Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What’s Good For The Goose(steppers)

Democrats have lost the ability to speak to their base. Liberals and progressives have been left out of the process because the establishment mistakenly believes we have nowhere else to go. They think we are too practical to vote for a third party candidate if it threatens to put a Republican in office. But the frustration is growing, as is the number of Democratic voters willing to do just that. Congressional Democrats and Presidential hopefuls are courting voters they don’t understand and losing their base in the process. Why not activate the base and grow the ranks with our help? Pandering to the middle hasn’t been a very effective strategy. It’s time to try something new.

I received an email from RightMarch.com, a conservative activist organization, inviting me to attend a conference in Washington DC. They will train me to get the word out and give me the tools to further the cause and really make a difference. I’ll even get to rub elbows with the biggest names in religious extremism, fascist ideologies and corporate shilling.

“Attendees can look forward to an exciting line-up of speakers and panelists throughout the first day including: Representative Tom Tancredo (CO), Lt. Col. Oliver North, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, Senator George Allen (VA), Senator John Cornyn (TX), Senator Rick Santorum (PA), Representative Sam Johnson (TX), and many more! That's just the first day! Thursday's excitement will be followed by two more days of events, panel discussions, and appearances by conservative leaders and grassroots activists from across the nation, including Sen. Sam Brownback (KS), Ann Coulter, Ken Mehlman, Gov. Haley Barbour (MS), Ambassador John Bolton, Robert Novak, Rep. Mike Pence, Steve Forbes, Pastor John Hagee, Sen. Jim DeMint (SC), Grover Norquist, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (KS), Jim Gilmore (VA), Rep. Trent Franks (AZ), Judge Charles Pickering, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (AZ), Newt Gingrich -- and many, many more, including your humble servant, Dr. William Greene (that's me)!”

And the conference only costs $125 to attend, $25 if you're a student. Too bad I’m not a conservative, which got me thinking. Why the hell aren’t we offering this type of conference to our liberal activists? And more importantly, why aren’t we capitalizing on the opportunity to take people who make one small move in our direction and turn them into full-blown activists? I hear people all of the time say, “I’m ready, just tell me what to do!” The problem is, for whatever reason, our leadership isn’t asking for help. I hate to point out the obvious but, isn’t it the job of “leaders” to lead? Yet no one at the top is pointing the way.

All I did was sign up with this organization, at the behest of Sam Seder at the Majority Report who encouraged his listeners to change their email form to call for a filibuster of Alito, and they sent me this invitation. They are working to make activists out of ordinary people who agree with their point of view and turning couch potatoes into warriors for the cause. Not a bad idea, and the thing is, they’ve been doing it for 30 years! There’s no doubt it has paid off for them, and even with control of Congress, The White House and now thanks to the confirmation of Sam Alito, The Supreme Court, they’re not done. They are still pounding the pavement to make more waves and attempt to wash away any last refuge for the secularists and populists among us.

We don’t have to stoop to their level in order to win elections and Karl Rove is not someone we should emulate. Calling war heroes traitors and cowards might be okay for them, but we are better than that. Still, there is no denying that the right is having success at pushing their agenda due to some positive means as well, they have taken our grassroots style of activism and turned it against us. In fact they have improved greatly on the model we built while we are still stuck using outdated methods. We would be stupid not to at least take a serious look at what has worked for them, and take a few notes.

The right loves to brand Democrats as “liberal elites”, and although this is not an accurate description of most of us, perhaps the “elite” part is right on the money when it comes to the Democratic establishment. It seems pretty clear that our Senators, Congressmen, Mayors and Governors are not particularly interested in hearing our point of view. They are unwilling to rub elbows with us, the unwashed masses, and instead are content to go it alone as we sit back watching them take one misstep after another. The Democratic leadership needs our help in order to mold them into a more viable alternative for Americans who are unhappy with Republican rule. They just don’t want to acknowledge it, which is pure hubris on their part. The Democrats' tin ear is contributing to their losing again and again because they have no real ideas and no comprehension of what is necessary to turn the tide. It’s time for them to consider that maybe we do.

Wouldn’t it be great to get an email from say, Progressives United for a Better America? Where’s our invitation to attend the premier liberal conference with appearances by Al Frankin, Nancy Pelosi, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Ron Reagan, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Russ Feingold, George Soros, Al Gore and Janeane Garofalo. Where is our chance to be inspired, to help formulate the message and learn how to stick to it? Why not give training seminars on how to organize our communities and learn how to effectively sell our message to a public that is eager for a change and push a progressive agenda that average Americans can get behind? Why are they so unwilling to take our pulse or ask for our help in crafting the message? Left to their own devices they have left us behind and lost one election after another. Clearly they have no idea what plays with the average voter, why not ask us, the ones who live out here in the real world that they haven’t been a part of for a long time, if ever?

And enough with the whining that they can’t get their message out when they are effectively blacklisted from mainstream media outlets. Get creative! If they would commit to a progressive agenda, we would be more than happy to tune in to a webcast and listen intently to new ideas, a cohesive agenda and an effective strategy for getting it done. Even liberals watched “Justice Sunday”, we’d certainly tune if for “the Saturday Progressive Project”. Advertising certainly wouldn’t be a problem since there are plenty of liberal blogs to make sure there’s an audience. All they have to do is show up with the goods and we’d be on our way.

It is true that grassroots organizing doesn't require top down leadership or a big personality to lead it, but it certainly couldn't hurt to have some big name support and an opportunity to converse with those who hold the power. At the very least, politicians on our side of the aisle should be willing to listen, and if they were smart, they would harness the energy found at the bottom and channel it in a positive direction. We're doing our part down here in the trenches, but we're tired of propping up the big names at the top, especially when they refuse to do our bidding. If they think that their interests have diverged from ours, perhaps we should believe them and cut ourselves loose from the apron strings that are only holding us back. It would be interesting to see how they'd fare without their base. They would likely find that they are the anchor around the neck of the party and we are the buoy that's been holding them up.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cantwell Moves To The Top Of My Shit List

If I had any doubts about whether or not my decision to support Mark Wilson in the Senate Democratic Primary here in Washington State was the right one, they have all been firmly put to rest. When I watched Senator Maria Cantwell cast her vote for CAFTA live on CSPAN, I thought I couldn’t be more disgusted with her lack of concern for the average working stiff, but I was wrong. Watching her cower from a fight for women’s privacy rights in breaking with her party and refusing to filibuster Alito made me sick. Since her election, she has been a disgrace to the Democratic Party (quite a feat considering all of the competition) and today she has proved a disgrace to women all across this country.

On Sunday, AmericaBlog put up a post explaining why a filibuster was a bad idea. Some of the points were valid, such as support for a filibuster should have been sowed up much earlier and a more coordinated effort to educate the public as to why it was so important should have been launched by the Senators, their staff and the many organizations that opposed the nomination. While I agree with that sentiment, once the decision was made, Senate Democrats should have fallen in line and supported the filibuster of a radical ideologue who will roll back hard fought gains for women’s rights, civil rights and the right of us little people to have access to the courts when abused by corporations or by our own government.

Should the filibuster have been handled more effectively? Absolutely. But the filibuster failed because Democrats caved, not because the numbers weren’t there and I for one, intend to do everything I can to make sure that my Senator pays a price for abandoning those of us who sent her to Washington DC in the first place. If that puts another Republican in the Senate, so be it. Cantwell has been as reliable a vote for the Bush agenda as Chuck Hagel, so really, what difference would it make? If she can’t show up for her party when they need her the most, she’s useless anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Circular Logic Is Making Me Dizzy

I’m conflicted about whether or not to support Democrats seeking re-election in 2006. My gut tells me to support any challenge to their middle of the road stance on just about every issue, but some compelling arguments have been made that if they had more support in Congress, they would be more willing to move to the left. Compelling but not convincing.

I simply cannot justify supporting incumbent Democrats who refuse to acknowledge the vast and credible evidence that our election systems have been hijacked by corporations that blindly support the Republican and neo-con agenda of perpetual war and corporate domination. Beyond being short sighted, by ignoring the elephant in the rotunda, Democrats are complicit in shooting themselves in the foot and engaging in faith based democracy by not addressing the issue of voter fraud head on. Any primary challenger who makes voting reform a cornerstone of their agenda should be supported over the incumbents who continue to stick their heads in the sand.

