Friday, December 30, 2005

Special Political Action Message From John Kerry

Any of you who signed up at John Kerry dot com in the run-up to election debacle 2004, have this little gem awaiting you in your inbox. Just for fun I thought I'd share a few snippets along with my response to the junior Senator from Massachusetts.

Dear The (liberal)Girl Next Door,

What should your last political act of 2005 be about?

There's only one answer. It should be about fighting back - about laying down a marker that says we've seen enough, heard enough, and seen the Republicans who control Washington try to mislead America more than enough. And, in 2006, we're coming to take our democracy back from the Washington special interests that control it today.

With the pivotal 2006 elections approaching, we won't be blackmailed or denied. We won't stand for Swift Boat-style attacks. We won't be intimidated. And we won't stop working until we win.

[Blah, Blah, Blah]

Just as important, we've organized a vitally important Fight Back Fund. We're ready, willing and able to take on the vicious attacks, deceitful distortions, and truth-defying rhetoric - just the way we did when they tried to savage war hero John Murtha and other Bush administration critics.

[Blah, Blah, I Pledge, Blah, Blah]

When the Bush White House says one thing and does another, we'll call them out. When shadowy Republican front groups show up on the campaign trail, we'll smoke them out. When there are huge discrepancies between the successes they claim and the reality they've created, we'll point them out.

[Blah, I urge, Blah, Blah, Donations, Blah, Blah]

And, most importantly on Election Day 2006, we'll vote them out.

John Kerry


Dear Senator Kerry,

Thanks John, but what about the first political act of 2006 being articles of impeachment? Until Democratic “leaders” like you get behind a real solution to our current crisis, nothing will change. You of all people know how broken our system of voting is, yet you run from the truth every chance you get and continue to encourage us to vote in elections that have no chance of rectifying the problems we face. Real leadership requires first, a belief in what you say and second, the willingness to say it even when doing so may be not be politically expedient. Just ask your friend John Murtha. I’m sure he’s glad to have your support now, lucky for him that the political wind was blowing in the right direction long enough to sway you toward his point of view.

I guess I will never get over the fact that you walked away from a fraud riddled election, content to play the loser. But you were not the one who truly lost, that indignity belongs to those of us who supported you. Trust that we will not make the same mistake again. While I appreciate your attempt to keep yourself politically viable for the next go-around, we have reached a point where passive participation in democracy is no longer an option and unless and until you are willing to be active in changing the course we are on, I would kindly ask that you at least get out of the way.

The (liberal)Girl Next Door

Help Me ProsecutorMan, You’re My Only Hope

I was reading on the Smirking Chimp today, what John Dean had to say about Bush’s illegal wiretaps and the striking parallels between the Bush and Nixon White Houses.  Then I read Molly Ivan’s chilling account of the road we find ourselves on and the similar paranoid worldview of both Nixon and Bush.  But she fears, as we all should, that the safeguards put into place that are meant to check Presidential power grabs are not what they were in Nixon’s time.  Our current Congress does not appear to have the same willingness to rid the country of a dictatorial wannabe.

Reading these articles put me in mind of Patrick Fitzgerald.  Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I have a tendency to elevate Mr. Fitzgerald to superhero status and have dubbed him ProsecutorMan.  I realize that his authority to investigate this administration is limited, but he does not live in a bubble, he is surely aware and even influenced by the criminality he sees from these people.  He may not be able to do anything about the illegal wiretapping of Americans, but he must be spurred on by the reports, and more convinced than ever that he’s on the right track in attempting to rid our country of the cancer that has metastasized and is killing the entire organism of government.

For ProsecutorMan, the law is the final word and to hear Bush, who may be the ultimate target of the CIA leak case, not only admit to an impeachable offense but to dare anyone to challenge his status as “above the law” must chap his hide.  Illegal wiretaps and spying on Americans may not be in Fitzgerald’s mandate, but it surely will keep him on his own case a few extra hours a day.  The Republican led Congress may not be the answer to solving our Presidential crisis considering that to them, the rule of law is less a guiding force than an obstacle that must be overcome, but prosecutors who live and breath the law might very well be.

If the prosecutors, lawyers and constitutional scholars can make a good enough case and dig up enough dirt and even indict more members of the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress might begin to feel safe enough in joining John Conyers, Barbara Boxer and John Lewis in their calls for impeachment inquiries.  For Republicans, this is not about a solid legal case for impeachment, it is entirely a question of political survival.  Not until their backs are against the wall, will they even consider the facts of the case, which is exactly why Democrats need to start pushing.  If they can create enough momentum to turn even one Republican, the rest will quickly reevaluate the political cost of playing on team Bush.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Confront, Counter or Contend With The Lies?

I encounter several big problems when writing about politics and the news of the day; the MSM lies on a regular basis and is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the Bush administration at this point, I believe that the last three elections have been rigged and don’t believe that our current method of voting can bring about a fair election and I believe that 9/11 was an inside job and not the work of outside terrorists. There are mountains of evidence to support these views, yet they are not widely reported on and therefore not universally believed, but the number of people who are questioning these things is growing every day.

The MSM—Every day I see examples of distortions, opinions masked as truth and outright lies from talking heads on cable news and in the newspapers. There are great sites that do nothing but debunk the myths and expose the lies each and every day like Media Matters, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting and Accuracy In Media (for a comprehensive list go here). I try to debunk any myths in reporting that I find that are relevant to whatever I am writing about at the time, but I am only one person and my resources are limited and I want to cover more ground than the lies of mainstream media.

The Vote—This is a bigger problem for me when trying to write about politics. I have mentioned many times before that I don’t believe in the election results from the last three elections and I have little doubt that the mid-term elections are going to bring more of the same. There is too much riding on Republicans maintaining their stranglehold on power for them not to use every tool at their disposal, including electronic voting machines and ballot counters that can be hacked without leaving a trace. In my opinion, this means we have no democracy left, but I can’t bring myself to advocate for a complete withdrawal of participation. I struggle with the idea that by participating in phony elections, we lend them credibility or worse, give our consent. Beyond working at the local level to get rid of these machines, and continuing to make noise in hopes of putting pressure on Congress to do something, I’m at a loss as to what to do. So when discussing possible candidates, impeachment hearings or taking back the reigns of power in Washington DC, all worthy topics, I find that I must ignore the elephant in the room in order to engage at all. I try to point out the death of democratic elections every time, but again, there are others working much harder and doing a much better job of reporting on this ongoing fight than I could ever do. BradBlog, The Free Press, Black Box Voting and Marc Crispin Miller are all working tirelessly to bring us the news of our flat-lining democracy.

The Myth of 9/11—This is the one that I find most difficult to deal with as it poses a complicated problem. There is the official story of 9/11 and anyone who has read it knows it raises more questions than it answers and requires a suspension of disbelief that most thinking people are unable to achieve. Given this, one must look elsewhere for information that will fill in the gaps and complete the picture of what really happened on that day. From what I have read, it’s clear that the only way the whole event could have been pulled off, is if “stand down” orders were given and Al Qaeda simply doesn’t have the ability to pull that off. There is more physical and circumstantial evidence as well as witness accounts to support an alternate and much more sinister theory of what happened than is provided by the 9/11 Commission Report, which itself is just a theory (and not a very good one at that). But there are wide spread problems that are a direct result of this report and the “official” story of 9/11, and these are worth combating as well. The culture of fear that the Bush administration has cultivated with the use of the “story” of 9/11 and the myth of Al Qaeda is very real. Yes it is the result of a Fairy Tale sold to the people, but the effects are wide reaching and deeply felt. The collecting of data, facts and witnesses that call into question the 9/11 story is being done very well by some great investigators, thinkers and specialists. Again, I will leave this work to those who are better able to collect and dissect the evidence. For some eye opening presentations of the evidence collected, watch the proceedings of The Citizens’ Commission on 9/11 (I highly recommend watching all of the clips, but if you only pick a few, watch Michael Ruppert and Indira Singh). 9/11 Citizens Watch and 9/11 Truth are two great sites for valuable and reliable information regarding the events of 9/11. But challenging the effects of 9/11 is still worthwhile and where I choose to focus my attention, leaving the work of debunking the official story to those who are better able to handle the task.

We are facing a beast that is so big and so powerful that it will take all of us to bring it to its knees. I am only a gnat, nibbling on the toenail of it, but a swarm of gnats can irritate and draw the attention of bigger game. It’s all worth doing. I have no illusion that I can change the world or even our country, but I can participate in the movement that will.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fear And Loathing In The USA

I am sick to death of hearing, “the world is a different place since 9/11”.  This simple little phrase is bandied about as a reason to support every un-American piece of legislation pushed by BushCo and as justification for their illegal activity.  The world is not different.  Perhaps we here in America think differently about our security, we no longer feel untouchable, but the world didn’t change that day.  The only thing that has really changed is our irrational fear of terrorism and the incessant fear mongering from the Bush administration.

