Friday, April 28, 2006

We’re Not Whining, We’re Just Not Settling For Mediocrity This Time

I’m sick to death of hearing that we liberals should stop whining and get on board. I recently read a left leaning blog that suggested we should choose to be inspired rather than looking to candidates to inspire us. Really? I think that’s what we have done every election cycle for as long as we can remember. We’ve chosen to be inspired by what we’ve been handed, mediocre candidates, but that’s simply not enough anymore. Even if it was, it hasn’t had the promised result, namely Democratic wins, now has it?

One thing that liberal activists haven’t done enough, but are beginning to do more, is infiltrate the Party we want to change. Instead of trying to change the Democratic Party from the outside, it is becoming increasingly effective to change it from within, by attending local Party meetings and voting for challengers to entrenched power. Recently in California, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, was denied an automatic endorsement by the State Party because progressive activists attended the meetings and voted instead for the challenger, Marcy Winograd. Instead of thinking of ourselves as outsiders, we have to become insiders.

In Portland, Oregon, the Multnomah County Democrats chose not to endorse their Democratic Governor and instead chose to endorse both of his primary challengers. Governor Kulongoski didn’t bother to show up at the meeting and therefore didn’t get the endorsement. Incumbent Democrats are often far too sure that they’ve got the support of the Party apparatus all locked up, but when liberals who are decidedly uninspired by their leadership actually show up to the meetings and vote, they are exercising their power as members of the Party and making a difference in who gets Party support. There’s a lesson in here for all of us. Instead of choosing to be inspired by mediocrity, we can vote for the candidates that really inspire us. We are told that these candidates have no chance of winning, but that is only true if we don’t vote for them, don’t give them money and don’t go to Party meetings where we can hopefully, get some Party support behind them.

In that spirit, I will be voting my best hopes in the Democratic Primary. There are many great candidates for local, state and national office in my district, some of them incumbents that I’ll be happy to continue supporting, and some of them challengers to decidedly uninspiring leaders currently in office. Incumbency isn’t bad, but mediocrity is, and if they want my vote, they’ll have to inspire me. Sorry if that’s expecting too much, but democracy should result in the best rising to the top and I’m done enabling candidates that have low expectations of themselves. I’m also done with their scare tactics, “the challenger can’t win in the General Election” and “you’re wasting your vote” crap. I’m only wasting my vote if I vote for a candidate I don’t really want representing me, which is why I’ll be voting for what I want from now on, not what I can get. I’m choosing inspiration over ambition. In the long run, it’s the far better choice and might even result in a better slate of “viable” candidates for the next go around. After all, it’s votes that make them viable and it’s the only leverage we’ve got. It would be a shame not to use it.

Podcasting Liberally With Joel Connelly

I forgot to put this up earlier in the week, probably a case of denial on my part that it actually happened (I hate it when I exceed my two drink maximum and then start talking while being recorded).

At the table this week, Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly, Will, Gavin, Carl, myself and moderated by Goldy. On the table for discussion were Mark Warner’s probable Presidential bid, Mike McGavick’s probable loss, global warming, the war in Iraq and rising gas prices. Also, Will uses me as the perfect example of what’s wrong with the left. I’m sure he meant it in the most loving way (and I did give him the perfect opening).

The show is 57:09, and is available here as a 35.7 MB MP3. Please visit for complete archives and RSS feeds.

Thanks again to Gavin and Richard (of Confab fame) for producing the show.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Rove Perp Walk

I’m starting to get a little giddy at the prospect of Karl Rove finally getting his just desserts. We won’t get to see him frog marched out of the White House, but we will get to see him get fired, or rather “resign to defend himself against these ridiculous charges that are nothing more than political mudslinging.” At this point, I don’t care how they spin it, as long as they start falling, one after another.

I get the sense that Karl The Roving Feral Pig, as my dad lovingly describes him, is a squealer at heart. I may be wrong, but I imagine him giving it all up when faced with the prospect of jail time, as the memories of being the pudgy picked on kid in school come flooding back and likely unhinge his jaw completely. This summer might turn out all right after all.

Jason Leopold over at Truth Out has been diligently covering the ins and outs of Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson and the subsequent cover up by this administration. With news that ProsecutorMan has resumed his meetings with the grand jury on the case, Jason Leopold reveals that according to his sources, Rove received a target letter from Fitzgerald, an ominous sign that he is about to be indicted. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

So what happens if Karl Rove is indicted and reluctantly booted out of the White House? It’s one more indictment against a Bush administration official, one that the public will notice. It will take Karl off of the mid-term elections that might result in a slight reduction in the number of dirty tricks that will be employed before November. It also means that Bush will be alone in many respects. Rove has held Bush’s hand through this difficult task of governing, a task that so clearly has him treading water in unfamiliar seas. Rove might be the only thing holding Cheney back from actually being the President. Now that’s a scary thought.