All of the arguments for supporting Democrats who have the best shot at winning in order to grow their numbers, while logical, are based on the fallacy that there is integrity to the voting process in this country. When the Democrats are slaughtered at the polls in November yet again, will Democratic voters finally be ready and willing to accept the reality of where we are? For people who profess to be part of the “reality based community”, we seem to be equally adept at ignoring facts as the “faith based community” we so abhor. It defies logic that in order to eradicate election fraud, we must get the right people elected using voting machines running on proprietary software and where in many states, it is against the law to even review the results.

I hope that the Democrats are able to make sweeping gains in the mid-term elections, I just wish that somebody could explain to me how that is a reasonable thing to expect. There is an expectation that if we can pull off convincing wins, it will be impossible for the Republican machines to steal it away. Let’s ask our fellow Democrats in Ohio how well that worked out for them this past November when polling varied by upwards of 30% from official tallies.

Unless and until we can accept the ugly truth of how far down the road toward a dictatorship we already are, we will never be able to slow the cart down, let alone turn it around and head back towards the democracy we are so close to losing.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Filibuster Picks Up Support

One last plea to call your Senators and demand that they filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito! You can go to www.senate.gov and pull up your Senators’ phone numbers or you can call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121, (888) 355-3588 or 888-818-6641. This is too important to ignore and even if the numbers aren't on our side (yet), the momentum is.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Will His Luck Ever Run Out?

George Bush is the luckiest son of a bitch that ever walked the earth. He and his cronies have been able to capitalize on every disaster that has befallen our country since they took power. 9/11 gave them the “new Pearl Harbor” that they had been so hoping for (pg 65 of their own manifesto), an event so devastating to the country that the fear and distraction of the people would provide them with the cover they needed to pursue an aggressive agenda of domination in the Middle East.

Then we have the upset elections in 2002 that defied all logic and polling, yet miraculously shifted the balance of power in Congress paving the way for a rubber stamp for the Bush/Cheney policy push. That was followed up by an even more unbelievable election in 2004, where polls indicated a win for Kerry, but thousands of anomalies in voter tabulations across the country that defied statistical logic all went in Bush’s favor and swung the election his way at the last minute. In a word, amazing! I expect both Jenna and Barbara to win the Mega Millions Lottery jackpot any day now. Not any less statistically plausible than daddies re-election.

Bush’s most recent stroke of luck was the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina that has purged New Orleans of black folks who no doubt helped elect a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Senator and a Democratic Mayor. But sadly, most of the people displaced by Katrina will not be able to return to their homes and instead will remain scattered across the country, separated from friends, loved ones and the community they had built in the Big Easy. The winds of Katrina destroyed an entire region and at the same time proved to be a windfall for Bush and the Republican Party. Mary Landrieu may as well start packing up her desk now because come November, she will likely be replaced by yet another ubiquitous white Republican man. Talk about actively taking advantage of the misery of others. Landrieu might as well join her fellow Democrats in a filibuster of Alito, at least that way she can go down fighting instead of having one of her last acts as a Senator being the installation of yet another right-wing whack-a-doodle on the Supreme Court.

What has been a string of lucky breaks for the Bush administration have been devastating blows to the American people. With Bush’s agenda in jeopardy due to the Abramoff scandal, the NSA domestic spying inquiry and the bleak outlook in Iraq, it’s hard not be afraid of what might happen next. It defies logic that the Republicans will be able to hold on to their majority in Congress given the Abramoff related indictments on the way, Tom DeLay’s money laundering trial, the ballooning deficit, the lack of oversight on the President and the general stench coming off of them, but a shift in power on Capitol Hill will certainly end with Impeachment, and they simply cannot let that happen. So if recent history can shed any light on the future, we should expect that something bad is heading our way, bad for the American people, but a Godsend to Republicans that will somehow ensure their stranglehold on power. Bush is one lucky guy! Or maybe Dick Cheney helps him make his own luck. Nah, that couldn’t be it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Toxic Discourse

The political landscape has become so toxic that even when we try to engage in conversations with like-minded people, rage can enter the dialogue and shut out any hope of consensus, cooperation or growth. Have we become so polarized in our thinking that we have lost the ability to recognize truth? Is self-examination no longer necessary? How about challenging our own beliefs and the effectiveness of our efforts to change the world for the better, or are these topics now off limits?

I am often amazed by how my words can be so wildly misinterpreted. I’m not offended by it, I put my ideas out there and I expect to get a wide range of responses including those who disagree wholeheartedly with what I have to say. That’s just the way it is and I stand by my what I write, good or bad. But I find it disconcerting that the filter through which we view the world is making it increasingly difficult for us to come together in any real or meaningful way, and our filters are becoming fixed and impenetrable.

A reader sent me a link to an interesting study that reveals both Democrats and Republicans are equally proficient in ignoring facts that don’t jive with their political views (I’m not vouching for the veracity of the study, in fact I would posit that liberals would fare better than middle of the road Democrats on this one, but maybe that just proves the point). The researchers used brain scans to track what part of the brain was activated when presented with partisan talking points, and apparently reason never entered into the equation. This doesn’t really surprise me but it does concern me greatly. I like to think that I am able to reasonably assess information that is presented to me, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I know that each time I hear words coming out of George Bush’s mouth, my bullshit meter runs off the charts red. I can tell Bush is lying because his lips are moving, but does that mean I am resistant to information that may be reasonable simply because it comes from him? I certainly hope not, but that would have to actually happen before I could test the theory.

Wednesday I got a dose of what it feels like to have your words viewed through an impenetrable filter. The Smirking Chimp picked up my post about why my generation is having such a hard time coming up with an effective way to fix what we see is wrong in this country. It was meant to be a light piece about how we were raised by a generation that believed the world could be changed and used protest as an effective means to do it, yet we haven’t been able to take their example and run with it. Instead we find ourselves disgusted with a war of choice, appalled by our eroding freedoms and wanting so desperately for things to be different but somehow feeling bewildered as to how we should go about it. Somehow my intent got lost in translation. What was meant to be a tribute to what the young people of the 60s accomplished and a plea for their help in giving us, their offspring, some guidance, was received as an attack and was responded to as such. I was even accused by one reader of being a shill for Karl Rove! Go figure.

Perhaps our polarization is merely a function of being bombarded with so much information, most of it useless. We are marketed to by corporations, pandered to by politicians, appealed to by causes and lied to by news media. We must have a filter just to make it through the day. But we should still be willing to open up to new ideas and be able to give weight and attention to issues that are important to us. And we should be able to look at those issues from many sides, not just the one that mirrors our already firmly entrenched views. Challenging each other as well as ourselves will make us more effective in combating the injustices we see all around us. But challenging is not attacking, as one is intended to widen the debate and hone the idea, the other to shut down debate and kill the idea. The former should be used amongst ourselves and the latter reserved for the true enemy, the neo-conservative, religiously fanatical, corporatist elite who are screwing us blind and running our country into the ground.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Call Your Senators!

Thank you loyal reader Jonathan for your comments to my last post. I thought your plea that we all do what we can to stop Alito from becoming the pivotal swing vote on our Supreme Court deserved better placement, so I’m joining you in the effort.

If you haven’t done so already, give your Senators a call and tell them to reject the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. If you have a Democratic Senator (or two) tell them to filibuster the nomination. You can go to www.senate.gov and pull up your Senators’ phone numbers or you can call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Also consider giving the Democrats who are most likely to filibuster a call even if you live in another state, like Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553, Dick Durbin (202) 224-2152, Ted Kennedy (202) 224-4543 and Chuck Schumer (202) 224-6542.

Alito on the Supreme Court would be a disaster for the country. His support of the theory of the “unitary executive” would give President Bush a free pass for any illegal activity he could ever hope to engage in, and I say President Bush and not the generic President because if this all encompassing power is affirmed by the Supreme Court, we may never have another election again, ever. Under this doctrine, it would be under Bush’s scope of authority to suspend elections “for the good of the country”. Nice huh?