What is the reason given for Bush’s stunning re-election in 2004?  9/11.  Why should we be okay with the “sneak and peek” provision of the Patriot Act that allows for law enforcement to come inside our homes without our knowledge and snoop around?  9/11.   How do we reconcile enemy combatants held indefinitely without due process with our Constitutional right to a trial by our peers?  9/11.  Why will President Bush most likely not be held accountable for breaking the law in authorizing spying on American citizens?  9/11.  The world may not be a different place as a result of 9/11, but America sure is.

Any smart grandmother will tell you, never make big decisions when in a state of grief, a solid piece of advice often handed out after the death of a spouse.  To bad America didn’t have an outspoken old grandma around that could have given us this strong warning on the day we were attacked and forced to witness suffering both personal and public.  We were all in a state of grief, for the innocence we had lost and the devastation we had seen.  How could we have been expected to make such monumental decisions about the Patriot Act, declarations of war and broadened Presidential powers before we even had a chance to process what had happened?

But we are more than four years down the road now, and should have our bearings back enough to see that the big decisions we made back then, were probably made in haste and deserve to be revisited.  Most of them were not consented to anyway, but merely slipped by, as we stood around shell-shocked.  At the time, there was something appealing about handing over the reigns to a “cowboy” who would protect and avenge us.  Now that we have some distance, it’s apparent that we thought any cowboy would do.  Clearly we were wrong.

Grief is meant to be temporary.  We are supposed to move past it and continue on with our lives.  Unfortunately for us, our grief was quickly replaced by fear, arguably a more powerful emotion.  Fear too, is not sustainable as a constant state of being, but Bush and his cohorts make sure to pump it out at full force every chance they get.  We are meant to fear car bombs, dirty bombs, sabotage of trains and bridges, hijacking of airplanes, anarchist protestors, any grouping of more than three Muslims, anthrax, smallpox and bird flu.  So far, all of these threats put together have killed less than 6,000 Americans.  Influenza and pneumonia kill more than 65,000 people a year in this country.  Given that, it’s hard not to think we’re a bit irrational when it comes to terrorism.  If we based our government spending on real dangers, we would spend some of the $300 billion or so we are throwing at Iraq on a nation wide program encouraging kids to wash their hands to avoid the flu.

We should by no means forget what happened on 9/11 and it certainly opened our eyes to the dangers posed by extremist ideologies, but this is as true at home as it is abroad.  It’s more than a bit ironic that Bush preaches about the dangers of Muslim extremism yet relies heavily on Christian extremism in order to hold onto his power.  Fundamentalism is no less dangerous when practiced in the name of God than it is in praise of Allah.  They both spawn violence, the only difference is their targets, Fundamentalist Christians bomb abortion clinics and Fundamentalist Muslims bomb symbols of what they consider capitalist greed.  None of it is justified and should be equally rooted out and destroyed.

The lessons of 9/11 are not “get them before they get us” and “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here”.  The lessons should be that we are responsible for the things we do around the world, that we must never again assume we are untouchable and that ideologies of hate need not be tolerated.  The “terrorists” don’t hate our freedom as Bush contends, they hate what we do and it’s as simple as that.  Giving up our freedoms in a fight against terrorism is irrational, irresponsible and destined to fail.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”  Two hundred and thirty years later, it’s as true as it ever was.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Antichrist

I watched a show on the History Channel last night about the Antichrist, sometimes the best of television is on in the wee hours of the morning and this was no exception. They delved into the Fundamentalist Christian idea of the rise of the Antichrist which will facilitate the Rapture and the return of Jesus, who will of course win the ultimate battle between good and evil, thus ushering in 1000 years of Heaven on Earth. It almost made me wish I believed.

They interviewed Christians as they left their mega-church in Colorado, asking them to give their take on the Antichrist. The most interesting things came out of their mouths, but trying to follow their logic just made my head spin. Several of them described the characteristics that they believe the Antichrist will exhibit, he will be a powerful leader, he will pretend to be one of them and he will be intent upon creating a global empire and a world economy that will require anyone who wants to participate to be a true believer in his vision. See where I’m going with this?

First off, I find it hard to fathom the extent to which a person must ignore reality in order to truly believe in the Rapture and the return of Jesus, but by following their distorted logic, I come to only one conclusion. George Bush fits the profile that they themselves set up, yet they are unable to see it. Not being a believer myself, I have no idea how each personality trait ranks in importance, but the only characteristic given by these faithful worshipers that Bush lacks, is great oratory skills. Perhaps this is hanging them up more than I realize. For all I know it is the singularly most important skill of the Antichrist which would certainly explain their inability to peg Bush as the one.

I realized once the show was over, that they convinced me that Bush is the Antichrist. But then I had to admit that he couldn’t possibly be, since I don’t believe in the concept at all. I also realized that my frustration that these people can’t see what is laid out before them, stems from my desire to inject logic into an ideology that has none. Faith is just that, and it requires no logic, in fact it demands a rejection of it. I find it sad that because those who subscribe to a Fundamentalist reading of the Bible give away their ability to think critically, they are the ones who will ultimately fall victim to the charms of the Antichrist that only they believe in. It’s almost as if they are intent on becoming what they spend their whole lives demonizing. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy that in the end will leave them confused as to where they went wrong, and will prove them to be as evil as they feared all along. You can ask God to absolve you of your sins, but unless you absolve yourself, change your behavior and accept your part in evil deeds that are committed in your name, there is no redemption. But that is just my take on life on planet Earth, I’m sure they could poke holes in my beliefs as well, just not with logic.

Reading and Writing

It seems inevitable that this time of year brings with it an evaluation of the past year and a reminder of shortcomings that we would like to address.  It used to take someone asking,  “what’s your New Year’s Resolution?” before I started thinking about it, but now it happens organically.  Perhaps it is a natural state of introspection that arises after the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season winds down and our schedules and minds are at rest enough to contemplate the year that has passed.  Once the Christmas frenzy was over, books immediately came to my mind.

I read the Huffington Post bloggers on Christmas Eve and as a result have compiled quite a long list of reading material to start me off on the New Year.  Arianna was thoughtful enough to have her bloggers post exclusively on books they recommend, books they want and books they are giving for Christmas.  I have always been an avid reader.  I used to prefer non-fiction, but over the last ten years I have fallen in love with the novel.  I read the classics, the award winners and popular women’s fiction.  I often get books as gifts or just passed along to me by family and friends and eventually, I get around to reading all of them.  I have far too many books on my overcrowded bookcases and only a small section of them to chose from when I feel like curling up on the couch to read.  But with all of the writing I have been doing lately, my daily ritual of devouring literature has been reduced to an occasional activity.  The good news is, my section of unread books has grown exponentially.  

I’m still trying to figure out the correlation between reading and writing for me and I’m desperately searching for that ever-elusive perfect balance.  I read the news, blogs, commentary and various bits of humor each day, but I have not enjoyed a well-crafted novel since I started this blog, an oversight I must immediately correct.  I am a true believer in informed opinion, but my view of the world, of myself and of my personal relationships flow from the reflections I engage in after reading a good novel.

I am currently attempting my own work of fiction, and although it is at times a tedious endeavor, for the most part it is rewarding and is certainly shedding light on the person I think myself to be.  Not that I am a character in the story, but a part of who I am or who I aspire to be is a huge part of the process.  My weaknesses as a person are becoming apparent, but so too are my strengths.  Writing about other people is not nearly as revealing as creating them out of thin air.  What I write here in this blog reveals a lot about what I think, but not so much of who I am, or who I perceive myself to be.  It is the same experience I have when I read a novel and one that I need in order to grow.

So my New Year’s resolution this year is to get back to reading fiction.  I have been so absorbed by the politics of my immediate surroundings that I have forgotten to nourish my soul.  The totality of who I am cannot be realized through a myopic view, and the near obsessive focus on external things has tainted my natural state of optimism.  I need to be reminded daily that there is such a thing as a happy ending, good defeating evil and the good guy getting the girl.  This is what I have been missing and it is long past time for me to bring it back.  Recommendations anyone?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Supporting The Troops

I have to admit to having a bias against the American military. Not as individuals of course, but as an institution. I suppose this is a function of my political socialization as an adolescent, becoming politically aware as I did during the Reagan years when our military was used to promote a capitalist agenda in Latin America, by overthrowing their democratically elected governments and installing brutal dictators that would open their doors to multinational corporations who could then gain control of their natural resources. At least that was my interpretation of events at the time, and nothing I have learned since has changed my view.

