officials told The Hill that machines made by AIS probably tallied 85 percent of the votes cast in the 1996 vote.” Wow, 85 percent of votes cast, counted by your own companies machines, great deal if you can get it. And the good news for Senator Hagel is, those machines are now out there across the country with new orders being shipped every day to a county near you.

ES&S is not the only company supplying voting machines that has controlling parties with clear conflicts of interest and the circular nature of ownership between them leaves the impression of collusion by all. For the convoluted web of ownership of the four major companies entrusted with counting America’s votes, read this detailed investigation into the murky and tightly controlled world of voting equipment and software, compiled by Bev Harris at Black Box Voting.

Regardless of what deals were struck between the vote seekers and the vote counters, Hagel seems to feel entitled to his turn at the wheel and the rest of us are going along for the ride. Our democratic republic no longer provides the people with representation in government, but in return we get roller coaster rides on pre-existing tracks and carnival sideshows to keep us entertained. How long before we gorge ourselves on too much fun, throw up and demand to be taken home?

Monday, November 07, 2005

When It All Goes Belly Up

I was thinking the other day about an episode of Roseanne that I saw years ago, which for me solidified her status as a working class hero. She had lost her job and her husband’s motorcycle shop had gone under and she received a notice that the power was going to be shut off at the end of the day. She ordered everyone into the kitchen to eat all of the food since it wasn’t going to stay cold much longer. As she opened the refrigerator door, the lights went out and the humm of the refrigerator went silent. “Well,” she said, “middle class was fun.”

Somehow I doubt that the 51% (give or more aptly take a few percent) of the American’s who voted for President Bush are going to take it quite so well when things suddenly go south.

With the EU making a play for economic super power and China and Saudi Arabia holding our in-the-red nuts over the fire, I don’t see the lights staying on much longer. I know that I will be able to walk out of my mortgaged-to-the-hilt house and be happy with what I’m taking with me (my books and my laptop, my children and their favorite toys, my husband and his guitars). The guy down the street who will undoubtedly lose his house, his retirement and his SUV despite the Bush/Cheney sticker on it, I’m sure he won’t be smiling like me.

With the Bush administration pounding out the drumbeat to war yet again, this time in Syria or Iran (I think they’re still keeping their options open at this point), what we the people need to realize is that another unprovoked, unnecessary and ill fated war will only add weight to the lead foot driving us over the economic cliff. Realize that when I say “our economy”, I mean the average American not the top 1% of the county that is thriving under this administration. There really are two economies, the insular one we live and suffer in and the internationally parasitic one that thrives with the help of deregulation and third world servitude and always profits from war (the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about, but we know what a radical pinko he was). They will profit just as much from the next war as they have from this one. Do we need to see more than the grotesque profits posted by American oil companies over the last three months or Dick Cheney’s 3000% increase in the price of his Halliburton stock options? I don’t think we do, but we most certainly will see more of the same if Bush has his way.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reluctant Braying or Forced Praying?

Now that the Democrats in the Senate are showing some spine and even parading around the floor with “their new pair of donkey testicles” as Jon Steward so aptly put it, maybe there is some hope on the Supreme Court front.  But let’s not get too complacent as there are already flags of surrender peeking out from the pockets of many Democratic Senators and as we know from recent history, they are not always brave enough to resist using them.

The common wisdom seems to be that because President Bush is a conservative (whatever that means these days) the rest of us must accept a conservative judge to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court currently held by Sandra Day O’Connor.  Maybe so, but there is no need to accept a religious zealot who has gone out of his way to use his position on the court to validate his own beliefs and inject his personal philosophy into the application of law and the dispensing of justice.  What he has been able to accomplish on the Circuit Court has been limited by his jurisdictional confines and we must keep him contained there rather than expand his sphere of influence.

By all accounts, Samuel Alito is not an intellectual lightweight as was Bush’s previous nominee Harriet Miers.  Where Miers would have been another vote following the lead of Justice Scalia, Alito would be a strong voice in tandem with him.  Together Scalia and Alito would not only have the votes necessary to reshape the laws of the land, but would have the intellectual force necessary to lead the charge toward a new judicial philosophy that would change the way our system of government works and the peoples relationship to it.  