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Alito will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. The right wing fundies have no doubt, that’s why they are dancing in the streets in support of his confirmation. Bush made good on his promise to the “pro-life” wingnuts and even gave a pep rally for them on Monday where he said to a roaring crowd, "This is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America's deepest principle. And history tells us that with such a cause we will prevail." No ambiguity there. That’s why this nomination is so deadly serious.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hey Teacher, Don’t Leave Us Kids Alone

Why the hell is my generation so apathetic to our current political predicament? Or if it’s not apathy, it certainly is a sense of bewilderment as to what to do about it. We may not be living up to our slacker image in the realm of business, but we well deserve the title when it comes to political activism. Is this a result of the way we were raised?

Children of the 50s grew up within a culture where hard work was not only valued, but also rewarded. One wage earner households were the norm, which meant that if you worked hard, you could support yourself and a family and live mostly above the poverty line. And what did these hard-working, good old fashion American parents produce but children who saw a war that was unjustifiable and a system of segregation that should no longer be tolerated, so they got together, raised hell and demanded a fix. Things are much worse now than they were in the 60s, so where’s the outrage and more importantly, where’s the action?

The rabble-rousers of the 60s spawned the children of the 80s. These ex-hippies taught us that we were “free to be you and me” and that we were entitled to dignity simply because we were. It’s a great concept, but where’s the work ethic? If we are, by nature of being born, good and decent, shouldn’t we be handed everything we want? Why work for it when we can put it on plastic? This is the legacy of the 60s. You’ve raised a bunch of lazy ass kids who are content to skate by on the advances you made. Some of us are willing to fight in order to not lose ground, but advancing the movement, making great strides forward in the fight toward equality and economic justice is simply more than we’re willing to take on. The world should be good because we want it to be. We don’t know what to do when the reality doesn’t fit with our desire and it seems that wishing it into existence is all we’ve got to offer. Sorry to disappoint you, but our failure is your failure too.

So the question becomes, what do we do about it now? Clearly you hippies didn’t demand enough of us when we were young. You did a great job of instilling in us a sense of self-confidence (perhaps too good, we’re kind of an egotistical bunch), but you forgot to give us the tools we would need to carry on with the fight. It’s almost as if we were raised inside the bubble of your hopes and dreams. You brought us up as if the world was already the way you wanted it to be with the hope that we would be more tolerant and accepting than the generations before us, and for the most part we are. But we believed in the illusion to the point that we have become a little Pollyannaish in our outlook. The future through our rose-colored glasses still looks okay, making us a bit blind to the horrific reality in front of us. You can help us now by confiscating our glasses and demanding more from us. Challenge our complacency and force us to justify our inability to take action when it’s so clear that action is necessary.

We see you at the war protests, demonstrations and candle light vigils for peace. You’re still doing your part, but as long as you’re willing to bear the burden, we’re happy to let you. Instead of smiling at us, like you’re happy we showed up at all, why not demand to know what else we’re doing? Ask us the tough questions like, “Besides this, what else are you doing to further the cause?” and “Where are all of your friends?” or better yet “When are you going to get off your ass and run with the baton we have passed to you?” Most likely we won’t have an answer, but ask us again and we might feel compelled to have one ready in case we meet again.

Tell us you’re tired and could use a little help, we do care about our fellow man, that’s your legacy too, we just have to be spurred to action. And don’t be afraid to get a little rough, call us armchair liberals and point out that when we socialize with one another we must stop talking about our mortgages and investments and start discussing the issues of the day if we ever hope to reach the goal of a better America. Our hearts are in the right place and we believe in the world you started to create. We want the end result, a level playing field and social justice for all, we just didn’t know we were going to have to work to make it happen, we thought it was a done deal. Our bad.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Look Mom, I’m On TV

So, against my better judgment, I’m going to appear on Moral Politics, a SCAN-TV production that airs on channel 77 here in the Seattle area and streams live on the web (click on Live TV feed). Host Bill Alford will moderate a discussion on religion in politics this Thursday night at 6:00pm. Every fiber of being told me to say no when I was asked to participate, but I said yes anyway. I have no problem with the topic, the show, the format or the other guest. My problem is that I am TERRIFIED of appearing on television.

I really had no choice once my nine-year-old daughter told me, “It’s important to face your fears head-on mom.” I really should learn to keep my mouth shut around that girl, how dare she throw my own advice back in my face. I am much more comfortable being the girl in the background, typing away on my laptop but my daughter is right, life is best lived when you challenge yourself and push the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with. My biggest fear is that I will literally pass out on air. The upside is, if the worst does happen, I won’t have to worry about them asking me back. See how my glass is always half full?

So if you're bored and looking for something to do at 6pm Thursday evening, check out Moral Politics. Feel free to start a betting pool on whether or not I’ll make it through. My advice is to tune in early because if I do faint, it will most likely happen within the first five minutes.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Much Needed Distraction

I won’t be blogging today, but instead will join the rest of the inhabitants of this fine city in watching our Seahawks trounce the Carolina Panthers.  I did want to direct you to Wampum though, as they have their list of best new blogs that are up for a Kaufax Award.  They have not opened up the voting yet, but they are giving everyone a chance to check out the many great new blogs that have popped up this year.  Go right now and check them out, there are a lot of great people doing a lot of great work.  Enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Politics And Porn

When I chose the name for my blog, I didn’t really consider anything other than the fact that it accurately described who I am. I’m just a regular American gal, a stay at home mom and a writer with a lot on my mind. If I had Googled the name first, I would have noticed that when you search for Liberal Girl Next Door, you get me and pages and pages of porn sites. Oops.

Silly me, I had forgotten that “the girl next door” is an archetype that carries with it a sexual component. All young boys had a neighbor they wanted to bag and when those boys grow up, they go to the search engines trying to pull up pictures that will conjure up those feelings of titillation they remember having as boys. What a disappointment when they click on “liberalgirlnextdoor” and get political ranting instead of girly pics. But the interesting thing is, quite a few of them poke around and read what I have to say anyway. My accidental audience is horny men with an interest in politics! Works for me. I can get your blood flowing as well, just in a different direction.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Primary Colors: Why Not Black And Blue?

I had a bit of my optimism restored Thursday night, and I may actually have renewed faith that the Democratic Party can be reformed. I met Mark Wilson who is running for a U.S. Senate seat here in Washington State, challenging the seat currently held by Maria Cantwell. Wilson is a true progressive with an agenda that speaks to my best hopes for the future of our country, something Ms. Cantwell wouldn’t recognize if it bought her dinner and took her dancing. I was invited to sit in-studio for Thursday's live broadcast of Moral Politics and Mr. Wilson was the featured guest. I was impressed not only by his position on the issues, out of Iraq now, end the war on drugs, repeal the Patriot Act, end corporate welfare, but I was most struck by his candid nature and ability to speak so easily to the issues I believe the American people, red or blue, care most about. There is nothing timid about Mark Wilson, and he is exactly what this state and this country needs. The bonus is, he already looks like a Senator! Not in that cheesy Linsey Graham, Bob Ney, preacher hair way, but dapper like Russ Feingold and Barack Obama.

Three weeks ago I went in search of any information I could find on a possible challenge to Cantwell’s disappointing leadership, but I came up empty handed. Perhaps this is a sign that my research skills are slipping, but I think it illustrates just how difficult it is to break past the Democratic Party machinery and change it from the inside. Why shouldn’t all challengers have equal footing within the state party apparatus? Why not list our choices on the state party website like a menu of options? When the primaries are reduced to automatic support for the most “electable” candidate before an effective challenge can even be mounted, we are left with compromised candidates that stake out the middle ground with a vengeance to the detriment of the party and the country. We as voters must be willing to throw caution to the wind and cast a vote for what we want rather than accepting what is consistently the lesser of two evils. As the Democrats keep saying, “We deserve better.”

Who cares if a contentious primary leaves the winner a little bloodied? If they can’t win the practice match, they’re not ready for the game. If there is any hope of saving the Democratic Party (a possibility I only marginally entertain, but want deperately to believe in) it must be tackled in the primaries. Terry McAuliffe rammed John Kerry down our throats because he sold the party on the idea that “electability” took precedence over everything else. How did that work out for us? In retrospect, progressives and liberals realize that sticking to our guns and voting for Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean would have been the better choice. Perhaps we would have lost anyway, but we would have lost with our integrity in tact and with a message and a candidate we could have been proud of.