I also remember distinctly the look in my grandmother’s eyes whenever there was a deployment of troops into a “dangerous” part of the world. Being a Republican who had voted for Reagan didn’t inoculate her from the omnipresent fear of loosing her baby boy who was serving in the Navy at the time. I’m sure the stark contrast between my uncle and my father made an impression on me as well. I remember hearing my father say that if his son, my brother, were to enlist in the military he would kidnap him by force if necessary and take him out of the country. That is a powerful image for a teenage girl who is feeling her political oats and tending the seeds of a political philosophy.

I must also admit that in addition to my biased against the military as an institution, I have a deep respect, admiration and a downright attraction to those who serve. Both of my grandfathers served, one in the Navy and one in the Army, and no one had more nurturing, loving, thoughtful and giving Papa’s than I did/do (one has passed away, the other is alive, well and thriving). These two men sacrificed for their country, and then turned around and continued to sacrifice for their families, teaching those around them the value of hard work, but more importantly the value of having a good time. In my experience, military folks could teach us all a few things about how to have fun. Maybe it’s simply that they understand in a way that the rest of us never will that when your life is on the line, who you are, what you have done and the memories you’ve left with those you love, in the end is all that really matters.

As an adult, I have few personal connections to our men and women in uniform, but the ones that I do have, have inspired me. I watched one of my dearest friends marry one of hers, a mere days before he was shipped off to Iraq. It was a wedding put together on the fly, but being there, you would never have known it. Strings were pulled and many people went out of their way to make it one of the most romantic, heartfelt and true weddings most of us had ever been a part of. It was an honest expression of optimism and love that brought out the best in everyone in attendance. And beyond that, it was a grand old time, like I said, those military folks know how to get down.

Liberals get a bad rap when it comes to supporting the troops, and in my opinion, it is downright unfair. We may not all tie yellow ribbons around our old oak trees, but we were the ones screaming the loudest about providing proper armor to our troops. It was on Air America Radio and banner ads on liberal blogs where the plea for calling cards was made. It was Republican policies that forced injured veterans at Walter Reed to pay for their long distance calls to family and friends. My husband, an authority challenged musician, was so disgusted by this fact that he immediately contributed money we didn’t have and continued to rant about it for weeks on end to anyone who would listen (I still bring it up every now and then just to rile him up). Liberals arranged for donations of frequent flyer miles to military folks who were provided a ride home from Iraq to the States, but after that were left on their own. While it is true that Americans of all stripes, colors and political leanings headed the call and contributed more than could ever be used, it is liberals who consistently point out that it is a travesty these donations are necessary. Our troops deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and we owe them a ticket home and phone calls to family, these things should not be viewed as charity but as just compensation for their heroic service. It is Democrats, who continuously scream the loudest for raising military pay and it is liberals who contend it is a disgrace for military families to be living in poverty while their loved ones are serving our country. In my estimation, liberals support the troops and conservatives support the military industrial complex. A yellow ribbon on a truck doesn’t mitigate that.

For my part I am coming to terms with my prejudices. I still think that I would be devastated if my son joined the military, but that is because of the fear that would color my every day life and not because I don’t see the value in that choice. In fact it is hard to look at him now and not believe I would be proud, and for me, this is a huge step forward. I am beginning to understand the importance of diversity within the ranks of our armed forces. My friend’s husband is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, progressive thinking men I have ever met and our country is better off because he, and others like him, chooses to serve. The liberal point of view is currently present within the rank and file, but imagine what it would be like if they were not a minority. Perhaps if we liberals joined up, there would be a greater outcry from within when our troops are made scapegoats for civilian decisions. We all know that Abu Ghraib was not the result of a few bad apples, it was policy set by those not in uniform and how dare they turn around and paint our brave young men and women as monsters acting of their own accord? Donald Rumsfeld is more to blame for those disgraceful images than Lindy England and I dare anyone to say otherwise.

As we head into Christmas, my thoughts are with all of the young (and old) soldiers, sailors, marines, reservists, national guardsmen and those serving in the Air Force. I thank you for your service to our country and I try every day to truly appreciate what you have given up in order to do so. I mean no disrespect to you when I challenge the policies that sent you on your current mission and I hope you respect my patriotism, as I respect yours more than you will ever know. My right to speak out against our government and its policies in an attempt to make a more perfect union is only possible because you, and those before you, chose to do what you do. I promise to continue working on breaking down my prejudices or to at least better articulate the line I draw between the institution and those who belong to it. I just ask that you, in return, listen to what liberals say about our troops and more importantly, look at what we do. I think you will find that we support you in the ways that really matter and that the brush we are painted with by the conservative media, gives a distorted view of who we are and what we believe. Patriotism is love of one’s country and we all have an abundance of that, why else would we be fighting so hard to protect it?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Papers Please

This is a frightening bit of information.  Ohio is on its way to passing its own Patriot Act in an effort to broaden police authority in order to combat terrorism.  Apparently, the threat of terrorism is so great in Ohio that they need their own set of laws in addition to the national Patriot Act to protect its citizens from Al Qaeda.  How long before we see similar laws crossing the desks of our own Governors?  Although my husband informs me that in Washington State, we already have such a law on the books.  Complacency is a dangerous thing.

Connecting the dots is a crucial part of reading the news these days and let me just put on my tin foil hat before I speculate that the reason Ohio is passing such a law is in preparation for the next election cycle.  Protestors by nature are not all too cooperative with police, and refusing to show ID will make it easy to get them quickly out of the streets.  The Ohio Patriot Act is not the law yet, but all it needs is Governor Taft’s signature so it’s pretty much a done deal.  The American people are increasingly unbothered by infringements on our civil liberties, so why should he care one bit?

The good news is, the ACLU will most likely challenge the law as soon as it is put into effect.  Let’s hope that it is found to be in conflict with their state constitution.  The Religious Right has done a marvelous job of using the courts to challenge local, state and federal laws that they would like to see changed.  We should take a lesson from them and take action in as local a way as possible when we see our freedoms being trampled upon.  I know I am going to look into our law here in Washington, I suggest you do the same in your state.  If you’re lucky, there will be nothing on the books as of yet, but look a little deeper and you may find a movement within the state legislature to restrict your rights.  Let’s challenge them!  They are our rights, and they are worth fighting for tooth and nail.  God’s army is encroaching on our turf and it’s past time for us liberal soldiers to meet them head on.  They may have God on our side, but we have the law on ours.

The Karl Rove Syndrome

It’s not about winning at any cost; it’s about winning with a philosophy that resonates with the American public. There seems to be a lot of Rove envy within the ranks of the Democratic Party that continues to foster the idea that if we only had a tactician like Rove, we could win elections too. While I too believe that political strategy is sorely lacking in Democratic campaigns, what we really are missing is a philosophical thrust, a core of beliefs at the center from which our political rhetoric can flow.

The Republicans have been catapulted into the highest echelons of power because they have been able to sell their brand of Americanism to the public, but the packaging is but a small part of the deal. There is a clear agenda that is driving them, control of the Middle East, privatization of as many government agencies as possible, tax cuts for the rich and unlimited power of corporations without all that pesky government oversight. This is what gets the conservative kids out into the streets to raise money for the Republican Party. This is what opens the floodgates of cash into the GOP coffers and this is what drives Young Republicans on college campuses into right wing think tanks after graduation. What do we offer young liberal thinkers who want to contribute to the cause? Usually nothing more than an Internet petition or an envelope in which to send money to the DCCC.

Markos Moulitsas at the Daily Kos is thankfully gaining some influence within the Democratic Party leadership and his daily tirades telling the Democrats to stop shrinking from a fight and take the GOP on in as direct a way as possible, is a port in the storm for most of us. If they are smart, they will listen, as it may be their last chance to move beyond their current sidelined status. But what Kos is offering is all flash and no substance. His tactics are right on, but there is a huge chunk missing. The policy behind the politics is what will win elections and more importantly what will keep Democrats in power if they are ever able to make it that far.

Where is the liberal economic think tank that has a counter proposal to the draconian policies touted by Grover Norquist’s “Americans For Tax Reform”? Surprisingly, the answer is a long list of organizations all working independently of one another, and not surprisingly are all under funded. The inherent problem with working for social justice is that there are not corporations lining up to bankroll a project that provides no direct benefit to them and in fact will most likely affect them adversely. Striving to give those without the money to buy a place at the table a chance to participate in the process may be a much more worthy cause, but it is one that doesn’t exactly bring in the cash. The fact that there are any non-profits working on developing liberal economic policy is amazing, but the fact that there is not one, sharing the limited resources, is just sad.