The neo-conservatives and the extreme religious right have joined together to create the numbers necessary for a take over of government.  It has been a successful union and from the outside, it is hard to tell who wields the most power within the Republican Party, but it is clear that both are a danger to the American people.  Whether the motivation is money (neo-cons) or religious hegemony (wing-nuts) both sides get what they want if Samuel Alito is allowed to take a seat on the Supreme Court.  Because the desires of these two groups are at odds with one another, neo-cons demanding that government stay out of the private affairs of business while the religious right demands that government intervene in the private affairs of people, it is crucial to have great minds on the high court who can reconcile these competing desires and create a cohesive argument for doing both.  Only if both sides are satisfied does the partnership work, and if one side is pitted against the other, the Republican Party becomes the minority party once again.  The neo-cons and the rightwing-nuts worked together to bring down Harriet Miers because they had doubts about her ability to hold this diabolical union together, but there are no such doubts about Judge Alito.

The Right wants a fight over the Supreme Court and the Left must not cower.  By fighting Alito’s confirmation, Senate Democrats can drive the first wedge between the two sides of the Republican Party and make Bush look weak in the process.  They need to take this fight through the mid-term elections taking down one right-wing activist judge after another until an acceptable candidate is presented.  Justice O’Connor is still on the bench, so there is no hurry and the Senate could look much different after next November as would any nominee Bush would offer up.

For those of us who still believe in the Constitution, it is time to apply the necessary pressure on our Democratic Senators to stand strong against Samuel Alito’s confirmation.  If the filibuster is the only way, then they better drag those donkey testicles onto the Senate floor and start braying because if they don’t, we could very well become a country ruled by corporate handbooks and the Bible instead of the documents that our forefathers so carefully drafted.  Our Constitution provides for the checks and balances that are crucial to the proper workings of government and the Senate must now fulfill their duty and put this White House in check.  We the people were also warned that our new government required participation of the people in order to endure, and for our part we must supply the brace for the Democrats’ newly found backbone as they are unlikely to be strong enough to stand on there own just yet.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Polls Can Be Taxing

Opinion polls can be confusing. They can gauge a general feeling amongst the American people but when the questions become more specific, the numbers can get murky. Take for example the most recent CBS poll that shows Bush’s favorable rating at 33% (for those of you inclined to look at the numbers from the source you can find them here). This is believable if you take into account what we know of the Republican mindset, although to most of us it is unthinkable that 33 people, let alone 33 percent of the American population looks favorably on this man. But that is not the interesting part of the poll.

When asked about Dick Cheney, the American people (according to CBS) have a less favorable view than they do of President Bush (Cheney is at 19% favorable, Bush at 33% favorable), but his unfavorable view is better with Bush polling at 51% unfavorable and Cheney only at 44% unfavorable. This seems to be contradictory, but the numbers (supposedly) don’t lie and they tell us that many Americans simply do not know enough about our Vice President to have an appropriately negative view of him. Considering that Dick Cheney is the most powerful Vice President in history, this is not a good thing, especially when educating the public about our public figures falls mainly into the hands of the MSM. Clearly we on the left will have to find an easier way to bring this White House down that does not involve educating the public about Cheney, besides he’s doing fine putting his job in jeopardy all on his own.

With approval rating this low it is important for those of us who would like to see this administration implode to ask, where is the bottom of support for these men. Knowing my fellow Americans as I do, I have been inclined to believe that Bush’s support would not fall below 30%, but now that he is so close I am beginning to wonder and I may have figured out how to help them break through the basement floor.

For many Republicans, criminality is not necessarily a reason to withdraw support from a politician. Many of them understand skimming money is sometimes too hard to resist and most of them find political payback and hardball politics a sign of strength, in fact these are reasons to be proud of being a Republican. But there is one thing that is making them increasingly uncomfortable with Bush, that he is beginning to appear weak, and weakness they won’t tolerate.

The best way to get Bush’s core of support to drop him like a hot potato is to make him the butt of the joke. Not the joke that he has been, most Republicans are completely comfortable with a leader they do not find intellectually superior to themselves, that is why the idiot jokes have not eroded his support so far. The real political hit will come if we make fun of him for the weak, ineffectual monkey boy that he is. I don’t think the images of poor, black people in New Orleans drowning in their homes was what made some of his supporters peel away, but rather it was the image of him as a weak leader that could not command his troops in a crisis. The fact that he didn’t know how to hold a hammer properly on the Today Show did not help his image either. There were plenty of good old boys who jumped off the bandwagon after that sad display.

“Dumb” won’t play, but “weak” will work like a charm. Most of his support in the last election came from a fearful electorate who wanted a strong leader, someone who was not afraid to take on the terrorists and who would kick ass on America’s behalf. Well, we’re getting our ass kicked in Iraq and the terrorists are getting stronger and more organized. Bush is weak and he is getting scared. The more images and words and jokes we put out there exposing this weakness, the lower his poll numbers will go. Let’s shoot for 1% approval rating for Bush, then it won’t matter what anyone knows or doesn’t know about Dick Cheney. Now that would be something to see.