Casting a vote for the “good of the party” is an idea that has firmly taken hold, but voting for the frontrunner, the “electable” candidate, the best shot at victory has led us to this point, in the minority and saddled with leaders that lack progressive ideals, let alone a core set of principles worth fighting for. Kerry folded when he should have raised the stakes. There were too many questions and literally unbelievable vote tallies in Ohio and Florida, yet despite his vow to fight it to the bitter end, he caved and left the Greens and the Libertarians to do the heavy lifting of challenging fraudulent election results. We chose Kerry because we were told he could win, but until our elections are made fair and open, the greater consideration is who has the backbone to stand up and scream, “FOUL!” I am happy to report that Mr. Wilson also spoke directly to this issue, calling Maria Cantwell’s failure to join the Congressional Black Caucus in challenging the electoral votes from Ohio, a squandered opportunity to lead. He’s very diplomatic.

In 1996, I was working for a progressive non-profit and Adam Smith was running for a Congressional seat here in Washington State. He came to plead his case in order to gain our help and support and I kid you not, he stood up and sold himself as “acceptable”. If I remember correctly, he joked that his slogan should be “Adam Smith, he’s alright”. The sad part was, we backed him, and that was when we had a Democrat in the White House and control of Congress. Adam won his seat and the Democrats learned that being okay was good enough to win. Ten years down the line we have lost the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It’s hard not to think that our low standards played a significant role in our fall from grace. Okay won’t cut it anymore.

If the choice is between losing by 48% to 52% (get used to those numbers because the electronic voting machines and vote counters love to spit them out) with an acceptable candidate or losing 40% to 60% with a principled, progressive candidate I can be proud of, I know which choice I’ll make. Continuing to lower our expectations will only lead us further down the road to obscurity. Democrats are marginalized now, but just wait, if we continue on dropping our ideals along the side of the road, we’ll be obsolete in no time. That is unless we take a stand in the primaries and vote our best hopes rather than our worst fears. I know that’s what I’ll be doing come primary season when I happily mark my ballot for Mark Wilson, the next U.S. Senator from the great state of Washington. If your research skills are better than mine, you may be able to find a Mark Wilson in your state too. Go ahead, give it a shot.

Heroes And Villains

Osama Bin Laden is a madman. This is the picture that has been painted for us by the Bush administration and perpetuated by the MSM. It makes it easier to sell the “war on terror” if our government can create a Lex Luther type villain that we can all agree must be taken down in order to save Metropolis. The interesting thing is that throughout the Muslim world, Osama is a folk hero, the Batman to our Joker.

Bin Laden has released a new audio tape warning the U.S. of another attack and offering an olive branch to the majority in the country who no longer support the war in Iraq. Should we negotiate with terrorist? No. But writing Bin Laden off as a madman does a great disservice to the country as it keeps us ignorant of the implications of our foreign policy and the affect Bush’s presidency is having on our relationships around the world.

The last time we heard from Bin Laden directly was before the 2004 election. If you have not read the full transcript of that tape, I highly recommend you do so now. He is better versed in American politics than most Americans and whether you agree with his assertions or not, he is not a madman to the people he represents, but rather a charismatic leader fighting on their behalf against U.S. imperialism. We don’t have to agree, but we must understand.

We should not fear Bin Laden, as the damage he can do is limited, but we should most certainly fear an administration that refused to conduct its business out in the open where we can know enough to understand the implications of our actions around the world. We should question why it is necessary for us to be kept in the dark, for the “enemy’s” words to be kept from us or distorted in media reports. Knowledge is power, and Bin Laden has infinitely more knowledge of our foreign policy exploits and the resulting anger of “his" people than the majority of Americans. That fact alone makes us, the people, vulnerable. Vulnerable to surprise attacks on our homeland, attacks on our liberties and the loss of freedoms at the hands of a President that purports to be exporting that freedom to the Middle East.

Is Bin Laden a hero? No, but neither is Bush. When innocent people are killed, whether in the name of God or Allah, there are no heroes, only victims laid waste in a Holy War fought between villains that are but two sides of the same coin. As long as one side is weighted to the detriment of the other, the fighting will continue. Injustice is a strong motivator and if we continue to turn a blind eye to what we are really exporting to the Middle East, we will be the ultimate victims of the warped vision we have allowed to take root within our own government. Therein lies the real danger to America that Bin Laden could only dream to pose. Listening to Osama Bin Laden and attempting to understand why he appeals to so many Muslims will allow us to better determine who the real enemy is. Then, and only then, will we be able to do anything meaningful about it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Burn Down Both Houses And Rebuild From The Rubble

I’m definitely warming to the idea that the Democratic Party as we know it is dead. We have cycled through enough elections voting for the lesser of two evils to finally start considering other options. I know I’m tired of holding my nose as I vote for Democrats that get their money from the same sources Republicans do and who pledge their allegiance to the same corporate interests. The Democrats don’t even bother to placate us with populist language anymore, they have simply turned their back on us and it’s time we do the same.

What would happen if an Independent candidate stood up and refused to take a position on gay marriage, abortion, gun control and the whole lot of wedge issues and instead spoke directly to the American people’s biggest concerns? The deficit, our looming energy crisis, poverty, education, healthcare, jobs and stagnant wages are the issues we care about. By exclusively focusing of what really matters, an Independent candidate could appeal to Americans, both “red” and “blue” without relying on the shortcut to support that wedge issues provide.

Believe me, I know that a woman’s right to choose is of fundamental importance and I firmly believe that all government sanctioned institutions must be universally accessible, but why not tackle the underlying problems that the wedge issues distract us from? There is value in that too. If there was universal healthcare, a birth to college educational system, equal protection under the law and if alleviating poverty was given top billing, then abortion rights, gay marriage and gun control become much less critical issues. Without fearing for our very survival, we are much less likely to hurt, steal or be driven to desperate measures much less concern ourselves with what other people are doing in their private lives. It is the fear of extinction that leads to persecution of others and religion becomes less of a lifeline to cling to when prosperity abounds.

Just as Christian conservatives hold too tightly to their side of the wedge issues, so too do we, and so far it hasn’t done a damn bit of good for the country. By falling victim to the game of “look at the shiny object so as not to see we are ripping you off”, we have allowed for the dumbing down of politics that liberals so despise. So let’s stop engaging in the game, take our bat and ball and move onto a newer and greener field. I don’t know if a third party is the answer, but I do know that the Democratic Party is not. I have always thought that upon leaving the Democrats I would move to a party further to the left, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps we must be willing to negotiate a common position, or to at least be willing to leave our most contentious ideas at the door before we can walk into a better America. I’m not talking about the kind of compromise that makes the DLC so dangerous, moving us further to the right, but compromise within a framework that gives us a choice between good and great, not bad and worse.

We are going to see a lot of jockeying for position over the next several months by politicians trying to distance themselves from their corrupt colleagues. The rush is on to be the first to institute new rules for dealing with lobbyists and to offer up legislation that will reign in the pay to play system that they all partake in. I say, let’s not let them get away with it. We shouldn’t trust a blue fox any more than we would a red fox to guard our henhouse. They are all serving the same master and we ain’t it. They have shit where we live this time, so let’s rub their noses in it and send them on home. Thanks for playing. Next.

Monday, January 16, 2006

“Us” And “Them”

Contemplate the political situation in this country long enough and it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that our problems are social rather than political. Regardless of whether one believes that the 2004 election was “free and fair”, there is no denying that millions of people that had no business at all voting for Bush, went into the booth and intentionally cast a ballot for this wealthy, elitist ass anyway. That is not a political problem, that kind of irrational behavior has roots that are deeper than slogans, platforms and candidates.

There is no earthly reason for a poor person to vote for a Republican. The fact that so many do, particularly those living in rural areas, speaks volumes about the sorry state of the Democratic Party. I’m not sure if the Democrats’ inability to cash in on Republican missteps is a function of their unwillingness to use language in order to manipulate the masses or rather a deep lack of understanding of the people they should be courting. High-mindedness is fine, but lacking the ability to speak to the issues that matter most to the average American is unforgivable. The Democrats talk a lot, but they don’t ever seem to listen.