One of the best characteristics of the Democratic Party is the diversity of the people who belong to it. Paradoxically, one of the greatest weaknesses of the Democratic Party is its lack of unity. Get two liberals in a room and you will have two very well thought out plans of how the party should proceed. Get two hundred liberals and you get two hundred plans. See the problem? There are plenty of rich liberals, but they are not going to throw money to ten think tanks that will come up with ten competing economic proposals that will in turn be chosen by one of ten candidates. We need to consolidate our resources to come up with one, well thought out, cohesive plan for each of the problems facing our country. Let there be fewer jobs available in these think tanks and then let’s pay them the same wages they would get from Grover Norquist. We should show liberals that we understand the value of what they have to offer. There must be an honest and hard fought debate at the bottom, allowing for the best ideas to rise above the rest. But unless we want to continue to be a fragmented party, we must give these great ideas somewhere to go.

Our current Democratic leaders are floundering around, looking for a message, any message that will help them to take advantage of their current good fortune in Bush’s sagging poll numbers. But any message is not the answer. The best possible message crafted from the best possible policy goals is the only way to win the hearts and minds of the American people. Tell us what you’re going to do for us, then and only then, wrap it up in sparkly paper with a bow on top. We are tired of pretty packages with nothing inside. Liberals are not lacking for good ideas, what we lack is a structure that will harness and hone the ones that we have. Kos has the paper and the bow all ready. All we have to do is fill up the box.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reflections On Being An American

I, like most thinking Americans, live in two worlds. I live in the world of the mind, where I can look at things critically and connect the dots of government behavior in order to complete the picture outline of what they are attempting to accomplish. In my mind's eye, I see the overwhelming power of the corporation, the false reality packaged and fed to the people via the television set and the already written play that the actors dutifully follow every two years in what we are supposed to believe are “free” elections, but whose outcome is predetermined and depends little on our participation. But I also live in America, where I am encouraged to forget what I know and play the game anyway. I am as weak as most people and do what I’m told, and in the end, my reluctance to do so means little.

It is the week before Christmas and we have sent out our packages to family members, filled with gifts purchased from retail stores. Every day, we are receiving boxes in return, stuffed to the top with gifts that we set underneath our Christmas tree. We are not Christians, in fact both my husband and I are atheists, but we succumb to the pervasive latent Christianity that we tell ourselves is nothing more than family “tradition”. If we lived in the world of the mind, we would surely stop using tradition as an excuse to celebrate a holiday we don’t believe in. If not to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Christmas only serves the interest of corporate America as we contribute to their yearly profits, most of which is made during the Christmas season. Even though we made phone calls to everyone before Thanksgiving, telling them we were going “light” this year on Christmas shopping and begged them to do the same, no one listened and even we failed to comply with our wishes. I wanted so much to make all our gifts this year, but instead of sending off gifts that were filled with my handmade love, all I have are a dozen or so half-finished projects to show for my efforts. I tell myself that next year will be different, but that is just another trick I play on my mind, a lie I tell myself in order to reconcile my inner and outer life.

The idea that the only way to fix a problem, is to go deep inside it and fix it from within is nothing more than a justification for participating in a system we no longer have faith in. It’s a false choice that we all too often fall victim to. It is a distinctly American slogan and I’ve heard it my whole life, “if you don’t like the way things are going, get involved and change it.” I am coming to realize that working from within the problem, just makes me part of the problem and that the only thing I can truly fix, is myself. How can I fix a broken system that I willingly take part in? By taking full advantage of the lifestyle provided me as a result of being a white woman born in America, am I not endorsing the idea that there is something special about both being white and being American? Yet I am told that to shun the advantages that I have been handed as my birthright is to insult those around the world who were born into poverty, who would surely prefer to walk in my shoes.

As Americans, we have been indoctrinated our whole lives into believing certain things about ourselves. We are rugged individualists, we are blessed by our birth, we are beacons of hope for others less fortunate around the world, we are thoughtful members of the global community and we believe that hard work will be rewarded. Even when we see with our own eyes that these things are not true, they are so ingrained within us that we are able to suspend our disbelief and carry on as if the distorted image reflected back at us is nothing more than the trick of a funhouse mirror. In order to honestly challenge what we see wrong in our country, we must be willing to challenge ourselves, which is by far the more difficult task. There is much to be proud of in being American and not all of our beliefs about ourselves are wrong. The trick is being able to claim what is truly ours, and rid ourselves of the rest.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pessimism Put To Rest?

One of my first and most cherished readers has recently pointed out to me that I may be becoming too outwardly pessimistic in my view of where the country is headed. So in an attempt to look on the bright side (and not in a satirical way as with “The Bright Side Of Fascism”) I would like to present the good news as I see it on this day in December.

Six Iraq war veterans are running for Congress and one, Paul Hackett is running for a Senate seat in Ohio. This is indeed good news, as all of these candidates have a unique perspective and possess the credibility necessary to confront the Bush administration directly on the decision to go to war as well as their disastrous execution of it. But the even better news is that all of these American heroes are running as Democrats. It won’t escape notice that these brave veterans, upon returning home from their tours of duty, chose to continue their service to their country, not by supporting their Commander in Chief, but by challenging him. There is a strong statement about troop moral buried in the fact that not a single soldier returning from Iraq, has chosen to join the ranks of the Republican leadership. Don’t think for a second that this is due to lack of trying on the part of GOP operatives.

I wrote a post last month about Jack Abramoff titled “Burning Down The House”, but at the time I didn’t really think there was a chance that he would offer to strike the match himself. News surfaced Wednesday that Mr. Abramoff may be in plea talks with prosecutors and what he has to offer is names of members of Congress and their aides who took “favors” in exchange for their legislative efforts. This is the case that has Republicans in Congress waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. You can almost smell the fear emanating from Washington DC all the way over here in Washington State. Duke Cunningham’s tearful confession may have been just the beginning. DC lawyers and the manufacturers of orange jumpsuits may have a banner year in 2006.

There is a bit of good news on the election front as well. BradBlog has been tirelessly working to keep us informed about decisions across the country that will no doubt impact our future elections. There are ongoing court cases, bureaucratic decisions made within the offices of the Secretaries of State and the impending crisis within Diebold, that are crucial to solving our current electoral problems. So far in Florida, Volusia County and Leon County have decided to stop using their Diebold machines for future elections after a mock election was successfully “flipped” by a hacker. On Tuesday, the Secretary of State of California refused to re-certify their Diebold machines due to “unresolved significant security concerns”. All of these stories illustrate a move in the right direction and also show the effectiveness of local activism. The pervasive problems with electronic voting would not have been brought to the attention of those with the power to do something about it, without the hard work of so many concerned citizens. Hats off to those on the ground who have given up so much of their time in order to help bring about a more perfect union.

So there it is, the good news of the day. In the true spirit of optimism, I will not go into the fact that Hackett has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning an election in a state that does not question election results that differ from opinion polls by as much as 30%. Nor will I go on about the fact that even if members of Congress are indicted, they can still hold on to their seats in the same way Tom DeLay has, because they have changed the rules of the House. And last but not least, I will refrain from pointing out that although many counties are dumping their Diebold machines, they are replacing them with machines manufactured by ES&S that also run on proprietary software, leaving no way to verify the vote. The reason I will not dwell on these facts, is because we the people can change them. It will be an uphill battle for sure, but anything worth having, is worth fighting for. We have swung far to the right, but as my faithful and thoughtful reader also pointed out to me, it always swings back. I’m counting on him being right.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Having A President This Stupid May Have Finally Paid Off

By not only admitting to, but also downright bragging about giving his authorization to spy on American citizens, President Bush may have started the ball rolling on impeachment. It was only a matter of time before he stuck his oversized cowboy boot into his petulant little mouth. It seems he not only thinks he’s King, but he believes himself a King without enemies. If ever there were doubts about his sanity, they should now be firmly tucked in, kissed goodnight and laid to bed.

The outrage that followed the New York Times article describing the NSA engaging in domestic spying, one of the few crimes against Americans left uncommitted until now, is nothing compared to the disbelief of watching the President acknowledge this not as a breach of the public trust, but as a power he believes himself to possess. Either we are about to see the end of Bush or we are about to witness the mask coming off of this so-called democracy.

Senator Barbara Boxer is following the lead of her counterpart in the House, Rep. John Conyers, in seeking clarification from scholars on whether or not President Bush has committed impeachable offenses. On the face of it, it seems like a “slam dunk” case, but at least a proud few of our representatives are attempting to get their legal ducks in a row. John Conyers has released a scathing report on the Bush administration’s conduct in both the lead up and execution of the war in Iraq. He has called for the censure of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but more importantly, he has called for a select committee with subpoena power. Senator Boxer has asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on comments made by former Nixon White House Council, John Dean that this President is the first to admit to an impeachable offence. If anyone knows what an impeachable offence looks like, it’s John Dean. Let’s hope that the scholars agree.