We, the people, have become nothing more than targets for marketing, by ad agencies, corporations and political parties. Language is manipulated to evoke emotions that make us feel good about what is being put in front of us, and more and more, we are being marketed to on an individual rather than collective basis. This fosters the idea that what we want trumps what is good for society as a whole, the fact that politicians are now figuring out ways to further exploit this idea will only make things much worse.

When politicians can tailor their message to small groups of people, by means of narrowcasting as opposed to broadcasting, they can gain support from very different segments of society without connecting one to the other. If a candidate can say to the white, male, truck-driving crowd that he/she supports gun ownership, is deeply religious and wants to protect the sanctity of marriage and at the same time send the message to urban liberals that supporting civil rights, gay rights, gun control and separation of church and state are his/her main concerns, what kind of society does that build? It allows politicians to gain broad based support without having a broad based agenda. The fact that we prefer our individual desires to be appealed to without ever attempting to reach a consensus, is a social problem that is well on its way to driving us further and further from one another while alienating us from our government.

Our problem is social in that we shun community and refuse to make concessions for the collective good. Hell, we even refuse to engage in the conversation. We let politicians and the media drive wedges between us that only serve to foster animosity between rural and urban, white and black, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, and these divisions are reinforced by a marketing strategy employed by those who want our money and our votes. This marketing of products and ideas only validates our selfishness and destroys any chance for a country made whole.

We are becoming more and more entrenched in partisan politics because we have fallen victim to the predators that think by building us up, they can bilk us out of our meager holdings. By believing the hype and not questioning our emotional responses to the hallow words they shower upon us, we have allowed for language to be stripped of meaning. There are no longer agreed upon definitions of words and facts have become subjective. A perfect example is the so-called “death tax”. There is no such thing as a “death tax” because not everyone who dies is subject to it, only those with an “estate” worth more than $1,000,000 are required to pay it, making “estate tax” the proper description. When we let these distortions of language slip by, we erode the value of public discourse and strip words of their meaning.

An educated public makes for a better society. The more we know, the better able we are to make good decisions. We all understand this, but where do these truths leave us? Our educational system is in shambles, we don’t understand our own language and we are grouping off into likeminded enclaves that only reinforce our worldview and make consensus all but impossible. We liberals tend to think that the rural “under-educated” “red-state” voters are the only ones who have much to learn and if we can just educate them, they will automatically be moved to join our side. But what about what they have to teach us?

Just as Democratic leaders should spend more time listening to their base, perhaps we too would be better served if we listened to those we want to help and bring into the fold, rather than allowing our preconceived notions about them to cloud our judgment. It is far more likely that rural folks have a better idea about how to fix the problems they face that are unique to their situation than we do. A conversation is speaking and hearing. Without the listening component, it’s just a speech, sermon or worse, a tirade. Conversation will yield ideas, where speeches will only further divide us. What if we aimed our tirades at the politicians and worked to foster true communication amongst ourselves and turn the “us” blue state liberals and “them” red state conservatives into “us” the people and “them” the politicians? Doing so would be good for us and bad for them, reason enough to give it a shot.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What A World, What A World!

What is a country to do when the people want to impeach their president, but the media thinks it’s a bad idea and representatives in government don’t give a damn? This is the position we find ourselves in, but what in the hell are we supposed to do about it exactly?

AfterDowningStreet.org commissioned Zogby to ask the question, yet again, but this time in relation to the illegal wiretapping of American citizens our president has been bragging about. So now we have two popular reasons to impeach Bush, he lied to Congress and the American people about why we went to war in Iraq and as if that wasn’t enough, he has authorized secret domestic spying by the NSA. I hate to keep bringing up the constitution, I know it’s only a piece of paper, but there is a remedy for our current situation provided within it and it is our duty as citizens to make use of it. Bush may think its only use is to wipe his spoiled ass, but unless we agree with him, it’s time to demand more.

I rattle this dilemma around and around in my mind on a daily basis, yet I never seem to get any closer to a solution. I say that we must demand more, but who are we supposed to demand more of, our Senators and Representatives? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of screaming into those deaf ears. President Clinton was impeached with an approval rating around 70%. Idiot boy has been hovering below 40% for over a year and currently 52% of the population supports impeachment “if he authorized illegal wiretapping” and he’s already told us he has. So, what’s the hold up? How many more signs do we need that the will of the people doesn’t mean a damn thing?

Here’s the skinny as I see it. We have a power crazed Republican President who views our constitutional rights as nothing more than hurdles to jump over (and knock down in the process), a Republican controlled Congress that is so corrupt I can smell the stench all the way in Seattle, a Supreme Court that has been hand picked by the same right wing nutjobs that run the rest of the government and a privatized voting system that doesn’t require our participation in order to achieve the desired result. Oh yeah, and entertainment packaged as news by corporate cronies of the Bush administration that get more bang for their buck by paying to play than they do from our viewer-ship, a fact that only encourages regurgitation of Republican talking points as a substitute for actual reporting. Not a pretty picture, but there it hangs in front of our eyes, the dogs playing poker on black velvet that none of us can escape.

Make a ruckus, that’s my only advise. Wear subversive t-shirts, slap Impeach Bush bumper stickers on your car, replace those sunflowers in the front yard with signs of protest and run for congress in your Republican dominated district. Write Op-Ed pieces and Letters To The Editor, show your town or city that there is a better way. Talk to your neighbors and spread the word, direct all who will listen to reliable sources of information and call your local television station to express your displeasure with what they chose to cover and what they chose to ignore. It seems that we have nothing left but our voices and the only people we can demand more of are each other, and ourselves. The country is going to shit, there’s little doubt about that, but we don’t have to sit idly by while it does. If we’re going to ruin, we might as well go down screaming. That’s my plan anyway.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Who Will Save Us From Ourselves?

Imagine a presidential candidate comes along and gives it to us straight. “Look, Peak Oil is here and we have two options. We can continue on with the geo-political chess game being played under the guise of the “war on terror” and continue to take over oil rich countries, or we can withdraw from imperial exploits and use science to think our way out of this crisis.” What a breath of fresh air, and just imagine the debate such a statement would spark. The problem is that our leaders think we are too stupid to understand the implications of our current situation and they think we will panic and create chaos in the country. It’s insulting that not a single potential leader thinks highly enough of us to tell us the truth, and offensive that they believe us to be unnecessary in finding a solution.

The securing of a reliable and affordable stream of energy is a high stakes game and the countries around the world are choosing sides. It is increasingly becoming a game of the U.S. against the world and it’s hard to see how we ultimately come out on top with our dwindling financial resources, dependent as we are on the wealth of Asia and Saudi Arabia to keep our economy afloat. The only real assets we have are our stockpile of nuclear weapons and the ever-increasing supply of poor cannon fodder being pumped out of our broken educational system. Next we tackle Iran, a much bigger beast than Iraq, how many of our children will be drafted into securing that boon for the oil industry? And it’s certain that Iran is only the next domino in the chain, there are many more that stand behind it, just a command from our commander away.

Perpetual war is the dream of the neo-cons. It is the backdrop that provides reason for what would otherwise be unthinkable and gives justification for quashing dissent and eroding our freedoms at home. So far, the public has fallen in line and those who refuse to do so are intimidated and shunned by those who have bought the lies hook, line and sinker. The 50% or so of Americans who support giving up a little freedom in the name of security have not been given enough facts to even make that determination. We are a country on the offense, not defense, and by not making it clear what the end game is, the Bush administration has garnered support for a wider war most people are not even aware we are fighting. But what if they were made aware?

Given the whole picture, there would still be substantial support for our current course. There are plenty of Americans who embrace the idea that might makes right, and if the resources are out there that will enable us to continue to enjoy our current standard of living, then it’s our duty to go out there and take them. To many of us, an imperialist agenda is deplorable, but if all the cards were on the table, at least there would be an honest debate and no one would be able to claim that an attack on our homeland is anything other than expected. The Londoners who lived with the bombings of their homes during WWII at least knew what was coming and they knew exactly why they were being attacked. If we were involved in a resource war by informed consent, the psychological impact of an attack against us would be processed in a way that was healthy to our national psyche, taking one for the team, instead of inducing irrational fears of being persecuted. Of course this is exactly why Bush & Co. is not honest about our intentions, but it is also why we should be presented with another way.

We have allowed ourselves to be kept in the dark about the real agenda we are pursuing around the world. We have not demanded honesty; in fact we practically beg to be lied to at every turn. The fictional candidate that will tell us the truth and give it to us straight is just that, fiction. There is not a populist bone in the entire body of Democratic leaders. Our interests have so diverged from our politicians’ that there may be no way, short of radical means, to bring them into line. Their agenda is singular, staying in power and they have rigged our system through gerrymandering, election “reform” and campaign finance laws to serve that end. Incumbents stay in power and we the people are shut out of the process. It’s time for each and every American to re-read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, for there are duties ascribes to us in there as well. There isn’t a leader who will emerge that will save us from ourselves, that is a job only we can do.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Political Appeal

We have been here before; perched precariously on the verge of economic collapse, yet there is no one offering a vision for the future that holds any appeal to the working class, the backbone of the country. Bush, Guliani, Hagel and even McCain can capture the imaginations of the wealthy as well as the poor masses that hold tight to their religion because there is little else to provide them the hope they need just to get out of bed each morning. But what do Democrats have to offer in the way of vision, “we’re better for you, trust us.” Sounds an awful lot like “eat your spinach, it’s good for you.” When has that ever worked?

It’s not about the right candidate with the charisma and charm of a Bill Clinton, nor is it a simple matter of finding the perfect slogan or catch phrase. Radical change is what will win the hearts of Americans. Every poll shows that we’re not happy with the road we are on, nor do we believe we are better off than we were six years ago. We are suffering, we are scared, so get off your butts and show us a better way, we are begging for it. By not doing exactly that, you prove to voters that you don’t care about what concerns them and you are no better than the Republicans, looking out for the same wealthy interests.

Democrats sing the praises of FDR but refuse to learn the lessons that his leadership provided. Americans want a forward thinking leader. We want someone to project a vision of the future that addresses the problems we see no end to. We’re ready for a radical restructuring of our economy that moves us away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. We want to keep the programs that provide a social safety net for those who need it, and we realize that we need them now more than ever before. FDR changed the relationship between government and the people and provided the jobs and social programs that put an end to the kind of suffering that the Republicans and corporatists had unleashed on the country. He was rewarded with reelection not once, but twice. What don’t Democrats get about that?

This could be a very exciting time instead of one of the most fearful in our history. Our national psyche has been damaged by our decline in world status. Whether we admit it or not, we took pride in the fact that we were on the cutting edge of technology and production of goods the whole world wanted. But we no longer have that sense of pride. We are demoralized by our downward slide, frightened by our growing trade deficit and feel helpless because we are not asked, let alone required to participate in bringing about a better way. Yes, people can be manipulated into voting for anything if the right words are used. Frank Luntz is busy testing the words that will evoke positive emotions from voters and will then drill them into Republican Congressman as they head out on the campaign trail. But people also respond to truth.

We can tell on a visceral level when someone is giving it to us straight and we’re even willing to sacrifice for a better future if asked honestly to do so. Not in the way that Walter Mondale did, saying that of course he would have to raise taxes, but by presenting it in a way that appeals to our emotional need to be better than we are. Present it as hard work instead of sacrifice, integrity as opposed to exploitation, and offer pride as a replacement for the feelings of dread that now plague us. Go ahead, challenge us, we are not as timid as you think. We like the idea of our adventurous ancestors who came to this country not knowing what they would find. We’re not afraid to step into the unknown. Go ahead, appeal to our better natures and demand that we take part. You might be pleasantly surprised by our reaction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Our Just Desserts?

I often mistake what should happen in our so-called democracy with how things really work in DC. I should have known better than to expect anything meaningful to come out of the Alito hearings, after all, it’s just a show. A chance for Senators to pretend they care about the average American and a chance for the nominee to the Supreme Court to evade as many questions as possible, and in Alito’s case, that means all of them. John Roberts did the same thing, but somehow he managed not to come off as sleazy but Samuel Alito is not managing to pull that off.

I wonder how many Americans really care whether or not the Supreme Court shifts to the right. I receive a lot of emails suggesting that we as a society must suffer before we will give a damn and that things have to impact us directly before we will be moved to do something about it. I’m not even sure that is enough. There are people in rural communities and small towns in America’s heartland that are suffering from high unemployment, no healthcare, no childcare, poor education for their children, sagging wages, escalating cost of living and no end in sight. Yet all indicators show that they are still planning to support the Republican Party come November. Go figure.

Maybe they’re just not suffering enough. Perhaps they require their teenagers to be forced into parenthood, their mothers hauled into the police station for attending peace group meetings or have the NSA steal their grandmother’s secret recipe for the best coconut cream pie through warrantless wiretapping. But if losing the vote, losing their job and any future for their children didn’t do it, I’m not sure anything short of jack-booted thugs walking in formation down Main Street enforcing a curfew will. I’ve seen what that looks like here in Seattle, it is a vision I will not soon forget and I live in terror that it will become a way of life if we’re not careful.

While driving my kid to school this morning I heard on my “progressive” talk radio station that Alito is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate later this month. Really? Who exactly expects this? CNN? Nora O’Donnell at MSNBC? Bush? I guess I should expect it too. I should expect the Democrats to feign concern before they go ahead and cast their vote in support of Alito. I should expect that there will be no public outcry. I should expect that what we get from the Robert’s court with Alito, Scalia, and Thomas at his side is exactly what we deserve. I should, but I’m not quite ready to give up just yet. My dad always told me I was a stubborn little girl, I guess some things never change.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Now That Just Makes Me Mad

Listening to men discuss who should have control over women’s reproductive health really pisses me off. Many men staunchly defend a woman’s right to choose, but the fact that I, a woman, have to listen to a bunch of men on Capitol Hill debating the topic really makes me want to scream. The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Christian Coalition, Sen. Coburn and Samuel Alito can all go to hell. Preach your values to your flock all you want, but do not cross the line by debating, much less supporting, a legislative or judicial agenda that will infringe upon my right to do whatever I want with my own damn body.

Feel free to lie to your followers about the science of Plan B and suggest that women will only be encouraged to be promiscuous if it is made available over the counter. Go ahead and call us murderers for choosing abortion over raising unwanted children in poverty, but do not expect us to fall for your false science and fake concern. If you truly cared about children, you would make sure there is support for the already born, and if you gave a crap about promiscuity you would go after Viagra. But no, in your twisted little minds, only women are weak minded enough to be enticed into "slutty behavior" (an over-simplification of female sexuality that says more about you than it does about us) by the availability of pharmaceuticals that widen their options. If you want to have a say in the personal decisions women must make regarding their reproductive health, go get yourself a uterus, until then, shut the fuck up!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Me Of Little Faith

I am trying to be encouraged by the few acts of bravery and honestly committed within the Senate by the beleaguered Democrats over the past several months, but I’m afraid they are going to have to show me much more before I allow myself to truly believe they will do something meaningful to stem the tide of neo-conservative and neo-religious infringements on our rights as Americans.  This is why I will be spending a lot of time this week watching the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito.

I hope that being home for the holidays has fortified our Senators’ resolve as they are going to need it to do the hard work ahead of supporting the American people and sinking this nomination.  Sure, they have little chance of affecting any real change on the legislative side with their weak presence in the Senate, but they must continue to be a cog in the system that is threatening to kill our way of life.  I realize that this language may seem a little over the top, but we are living in scary times.  

The committee hearings will tell us a lot, but I have no doubt that unless Alito is sunk in committee (a long shot for sure), a widespread effort in support of a Democratic lead filibuster will be necessary.  The Republicans took down the last nomination because Harriet Miers wasn’t a guaranteed 100% vote for the Religious Right.  That should tell you all you need to know about Sam Alito.  Watch the clip of Sen. Tom Coburn (courtesy of Crooks and Liars) for a peek into the mind of those who are throwing their full support behind Alito.  Yeah, I want this nut job in charge on my reproductive health decisions.