Over the last five years, we have witnessed so many egregious transgressions upon our freedoms and countless examples of dangerous usurpations of Presidential powers not granted by the Constitution, but none have sparked the kind of outrage that we are currently seeing from members of Congress. The Democrats have been sufficiently neutered and Congressional Republicans have gladly handed over their oversight authority to this administration, but with their butts on the line in the upcoming elections, they may finally have had enough. Let us not have any illusions that this long overdue break with the administration has been inspired by their sense of duty to the American people or by their respect for our sacred documents, this is about political survival and nothing more. Just like with Watergate, it will take Republicans to throw out this dirty regime and it will be Republicans who get most of the credit as well.

But even with all of the hullabaloo about censure, impeachment and crimes of the Bush administration, most of us do not really hold out much hope that anything will come of it and recent history has shown that we are right to be skeptical. So far, most of the coverage of these developments has been confined to the lefty blogisphere, what with a seaplane crash off the coast of Florida and the transit workers on strike in NYC, the MSM is far too busy to cover a story of such low priority as the President breaking the law. And even if by some stroke of luck, the entire Republican leadership in the House was to be indicted for taking bribes from Jack Abramoff and Senate Republicans were found to be guilty of facilitating NSA spying on Americans, there really wouldn’t be a political price to be paid. Our congressional districts have been fixed to ensure perpetual Republican rule and if that firewall fails, there’s always the electronic voting machines to fix the breach.

It’s hard not to be cynical and waiting for a few members of the GOP with integrity to do their job and investigate whether or not crimes have been committed, feels like a colossal waste of time. Our only hope is that at some point, a small contingent of Republicans in Congress will unintentionally have their best interests fall in line with ours. I don’t know what they could possibly gain by turning against the Republican power machine, but there are some rumblings that indicate there is something we don’t know. An attack of conscience is unlikely, but perhaps some of them are not getting the perks they were promised. Perhaps it is as simple as having their egos battered beyond recognition and dreading the upcoming elections where they will have to stand up and fight for a job that wields them little power other than the scraps the Bush administration occasionally tosses in their direction. Not all of them got into politics to be lapdogs, and those few who are bristling now, may be our best chance for a course correction and a corrupt administration tossed out on its ear.

Reading Day

This shit is hitting the fan and as always Raw Story is all over it. Rep. John Conyers, the soft spoken, tireless street fighter for justice, has just released the Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee titled, “The Constitution In Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” It’s a mouthful, but the Bush administration has been shoveling it down our throats for years so I guess that’s no surprise.

I am going to make a big pot of coffee and sit down to read this mammoth piece of work. Then tonight I will torture myself by turning on the tube in order to watch the MSM either completely ignore the story, or give it a quick mention as another example of obstructionist Democrats hounding the President when he most deserves accolades for the successful and historic elections in Iraq. Fun, fun, fun, ‘til Big Brother takes my laptop away!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Koufax Awards

The nomination process has begun for the Koufax Awards. This is a chance for all of us to honor those in the lefty blogisphere that provide us with insight, laughter, information and the all-important sense of community. So many of us rely on these people to get us through our day and this is our opportunity to show them how much that means. So go forth and nominate your favorite bloggers for a Koufax Award. The rules and information about the awards are here, the categories are here, and the current nomination thread is here (this may change so check the main page if the thread is closed). Just go down to the bottom of the page, post a comment with your nominations and make a blogger happy today! Since seeing my blog on there, I haven’t stopped smiling, so believe me it will!

The Bright Side Of Fascism

I was thinking the other day about the myriad of signs that this administration is indeed trying to turn this country into a fascist dictatorship. Bush once said, “If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.” Any thinking person that happened to catch this little bit of wisdom on live television surely felt a sudden chill up their spine. He was being jovial when he said it, but the truest lines are often the throwaway ones. If our dear President says he would prefer to be a dictator, we should believe him. And if we have learned one thing in the last five years, it is that Georgie Boy, more often than not, gets what he wants.

So, if what we have in store is a dictatorship with Bubble Boy at the helm, we might as well start looking at the bright side of fascism. The first thing that comes to mind is a thriving counterculture. Sure we will have to meet in darkened houses with the curtains drawn, but it will be exciting and we will have legitimate reasons for yelling at the children, “knock off the racket.” There will also be many great books written, although we will never get the chance to have our books signed at the local Barnes & Noble as the authors will most likely be executed upon publication of their work. But that will just make the books worth more since there will be limited copies available once they are confiscated and burned by the government.

There won’t be anything worth watching on television, since everything will be sanitized for our consumption, but this will conveniently provide more time to spend with our family and friends. Singing and dancing will once again become common faire in American households, as we shun the idiot box in favor of private gatherings amongst friends. Of course we will be attending more funerals since, let's face it, most of us are used to spouting off about politics in public places and that will be a hard habit to break.

Imagine all of the practical problems that will be solved. Most liberals have too many books, yet can’t seem to get rid of any of them. With extreme poverty a reality of everyday life for most of us, our duplicate copies of Lord of the Flies, Macbeth, Jane Eyre, not to mention all of the books we bought and read but would rather not showcase on our bookshelves, will provide ample kindling to keep us warm during the cold winter months. We can destroy the evidence of our guilty pleasures, purge our houses of unnecessary items and stay alive in the process. It’s a win, win situation.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to all of us lefties, once we embrace our new fascist future, is we will once again be useful and necessary. We will be able to contribute to the fight in concrete ways. We can provide “safe houses” for rebels as they travel around, spreading the news of the revolution. We can distribute leaflets and host meetings in our homes. There will be inherent danger in all that we do, lending our lives much needed drama and we will at long last have a productive outlet for our dissent. The lines will be clear and our action will be needed. It will no longer be possible to sit on the sidelines, waiting for things to happen, we will be instigators of change and we will have everything riding on our ability to commit to the cause. Admit it, it sounds like fun.

So let us embrace our fascist future, as it will lend necessary urgency to our humdrum lives. While we wait in limbo, feeling confused about what to do, rest assured that we may soon enough have the boot of a real dictator pressed firmly on our necks. Then we will finally find out what we are really made of. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Watch List This

After the 2004 election, I went a little nutty. My husband tried to talk me down, but I was angry and frustrated, but more than that, I was frightened. I described it at the time as being assaulted by the light after having the blinders ripped from my eyes. When the will of the people is thwarted and an election is so clearly manipulated, democracy is dead. I cried and I raged until I found the positive outlet I needed in this blog. I do have to admit to feeling a little bit better, but I still have the nagging fear of being “one of the last Jews in Germany”. Many of them saw what was coming and acted on their fears, leaving their homeland behind and finding safety in other places around the world. I see the vilification of blacks, gays and liberals every day. I want to stay and fight, but I have made sure that each member of my family has an updated passport just in case. The trick is recognizing when the fight has turned from crucial to impossible.

Those of us who scan the news each day, looking for the stories buried on the back page or at the end of the newscast that give a glimpse into what is really going on, can’t help but be simultaneously amazed and overwhelmed.

A woman on public transportation in Colorado refuses to show her identification to police as they make their way through the bus, as they do each day, checking the IDs of all the passengers. Her refusal to produce her “papers” results in her being handcuffed and taken into the federal police station. This is America?

A group of Quakers organizing peaceful protests against military recruitment for the Iraq War, protest being a longstanding tradition in the Quaker community, is added to a Pentagon “threat list”. These are the threats to America’s security?

A local Oregon toy store is forced to remove a toy from their shelves by Homeland Security Agents. Apparently a knockoff Rubik’s Cube is a threat to our national security. How many signs do we need that our government is nothing more than the enforcement arm of Corporate America?

I don’t know the answer, but I know enough to question what I see happening around me. The Real ID Act, The Bankruptcy Bill, The Patriot Act, the secret “no fly” list, corporate controlled media; all of these things may seem harmless when viewed individually, but put them together and we see an overreaching plan to keep tabs on all of us, keep us in perpetual servitude to corporations, keep us in line with unlimited powers of investigation, keep us from traveling to express our displeasure with the government and keep us ignorant of what this administration is doing, all the while keeping us isolated from one another. It’s an evil and well-executed plan up to this point, how far does it have to go before we do something about it?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Run Russ, Run!

Two great quotes from a press release Saturday by Senator Russ Feingold that I just have to put up.

“The President believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed. This is not how our democratic system of government works. The President does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. He is a president, not a king.”

“We have had enough of an Administration that puts itself above the law and the Constitution.”

I hope you’re right Sen. Feingold.  I also hope that you’re ready to officially toss your hat into the Presidential ring.  We need a leader like you who will tell it like it is and have the courage to stand up for the American people, regardless of the political cost.

The more I hear from this man, the more I like him.

Who Are You Calling A Patriot?

First of all, it’s apt that the word “riot” is part of the word Patriot and should remind us of our right to political protest. Our country was founded on dissent and the idea that rule by and for the people is the only valid form of government. Dissent turned to riots, which in turn led to war. Independence is what we were seeking and a representative government was the result. We were warned by our forefathers that it would take vigilance to maintain our newfound democracy, and that it was our duty to protest if our government got out of line.

With news surfacing this week that our own military has been spying on Americans who dare to organize peaceful protests against recruitment of our children into this immoral war, it is apparent that our government has stepped out of line. Seattle has been a hotbed of protest against military recruitment in our schools. The PTA of Garfield High School passed a resolution barring recruiters from school grounds and at Seattle Central Community College, recruiters were forced off campus by angry students protesting the war. Only the Pentagon knows exactly how many of these patriots are now being spied upon by the very government that is supposed to serve them.

The two big news items closing out this week are the threatened filibuster by Senate Democrats on the Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of the year, and the news that the National Security Agency has been engaging in domestic spying courtesy of new broad powers granted by this President. These two stories illustrate that this is a White House out of control (or after total control). Those of us who disagree with this President and his reckless policies, both foreign and domestic, have been put on notice, voice your dissent and they will use every law that they have put on the books to silence and punish you. Welcome to the New America.

Patriotism is a word that has been bandied about quite a bit since it became readily apparent that the war in Iraq was a disaster before it even started. Right wing rednecks are patriots because they slap American Flags on their trucks but couldn’t find Iraq on a map if their life depended on it, and liberals who question the administration’s case for war and fight for proper equipment for our troops have our patriotism questioned at every turn. Could someone please explain what the hell is going on?

Patriotism is defined as “love of or devotion to one’s country”. The question is, do we as Americans define our country by who is currently leading us, or by the guiding principles on which our country was founded? How you answer that question determines who should be called a patriot and who should be deemed a traitor. Also consider that nationalism is a synonym for patriotism, and is defined as “aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.” That certainly puts our current occupation of Iraq into perspective now doesn’t it?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Put It All On 22

The debate thus far over a pullout of US troops from Iraq has been framed for the American people by the MSM as “cut and run” versus “stay the course”. With Bush out in full force this past week touting the progress being made in Iraq, the Democrats responded by pointing out he still has no plan for victory, not can he even define what victory means. But an interesting shift has taken place. The MSM peppered their coverage of Iraq this week with prominent Democrats blaming the Iraqi people for the continuing violence against American troops.

By pulling comments out of context, it appears that the MSM is presenting the Democrats position as “blame the victim”. Chopped up video of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden saying that the Iraqis need to take control of their own country now so that our troops can come home were shown on CNN and MSNBC. Of course that is true, but that is not the thrust of the Democrats position, or at least it shouldn’t be.

It’s difficult for Democrats as they are in an untenable position. I am reminded of the great Albert Brooks movie Lost In America, where after liquidating all of their assets and setting about a life on the road, his wife walks into a casino in Las Vegas and looses everything. In response to this unbelievable turn of events, he goes into the office of the Hotel manager and asks for the money back. Bush looted our treasury, walked up to the roulette wheel and put everything on 22. So far, that gamble hasn’t paid off and the Democrats are in a bind since they handed him the money. “We would never gamble our future away, but go ahead and do what you gotta do Mr. President. But if you lose, it’s on your head.” Unfortunately, it’s not just the President’s problem.

If Bush had staked his family fortune on this ridiculous exercise, it would be less of a problem, but it’s our future he has gambled away. He will walk out of the White House a rich man with very rich friends who owe much of their newly acquired wealth to him. We on the other hand, are a half a trillion dollars in the hole on this deal and continuing to throw money into the sinkhole of war.

The biggest lie being shoveled down our collective throat is that Bush has a master plan. Beyond the fact that this is laughable on its face, we are being conned into believing that the master plan has always been to change the face of the Middle East by handing them the gift of democracy. The first step in this “plan” is to remake Iraq, through military force, into a thriving democracy that will then provide inspiration for its neighbors. The second step is either an organic transformation of the rest of the Middle East into democratically run countries or military intervention that will force it upon them. If this plan works, the end result is stability in the Middle East, which in turn provides security for America and an uninterrupted flow of oil into the world market. Everyone wins.

The problem is that this is nothing more than a Fairy Tale being told to the tired and restless American people. The war in Iraq is not about creating a more peaceful world or even about our own security. Whether we admit it or not, we all know it’s about the oil. All you have to do it look at where our military bases are located throughout the Middle East. It is not a coincidence that we are building permanent bases in both Afghanistan and Iraq along either existing or proposed oil pipeline routes that crisscross the region. The first rule in understanding history is “follow the money”. We are watching history in the making and oil is the currency of our time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blowout Sale!

The sale has begun on the landslide victory the Republicans are going to miraculously pull off next November. For all the talk of Bush living inside his bubble of one, he sure seems to be acutely aware of what his Republican friends in the Congress need in order to maintain control of the House and Senate. Or maybe he’s just been doped up on his happy juice again and is being led around like a monkey on a leash regurgitating his memorized lines. His handlers know what is at stake in the coming mid-term elections, they’ve seen the polls on impeachment and they are aware of the mountains of evidence their Republican cohorts are sitting on in just about every Committee on The Hill.

Bush is out there selling his war and even admitting that the intelligence that lead us to war was flawed. Although he continues to say that, knowing what he knows now he would have made the same decision. That should surprise no one and it is exactly the point the Democrats should be making. He did rely on flawed intelligence and he will rely on flawed intelligence in the future if it supports his position. Facts aren’t necessary when you have God on your side. If we weren’t so used to this type of idiotic thinking from our Chimp in Chief, we would be frightened by it. But it’s just another day in Bush’s America.

Republicans also needed Bush to end his campaign in support of torture, and today he gave them that too. In a press conference with Senator McCain, he claimed victory in the fight against torture. No matter that he threatened to veto the bill in October, he’s banking on the fact that no one will remember that part. The sad thing is, he’s probably right.

The MSM is also getting in on the action. I can’t count how many times I have heard or read this week that the President’s poll numbers are on the rise. Really? That’s not what Zogby says. His most recent poll numbers released on Tuesday (Dec. 13th) have Bush’s overall approval rating at 38%, down from 40% last month. Interesting how Zogby has all of a sudden become not such a reliable source.

The sale is on and the tactics will only get more high-pressured the closer we get to Election Day. Our voting system is broken and the majority of Americans have no idea, the Republicans want it that way and the MSM is going to continue to ignore it because it serves them well to do so. Corporate corruption used to make it onto the evening news, and you would think that corruption within a company that is responsible for counting our votes would be worthy of mention. The CEO of Diebold resigns and a class action suit is filed against the company alleging securities fraud and not a word uttered on our television news or printed in the pages of our papers. Keith Olbermann did bestow the title of “Worst Person In The World” on O’Dell on Tuesday’s edition of Countdown, but he did so without telling his viewers about the lawsuit. Kind of an important part of the story, but half assed reporting is par for the coarse on cable news. Thank goodness for the lefty blogisphere! It may not be an estate yet, but it’s bungalow on the hill with plenty of room for expansion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Identification Please

I have received many interesting emails since I posted my article about religion and have engaged in some thought provoking conversations about the reality of religion in this country versus the perception. I understand that I live in a sort of liberal bubble, residing as I do in the very progressive city of Seattle on the very lefty Left Coast, but I still have a hard time reconciling the Christian Nation being sold on the evening news with the reality on the ground. Maybe if I lived in the heartland or in the Bible Belt, I would feel differently.

I come from a large family in a fairly small town and I have contact with a lot of people each day living in a city and yet I do not know, nor do I meet, many overtly religious people. Perhaps it is a case of likeminded people traveling in the same circles, but I tend to think that organized religion plays less of a part in our everyday lives than is suggested by the media and by the answers we ourselves give to pollsters on the topic.

We are not a Christian country, nor is the foundation of our government based on Christian ideals the way many are purporting. There is, however, a thread of latent Christianity that is pervasive within our culture. References to God are everywhere we look, in our courtrooms, on our money, even in our reflexive responses to people when they sneeze. I think that many people have a hard time articulating where they fall on the religious spectrum and when asked to specify their religious identification, they figure that since they went to church with Grandma a few times and they celebrate Christmas and Easter, Christian fits the bill. This reflex to claim Christianity only makes sense because of the pervasiveness of Christian symbols. These same people would never think, “Well, I celebrate Halloween and I used to do that Maypole dance on May Day, so I guess I’m a pagan.”

Discussions about religion are always rife with danger, but that makes them all the more worthwhile. Those of us who are not Christian must get better at acknowledging our own beliefs and become better at articulating them. It is the only way we are going to be able to avoid being marginalized by a majority that may not be a majority at all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Hodge Podge Of Political Fun

So much interesting news today, it almost feels like we may be reaching the tipping point of political corruption (finally). There’s buzz about whether Patrick Fitzgerald will fulfill our Christmas wishes and indict Karl Rover before the holidays or if he will make us wait until after we ring in the New Year. I have to say that given the choice, I don’t give a rats ass, Rove is going down and ain’t nothin’ gonna change that.