It feels like the time between now and the next election is critical yet in a way, dead space.  There is so much work to be done in fixing our broken election system, but until we see the results of that work, we won’t know how far we have yet to go.  But the Alito confirmation is the fight in front of us and it is one we must win.  With his out of the mainstream views on Presidential powers, we may not have an electoral process to fix if he is allowed to take a seat on our Supreme Court.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Roots Of The Aspen Trees Are Connected And Rotting Beneath The Ground

The Republican Party is scrambling, trying to distance itself from Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay in order avoid the label “Party of Corruption” which is exactly why Democrats should use the phrase every time they open their mouths. This is a Republican problem and any attempt to cloud that fact must be jumped on immediately and dismissed as pure rubbish. Let’s make them the butt of the joke, they deserve it after all, and laugh out loud as they attempt to keep their members out of the widening net that will ensnare dozens of lawmakers in what is clearly widespread political corruption.

But this is bigger than just one scandal. Jack Abramoff is merely a symptom, not the problem. Republicans have set up a system in Washington that makes them the only game it town. With the K Street Project, they have ensured that anyone who wants access to government, has to go through the Republican Party first, and apparently that access must be purchased. So much for government by and of the people, an idea as quaint as the Geneva Conventions to today’s Republican Party.

Two Republican Congressmen from California are taking some heat for official actions taken on behalf of a DeLay crony and major donor to the Republican Party. Rep. John Doolittle and Rep. Richard Pombo entered into the Congressional record evidence being used by the FDIC in a case against Charles Hurwitz, a Texas billionaire. This angered the FDIC lawyers and damaged their case against Hurwitz who they were attempting to hold accountable for the collapse of his savings and loan that left taxpayers on the hook for $1.6 billion. This is just one more example of how Republicans used their power to protect their rich friends and screw the American people.

No matter how they try to spin it, the Abramoff case is not a tale of a few Congressmen tempted by an evil lobbyist into abusing their positions of power, it is about a culture of corruption fostered by the Republican Party leadership, using their members to do favors for the rich and powerful in exchange for campaign contributions that were spread around to all. It may be business as usual with Republicans in control, but as many are about to find out, that doesn’t make it legal and it won’t keep them out of jail. Just ask Duke Cunningham.

The big question in all of this is how far it will go. Rep. Bob Ney, Republican from Ohio, appears next to be indicted. But in addition to his potentially illegal activity in his dealings with Abramoff, he may very well be the key to uncovering at least some of the fraud that took place in Ohio during the 2004 election. It is clear that Ney is an integral part of the “pay to play” system of governance set up by the Republican Party and there's no telling how far he was willing to go to ensure a continuing Republican stranglehold on power. The key to finding out exactly what went wrong in Ohio, is finding a concrete connection between Bob Ney and Tom “Coingate” Noe. Who knows what investigators will stumble upon as they work their way through these cases, but following the twisted web of Abramoff money that surely passed through Rep. Ney’s hands may unintentionally lead them to evidence of foul play in the 2004 election.

Tom Noe is a shady character and he has been indicted on charges stemming from his apparent embezzlement of money from the Ohio State Workers’ Compensation fund that then made its way into the Bush/Cheney campaign coffers as well as into his own pocket. As if that wasn’t enough, his wife Bernadette Noe, sat on the Lucas County Board of Elections in 2004. Anyone who thinks this fact is not cause for concern hasn’t been paying attention. Lucas County was riddled with problems on Election Day and was the site of curious and illegal activity during the tabulating of votes as well as with the sham recount that took place after, and Bernadette Noe was at the center of the action. Whether the Noes were working on their own, as unconnected rogue Republican crooks, or as part of an organized effort to defraud Ohio voters in order to hand the election to Bush/Cheney, remains to be seen. Bob Ney, in an effort to save his own skin ala Jack “how many Congressmen do you want” Abramoff and Duke “sure I’ll wear a wire” Cunningham, may provide the necessary facts to uncover at least a small corner of the truth. Here’s to hoping.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Holy Alito!

As we head into another confirmation hearing for yet another Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, activists are exhausted from doing all of the heavy lifting for the past five years so let’s hope our Democratic Senators are well rested enough from their holiday break to take up some of the slack. Monday will be the beginning of a long overdue victory for the left, or it will be the beginning of the end for America.

C-Span covered a speech Thursday by Sen. Chuck Schumer at the Center For American Progress on the topic of the Alito confirmation. Gone was the wavering that was rampant on the Hill when Judge Roberts was up to bat, what could be heard instead was a striking amount of conviction that Samuel Alito is the wrong man for this post, particularly at a time when the biggest threat we face as a nation is a President on a mad quest for more power. Women’s groups and Civil Rights advocates have been screaming about Alito since his name was first announced, but to hear a Senator come out with both barrels blazing, is music to the ears.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Democrats on the Judiciary Committee take it to Sam Alito, considering he would be a vote on the Supreme Court that could very well make Congress obsolete. His warped ideas on Presidential authority would make our trip down the slippery slope toward a dictatorship fast enough to give us all whiplash. Of course this consideration plays second fiddle to the threat to their authority each Senator will surely feel when presented with Alito’s written judicial opinions. Most troubling is his advice to the President that when signing a bill, he should add his own “interpretative signing statement” so that when courts review the law they can take into account the President’s intent as well as that of the legislature. A frightening change in the way our system currently works and not one that Senators are likely to look favorably upon.

The warrantless wiretapping of Americans that Bush feels is within his authority to order will also get some serious play in the upcoming confirmation hearings. Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy have both informed Alito that they intend to ask him directly if he believes the President has the authority to order warrantless spying. Just that alone will make watching the hearings worthwhile. Is there really any doubt what his answer will be? Still, it will be fun to watch him attempt to explain his position in a way that won’t sink his nomination right then and there. But perhaps some of our Senators are not nearly as concerned as the rest of us about unchecked Presidential powers. It will be interesting to see where each member falls on this most serious issue.

This is the big fight that the Religious Right has been waiting for, a chance to tip the scales of the Supreme Court in their favor. But for them, it couldn’t come at a worse time. Their President is mired in scandal and their Congressmen are on the verge of being exposed for the shady crooks we knew all along they were. This seems like it should be a slam-dunk for Democrats, but that’s exactly what should have us all a bit nervous.

This is a fight we cannot lose. There are no possible grounds on which we should accept Samuel Alito on our Supreme Court, it would be a giant step backward and a fall there would be little hope of recovering from for a long time to come. Democrats have been shut out and shut down for so long that there is a feeling of defeatism within the Party leadership as well as in the ranks, but now is not the time to succumb to the sweet temptation to turn away in order to avoid watching the worst. The Democrats may be demoralized, but the Republican Party is wounded and now is the time to go in for the kill. This is the showdown, our last stand, and we need to make sure our Senators not only show up to the fight, but have the ammunition and the guts to see it to its proper end as well.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The 2006 Bloggies

Nominations are now being accepted for the sixth annual Weblog Awards.  Unlike the Koufax Awards, these awards are for all types of blogs and not just for those with a political bent.  So if in addition to your favorite political blogs, you have a favorite craft blog, cartoon blog, food blog, diary or other place you love to go for ideas or just for fun, this is your chance to cast your vote and share with others what you have found.  With my single-minded determination to take down the Republican Party, it's no surprise that all of my picks were lefty political blogs and this time I wasn't even afraid to nominate myself.  I think all of the great emails I receive from you lovely people might be going to my head!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jack Flash

Did you catch the gangster look Jack Abramoff was sporting as he walked out of court yesterday? He was decked out with his trench coat and his mob topper, as if to announce his status to the world as the Al Capone of the K Street set. He’s clearly preparing for his stay in the slammer, he’s bulked up and now he’s building up his street cred. Way to take it like a man Jack, I’m sure you’ll make some lifelong friends over the next 7 to 10.

Jack Abramoff may be going down, but he is determined not to go down alone which is good news for the country. At first it was Rep. Bob Ney who was the chosen one, then it became up to 12 Congressmen who would get to share the joy. Now Abramoff is spouting off saying he can implicate up to 60 lawmakers. You have got to love this guy’s spirit! I just hope he has the evidence to back up his claims. Being able to show that he gave Congressmen money or services in return for specific legislative gains is one thing, simply implicating them in activity that has become commonplace in DC is something all together different. Here’s to hoping that he’s got the goods on these dirt-bag Republicans.