Wally O’Dell, the former CEO of Diebold who promised to “deliver” Ohio to President Bush has now resigned. He can say “personal reasons” as often as Cheney will no doubt claim “health reasons” but we all know the truth. As with Rover, I’m not greedy, I don’t care how much face they save on their way out the door. O’Dell turned the reigns of the corrupt voting machine company over to Thomas Swidarski, but considering that he is a co-defendant in the newly filed class action suit against the company, his days are numbered I’m sure. Let’s hope that Swidarski strikes some kind of deal once the criminal charges come down the pike. The SEC most likely won’t be far behind the civil suit and Swidarski was in charge of the voting division of the company, so if he pleads out, the truth may come out yet.

The liberal “war on Christmas” is heating up as well. It’s hard to believe that the 4% in this country that don’t celebrate Christmas can be winning the war against the other 96% who do, but I guess it’s just another tale of the little guy slaying the big beast. I have never really thought of Christians as being wimps, but if they can’t win with that stacked a deck, they may have good reason to be afraid of persecution. Or maybe as Sam Sedar of the Majority Report posits, it’s just a scam to raise money for the religious right (watch the clip courtesy of Crooks and Liars, it’s really funny). Nah, they wouldn’t exploit the birth of the baby Jesus just to make money. They’re not that cynical, right?

And last but not least, our chimp of a President is floundering around, trying to figure out how to get out of his bubble. He puts me in mind of something a dear old friend said once to describe an acquaintance of ours. “He was born with two brains and the larger of the two grew and grew and grew until it became the size of a pea and rolled out his ear.” Those close to the President should watch their step once his handler Rove is escorted out of the White House, lest they should slip on a pea and twist an ankle.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not So Fast Christian Soldiers

So I caught a few minutes of Fox News this weekend and one of their pretty, young, blonde anchors was doing the obligatory “liberals are trying to kill Christmas” stories and this bright, young woman informed her viewers that more than 90% of the country is Christian. Hearing that certainly put the whole debate into its proper perspective. With almost the entire population of our country made up of Christians, it really doesn’t seem fair that a small minority of us Secularists are trying to restrict God from our public sphere and government entities. I guess we should all just suck it up and deal. It seems we should be okay with our children being taught intelligent design in school, taking an oath to God as well as our country and embrace the Ten Commandments as the replacement for the constitution in the dispensing of justice in our courts. Except for the fact that Fox News lies.

I did a little research of my own and surprise, surprise, it turns out that “more than 90%” is a bit of a stretch. According to The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, although 79.8% of respondents self-identified as Christian, 40% of those that considered themselves religious did not identify with any organized Church. Also interesting is that the percentage of Christians, dropped 8.5% since 1990. It seems that Christian influence in government may be growing, but their ranks are shrinking.

The other important consideration is that religiosity is geographical as well. The percentage of regular churchgoers is much higher in the Bible Belt than anywhere else in the country, and Western states have the highest percentage of people who consider themselves non-religious.

While the religious right is using Fox News and other MSM outlets to sell the idea that Christianity is on the rise and that most Christians want more religion in government, the facts don’t bear that out. Self-identification as a Christian does not automatically translate into support for the Religious Right and the Republican Party. Consider that the African American community has the highest percentage of those who consider religion a “very important part” of their lives, and we know from polling data that their religiosity does not translate into support for Republican candidates. Also interesting is the connection between intellect and religious beliefs.

While many of the studies conducted in this country measuring the connection between IQ and religious beliefs are considered controversial, there is no denying that they often come to the same conclusion, the more educated a person is, the less likely he/she is to be religious. And not at all surprising is that the highest percentage of Atheists and Agnostics are found in the scientific community. An interesting study was released a few weeks ago that rated the top ten most literate cities in the country and Seattle was at the top of the list. It is also true that Washington State leads the country in percentage of people who consider themselves “non-religious”. Coincidence? Unlikely.

The Religious Right is driven by the Fundamentalists, who are a minority themselves among Christians, and while Fundamentalists tend to support the Republican Party, not all Evangelicals do. It is estimated that 40% of the US population consider themselves Evangelical, and of that group, approximately one-third supported Al Gore in 2000. Fundamentalists take a literal view of the Bible and they have been folded into the Republican Party with the help of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The MSM had a field day after the 2004 election, selling America on the idea that Bush won the election because the country had moved to the right and Evangelicals were the deciding factor. More accurately it was the literally “unbelievable” vote tallies in Ohio and Florida that won the election for Bush, facilitated by Fundamentalists, not Evangelicals.

The Fundamentalists are God’s soldiers who believe the ends justify the means and that a Christian Nation is what God demands before he will come back and rescue them. The fact that anyone believes in the Rapture is disturbing, but the fact that our President may be one himself, sends a chill up the collective spine of Secularists everywhere. With all of his talk of “Crusades” in the Middle-East and his divine belief that he is on a mission from God to bring Democracy to the world, let’s hope that the Fundamentalists are right and the Rapture is soon at hand and God will take them away, leaving the rest of us behind. Bring on the Rapture! Bon Voyage!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Oops They Did It Again

How the Democrats can be on the right side of an issue and still lose the debate is a mystery. They certainly seem to have a knack for squandering opportunities even when spoon-fed to them from a silver platter. By not getting on the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq bandwagon, the only thing that Democrats are saving is Bush’s reputation. The debate over an Iraqi pullout is no longer a strategic one, but a political one, and the Democrats are losing. Whether we pull out tomorrow or in 18 months, we will be leaving behind the same god awful mess, the only thing that will be bright, shiny and new, is Bush’s poll numbers taking an upward turn.

I hear a lot of whining from Democrats about how we have broken Iraq, therefore it is ours to fix and pulling out prematurely would be the wrong thing to do. Of course it would, but does anyone really trust the Bush administration to do right by the Iraqi people? Simply proclaiming it so, won’t teach that pack of rabid dogs a new trick. Bush is an obstinate child and his only interest lies with his desire to go down in the history books as a “War President” who won the war.

Those who provided the intellectual thrust behind the neo-con agenda have all left the building. Wolfowitz is manning his dream post at the World Bank, talk about the fox guarding the hen house, Feith is already gone (no pun intended), Perle is eerily quiet and Rumsfeld is on his way out. All we have left are the political hacks, jockeying for position on a stage where the President will declare victory in Iraq yet again.

Of course we will have troops stationed in Iraq for the next twenty plus years, someone has to man all of those permanent bases. But the “conflict” in Iraq is on its way to being over and the Democrats have been had. By next Christmas, most of our troops will be home celebrating the holidays with their families, where they belong, and the likes of John Kerry, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and company will still be making public pleas to stay the course. In a word: pathetic.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Which Side Of The Bed Today?

Each morning I wake up and try to determine which is the greater threat to our democracy, the near complete loss of the fourth estate due to corporate consolidation of media, news and information or the loss of free and fair elections due to the corporate ownership of voting machines and proprietary vote counting software. The war in Iraq, the corruption in our government, the missing $8.8 billion of Iraqi money, the loss of American jobs, plummeting real wages, the skyrocketing national debt, the trade deficit and the expanding achievement gap in our schools are all by-products of a lapdog press and a corrupt voting system. Without acknowledging the two biggest problems facing America, we will never be able to fix them or anything else.

It is a catch 22 for sure. If the mainstream media refuses to cover the problems plaguing our voting system, there will never be sufficient pressure on our elected officials to fix it, and without reliable elections there is no way to toss them out in favor of new leadership. The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in late October that found “concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.” The GAO did its job in researching the problem and issued recommendations, but since the report was all but completely ignored by the MSM, our elected officials see no need to take a stand. No pressure, no action, no results.

The one thing that has been missing in both providing proof of electoral fraud and in capturing the attention of the MSM is a whistleblower, but that may be about to change. Brad Freidman of the BradBlog interviewed a Diebold insider dubbed “Dieb-Throat” about the security flaws within the Diebold voting machine software and claims that the company not only knew about them, but covered them up as well. “Dieb-Throat” also described a culture of fear within the company that makes dissent all but impossible and ensures that the “glitches” will not be corrected.

This same company insider has now granted an interview to Raw Story, the resulting article by Miriam Raftery, is a must read. But the most interesting news comes again from BradBlog, that Diebold is now suffering from financial problems that are about to take a turn for the worst with a pending class action law suit from shareholders. This is the kind of good news that doesn’t come around too often. The little guy taking a stand against the mighty and powerful does sometimes work, but the truth tends to come out faster when the rich and powerful turn on each other. Dieb-Throat describes an Enron type fiasco that may be on the verge of collapsing which sets up a situation where those at the top may be unable to resist the urge to grab what they can, leaving a trail of crimes behind them. Not that anyone will be held accountable for said crimes, but at least it may bring about the demise of one of the largest, and possibly the most politically compromised, electronic voting machine companies. Whether we will hear about it on the evening news is another story altogether.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Patrick Fitzgerald’s Look Into Forged Niger Documents

United Press International reported on October 23rd, “Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium.”

Justin Raimondo reported on October 19th:

According to a source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald asked for and "has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document," the former CIA officer tells me:

"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."

The week before Scooter Libby was indicted, David Shuster reported on MSNBC’s Hardball, “Some sources confirm that Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald requested and received an Italian Government report on forged documents, the Bush administration relied on to help make the case for war with Iraq. The telexes, letters, and contracts reported to show Iraq sought uranium from Niger. They surfaced in October 2002, seven months after the CIA, as a result of Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger, had dismissed the claims, but just as the administration was ratcheting up fears Iraq was a nuclear threat and was seeking uranium.”

However, most interesting is Fitzgerald’s own words in his court filing (page 10). Fitzgerald writes, “On August 12th and August 20th 2004, grand jury subpoenas were issued to reporter Judith Miller and her employer, The New York Times, seeking documents and testimony related to “conversations between Miller and a specified government official occurring between on or about July 26th, 2003 and on or about July 13th, 2003, concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.”

Whether Fitzgerald received testimony and documents from Miller regarding her knowledge of Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium, we simply do not know, but he clearly sees the connection between these false claims, the forged documents and the outing of Valerie Plame. Only time will tell how much Fitzgerald has been able to ferret out about the Bush administration's carefully constructed lies that led us to war in Iraq. Let’s hope he takes his time and nails them all to the wall.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Running Out The Clock On The Ticking Time Bomb

Scandal fatigue may have already set in. With Scooter Libby, David Safavian, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Larry Franklin, Michael Scanlan and Jack Abramoff all either on trial, heading to trial, or cutting deals in order to shorten their stay in the pokey, it’s hard to imagine that there is still corruption yet unearthed. Ongoing investigations by Congress, the FBI, CIA, Federal Prosecutors and the Justice Department are looking into Bill Frist, Karl Rove, Stephen Hadley, David Wurmser, Denny Hastert, Tom Noe, Bob Ney and the list seems endless. With so many sleazy players, it’s hard to know where to focus attention.

The lack of accountability in Washington DC is staggering, and Congress’s refusal to carry out, much less complete an investigation into the deceptions and crimes of the Bush administration may result in his term being up long before articles of impeachment are ever even considered. It seems that Congress is suffering from scandal fatigue as well, and they were already tired from all of the effort expended in covering their own butts. The disease-ridden leviathan that is the Bush administration may simply be too big a beast for 100 Senators and 435 Representatives to slay without running out of steam.

Cenk Uygur wrote Tuesday at The Huffington Post that there is “a ticking time bomb inside the White House” and the forced resignation of Douglas Feith in January may be the fuse. Feith resigned because “he wanted to spend more time with his family”, but he left his office just after it was revealed that the FBI was investigating his subordinate, Lawrence Franklin, for espionage. Feith had already been caught setting up meetings for Lawrence Franklin with Italian intelligence director Nicolo Pollari and Manucher Ghorbanifar (the upstanding global citizen who helped set up the arms for hostages deal that sparked the Iran-Contra scandal). Only the principals and the flies on the wall know what was cooked up during those meetings but the forged Niger documents suddenly solved all of the problems most likely discussed amongst this motley crew.

There seems to be a nexus between Special Council Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the CIA leak and Lawrence Franklin who is currently being prosecuted on an espionage charge, resulting from his passing of classified documents to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Franklin resigned from his post at the DOD a mere day before he was arrested in hopes of limiting the bad press for Bush and Company. Only in the bizzarro world in which we now live would this actually work, but there has been little attention paid to the Franklin case outside the lefty blogisphere.

These two investigations come together in Italy, with the emergence of the forged Niger documents. Patrick Fitzgerald has shown interest in the forged documents and how they relate to the retaliatory outing of covert operative Valerie Plame, and Franklin is known to have met with intelligence agents in Italy where the documents first surfaced. Curious indeed!

The other connection between the two investigations comes with the prosecutors themselves. Larry Franklin is being prosecuted by Paul McNulty, who was nominated by Bush mere weeks ago to serve as the number two man at the Justice Department. This is not only the carrot on the stick enticing McNulty to make a deal with Franklin, thereby limiting the damage of an espionage conviction of a Bush administration official, but it also has the added benefit of installing McNulty as Fitzgeralds’s boss. It’s amazing how this administration is able to land on its feet at every turn.

The clock is ticking and again the salvation of our democracy seems to rest on the shoulders of our superhero prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. If he can prove (as it is certain he has already figured out) the origins of the forged documents and can unravel the neo-con conspiracy that drove American forces into Iraq before Paul McNulty can be confirmed by the Senate and installed as his new boss, we may actually see the end of the Bush administration before the 2008 elections. Doug Feith is the fuse and with the help of the FBI, Fitzgerald may be able to strike the match and blow this whole criminal regime out of our White House.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Entertainment: Where The Real News Is

What is going on with the television? Turn on the news and there is no news there, but turn on everyone’s favorite television crime show, Law and Order, and they are playing out the dark side of the Patriot Act that allows for the federal government to effectively steal information from local police and cover up crimes if it serves their purposes. The pundits tell us that America is a Christian nation as if that alone explains why George W. Bush is sitting in the Oval Office, but then we see a clip from a reality television show, Trading Spouses, that exposes evangelicals as the crazies they are. What the hell is going on in this place?

If the culture wars are on, it’s clear which side is in the lead. Yes, there are many complaints in the music world about the lack of musical protest going on, but the liberal opinion seems to be everywhere else in entertainment right now. With George Clooney acting as a one man army bringing truth to the American people with his pet project “Good Night and Good Luck”, which highlights the fight of newsman Edward R. Murrow who dared to speak truth to power, quickly followed up by “Syriana” that tackles the very serious subject of peak oil, Hollywood does not seem to be content to take a backseat this time around.

Starting in the 1930’s Hollywood, fearing censorship from the federal government, decided to self regulate with the Production Code, which effectively put an end to social commentary in the film industry, except by the ingenious few who were able to disguise their meaning under layers of innuendo. This self-censorship paved the way for social steering films such as “More Dates For Kay” and “Are You Popular” that were fed to schoolchildren in the 1950’s. Entertainment was used to corral young people into the mold of what society wanted, boys do this and girls do that, and no one should partake of sex before marriage or drugs under any circumstance. It was important to the social and political order that young people fall in line rather than blaze their own trail. But the children of the 50’s gave way to teenagers of the 60’s so I guess the powers that be learned their lesson there. With the evening news showing body bags returning from Vietnam and war protestors wreaking havoc at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, those with their necks on the chopping block weren’t going to sit idly by, waiting for their ticket to Saigon.

Bush and his bagmen have taken it upon themselves to carry out the wishes of the neo-cons by muzzling news in this country and using the mainstream media for quick and efficient delivery of their propaganda. Fox News does their due diligence every day in packaging the undiluted White House talking points into easily digestible sound bites for the American people and CNN and MSNBC have unquestioningly followed their lead, but without thoroughly cleansing entertainment, Americans may still be getting the news that matters via their favorite prime time shows and weekend date movies. We may be in the midst of the information age, but Hollywood still rules.

There are few recession proof industries, but booze, cigarettes and entertainment are among them because the harder things get, the more people need their vices and diversions. Sure, booze and cigarettes are fine by this administration as they dull the senses and kill us off prematurely, but their biggest mistake may prove to be their laissez faire attitude toward our entertainment. We may be anesthetizing ourselves in front of our idiot boxes, but some of the messages will still seep through. By blurring the line between what is news and what is entertainment, this administration and their foot soldiers at Fox, CNN and MSNBC may have shot themselves in the foot. There is a lot more talk at the water cooler about the movie or television show that was on offer the night before than there is of the current legislation being passes in the Congress awaiting the signature of the President.

Infotainment may have seemed a good idea in theory, but tarting up the news has allowed for seepage of real information into our favorite TV shows and blockbuster flicks. Bush and company may rue the day that they didn’t follow the path laid out before them by Joe McCarthy and friends. The unintentional side effects of force-feeding us news about Lacy Peterson, Teri Schiavo, The Runaway Bride and a missing girl in Aruba, is that when we watch Law and Order, it looks a lot like news. This blurring of the lines may very well prove to be the downfall of this criminal enterprise perpetrated by half-witted zealots.