I spent a lot of time watching C-Span today and I have to say that the signs are pretty encouraging. There is an awful lot of quiet from folks who can’t ever seem to say enough and there was a lot of scurrying around today dumping any bit of money Republicans could track down that came from Abramoff. Even the President got in on the action giving $6000 of Abramoff tainted money to charity. I wonder what happened to the other $94,000 Jack raised for Bush/Cheney '04, I guess it was already spent on all those secret computer programmers at Diebold. The fear is palpable and DC residents may want to invest in some floatation devices, what with the river of sweat flowing down the Capitol steps.

So the big question is, what if the dream comes true and 60 Republican lawmakers are indicted on charges of bribery? That still doesn’t translate into an automatic shift in the balance of power on the Hill. Tom DeLay has shown that being indicted of a crime doesn’t mean you have to give up your Congressional seat. He may have lost his power position as majority leader, but he still represents his district and continues to be a loyal vote for the Republican Party. Most likely there will be a few indictments on bribery, a handful more aides charged with influence peddling, and lots of sleazy yet legal activity will be revealed both within Congress and the Bush administration. I’m not as confident as some that this will bring about victory for Democrats come November. It would be the logical outcome of a scandal of this magnitude, but unfortunately, electronic voting machines have their own kind of logic, one created in the corporate offices of Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S.

A Free Press? More Like A Failed Press

Twelve miners found dead in a coal mine in West Virginia is a tragedy for 12 families and a whole town’s sorrow, but it has exposed a culture of laziness in reporting and the reliance on hearsay as substitution for fact.  Papers across the country where splashed with headlines that read “12 Miners Found Alive”.  Too bad it wasn’t true.

Reporting on the ground in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was heralded as the press’s reawakening.  It seems we gave them too much credit too soon.  The mainstream media is so used to lying, posing opinion as fact and relying on biased pundits and spokespeople to give them the news that they have forgotten that facts must be checked and rumors must be confirmed.  By not doing their jobs properly, they have caused pain to the families and friends of the trapped miners and have disappointed, yet again, a public that relies on them to bring us the news.  But news is fact and opinion is nothing more than entertainment and their confusing of the two is unforgivable.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Oh God, It’s Bush

Religion has permeated the public sphere in a way that should have us all questioning its usefulness there. What is meant to be deeply personal has been turned into public spectacle and the debate rages as to its proper place.

It’s uncivilized that politicians feel the need to discuss their religion in public. It’s not completely their fault, they are just cowing to pressure by religious groups that require a litmus test in order to commit to a candidate, and most politicians will whore for a vote on any given day. Politicians by nature, attempt to be all things to all people which in the end leaves them nothing but a hallow shell with no real core values to speak of. Sure they could reject this public intrusion into their most personal selves, but they are not known for going against the grain, at least not in today’s American political landscape. So they continue to partake in the “my religion is better than your religion” or “my religion is close to yours so can’t you cut me a little slack?” It’s sad really, and like teenagers around the country say, “too much information.”

There are certain things we don’t need to know about our potential leaders, and when the questions are asked, or even worse are answered, democracy dies a little bit. Do you wear boxers or briefs? Have you been faithful to your spouse? Do you go to church? Do we really need the answers to these questions? Has our sense of decency been so eroded and our appetite for gossip grown so insatiable that we must make celebrities of politicians and turn their private lives into soap operas for public consumption? We would all be better served if they kept their private lives private and their superstitions to themselves. We should be demanding to be told how they plan to bring our trade deficit into line and what they’re going to do about the looming oil crisis, not whether they go to church every Sunday or just for the high holy days.

There are laws that require politicians to keep their genitals covered when out in public and there is supposed to be a firewall that keeps their religion out of the mix as well. These are both solidly good ideas and one not any more necessary than the other. Confine religion to the pulpit and politics to the stump and never the twain shall meet. Pastors are ill suited to give political advice and most politicians are too morally bankrupt to deliver a convincing sermon, but within the Republican Party it seems that the idea of separation of church and state is as quaint as the Geneva Conventions.

There is a big difference between tolerance and acceptance. We are bound by our constitution to tolerate the religious views of others, but we should not be forced to accept them as our own. Christians in this country are being led by their religious and political leaders into demanding not only acceptance of their beliefs, but a public endorsement of them as well. Anyone who needs validation of their beliefs might want to seriously re-evaluate their situation. A doctrine worth living by should not require outside approval and should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Faith should be strengthened by the skepticism of others and if it’s not, that’s a problem that cannot be solved by elected officials who are meant to serve us all.

Our president, for his part, informed the world that we are on a crusade, and there’s little doubt that he meant it the way it came out. He may have been told by his handlers not to frame the “war on terror” that way ever again, but the damage was already done. This is an imperialist war with warped Christian overtones, and the framing of our mission as such is not missed by those in the Muslim world who see the affects of it every day. Who knows if Bush is trying to usher in the return of Jesus or if it’s just his delusions of grandeur, but regardless of his motivation, everything he does is couched in religious rhetoric. He may not believe what he says, he is a politician after all, but he does believe that those who worship him will. With the mixing of religion and politics within the Republican Party, doctrine and policy have become one and the same.

Support for Bush has eroded in every sector of the American public except within the Republican Party. To them he is not just a president. He is a deity with all that implies. He can do no wrong, God speaks through him and whatever path he chooses to lead us down is the right one simply because he deems it so. Babs doesn’t look anything like the Virgin Mary, but to many in the GOP she must, nothing else can adequately explain their devotion to this man. Sure, his fellow politicians follow his lead because they are bound to him through their dirty dealings, but the average Bush supporter receives no real benefit beyond feeling protected from evil that surely lurks around every corner and the possibility of participating in God’s plan.

This is scary stuff to contemplate because there is no quick fix. We have accepted the rules set forth by the Republican Party that faith must be a part of every political campaign, and a rejection of that now will be a challenge to say the least. We have allowed religious faith to become a pre-requisite to public service. How many politicians have you heard profess their atheism as a driving force in their life? The absence of a religious affiliation is looked upon with disdain and anyone who proclaims him/herself an Atheist or Agnostic is immediately considered suspect. We minimize the importance of scientific endeavor and rational thought and instead require anyone seeking our vote to claim a religious identity, even if it turns out to be false. Until we can come to terms with the precarious position we have put our politicians in, we will never have representation in government that will be able to effectively challenge the things that are wrong. It’s time to get God out of government and back into church where he belongs. If Christians have a problem with that, they should be reminded that politics would only sully Him anyway.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year’s Resignations

A new year is a new start. Time to get things in order, make a plan and with the best of intentions, go in search of our better selves through discipline and hard work. We have learned so much in the last year. 2005 brought a shattering of the illusion of democratic elections, the realization that we were sold a war on manufactured intelligence and a religious infrastructure so cynical that it gathered thousands of people inside their mega-churches for “Justice Sunday” in an attempt to generate enough letters, phone calls and contributions to support a Congressional rule allowing for the “nuclear option” to shut down a possible judicial filibuster. God is no doubt proud of his minions.

But the best was saved for the end of the year. A dumping of information so explosive, so disturbing that it could only be revealed in the hectic holiday season, where it could almost get lost in the shuffle, taking a back seat to the real news of the war on Christmas. Our government is spying on us, and not just a little.

What is being uncovered is a wide program of information gathering by the NSA and the Pentagon who are sharing their information with other agencies. First it was only incoming international calls that were being tapped, then it was also outgoing international calls, now it is domestic calls as well. This rolling disclosure will continue for a while. The extent to which our government is collecting data on all of us will trickle out, but we may never know how far it has gone or what has happened to the information that has already been collected. Our president, for his part, has declared himself above the law and revealed his true nature as a power hungry madman with, it appears, no boundaries to contain that lust. If we’re not with him, we’re against him and he has looked us square in the eyes and asked, “Yeah, what are you going to do about it?” Now that is the million-dollar question.

As much as I want to believe that it is, I’m afraid this is not the calm before the storm. This pervasive quiet and unsettling feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop is mixed with a sad sort of resignation. Our president has broken the law, but there is no real outrage about it, just a sense that it seems par for the course with this guy and though we know it’s not right, it doesn’t seem any worse that what he has already done and bragged about in the past. We have already asked the question, “Have you no shame Mr. President?” and we have received the answer loud and clear, “as a matter of fact, I don’t.”

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Thank You For Making 2005 Bearable. Here’s To Hoping 2006 Will Be Better.

Happy New Year!