There’s still a chance that Rove can wiggle his way out of this one. Lawrence O’Donnell writes over at The Huffington Post that the buzz around Washington is that Rove asked to testify before the Grand Jury this week, which probably means he wanted one last chance to explain himself. He’s a pretty slippery guy, so who knows if it will work, but the best part of this whole thing is the makeup of the Grand Jury that will be deciding whether or not to indict. These are not his political peers sitting in judgment, but rather regular folks living in the other DC, you know, the neglected, poverty stricken, mostly African American DC. I’m not sure about this Grand Jury, but the last one was made up mostly of black women. Boy I hope this one is the same, if it is, Rove hasn’t got a chance. Not because they won’t be fair, but because in my experience, black women have the best bullshit detectors of all. Happy trails Rover, you lying turd!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Crisis Of Leadership

We seem to be a country that has lost its way.  We have no forward leaning agenda that we can all get behind, and instead are faced with a host of gargantuan problems with seemingly no solutions.  The reality of Peak Oil has reached D.C. and our Representatives are scrambling around trying to figure out what to do about it.  Iraq is a disaster and our Senators are floundering wildly trying to figure out what to do about it.  Our unstable economy is in danger of collapse, and our President is sticking his head in the sand, not even bothering to figure out what to do about it.  Our current predicament is the result of failed leadership for sure, but the fact that all we have to take its place is marginally better leadership, well, we’ll still be sliding downward, just maybe not as fast.

68% of us agree that we are on the wrong path, that we are worse off than we were five years ago, that we aren’t interested in going any father down this self-destructive road of incurring outrageous debt, preemptively invading sovereign nations, rapidly outsourcing our jobs and selling our children’s future for a little comfort in the here and now.  Yet here we sit, in our homes, in our offices, in our neighborhood coffee shops, wondering what in the hell we’re supposed to do about it.

Perhaps we are too lazy, too wealthy, too involved in our own comfortable lives to admit to ourselves that we need to take action.   Perhaps we are too distracted, scared or proud to admit that we need someone to lead the way.  Whatever the reason, America needs a hero.

We like to think that we are rugged individualists, that we hold the power in this country and that we will take action when action is necessary, but America has always needed courageous leaders to challenge us and lead the way toward progress.  At critical times in our history, men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt grabbed the reigns and dragged us, the American people, toward a better future.  We have failing leadership that has brought us to the brink, but there doesn’t seem to be a charismatic, thoughtful, truthful, intelligent, innovative person ready to fill the void.

One of the most damaging things the Republicans have done over the last several decades is erode the public’s trust and belief in government.  Reagan paved the way with his quip about the nine most frightening words in the English language being, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”  This may have served him well in getting public support for his deregulatory rampage, but Republicans have run with the idea and have made weakening government a cornerstone of their agenda.  We have seen the real world effects of the Republican’s “bad government” ideology in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in the collapse of Enron, in the massive loss of jobs here at home and in the current windfall profits enjoyed by oil companies, but the lasting damage may prove to be the people’s lost faith that government can work for us.

The irony is that government is the only entity that can solve the big problems we’re facing.  Global warming is real and we are contributing to the problem.  Peak oil is real and we have not done enough to prepare for the end of the petroleum age.  The widening gap, hell the gaping chasm, between the uber-rich and the rest of us, is real and the result of an unfair tax system that can only be remedied by government.  Out of control healthcare costs are all too real and capitalism has been unable to effectively manage the problem, and government is the only logical solution.

We have seen what disdain of government yields, more pollution, a decaying education system, out of control energy costs, a stagnant economy, record profits for Corporations while they abandon the American worker in favor of cheap labor abroad.  Republicans have managed to make their slogan true.  Government IS bad when they run the show.

Again, America needs a hero, someone who believes in government and who cares about solving our problems above securing his or her own political future.  I hope that hero is out there, I have to believe that there’s at least one among us.  I just hope we’re not too jaded to recognize him or her when the time comes.

Cynicism doesn’t suit us as a nation.  When we eject Bush and his Republican cronies out of office, we must consciously reject their cynical view of government as well.  It will take decades for the damage to be repaired, but until a great man or woman stands up and grabs the reigns, I’m afraid we’ll just sit here, waiting to be dragged into the future.  Sure, we will continue to make small changes in our own lives that will help alleviate the pain of our collective problems, but a national commitment is necessary to make the kind of sweeping changes necessary to secure our future, and that will take leadership.  One rugged individual is all it will take.  Any takers?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It’s Too Nice Outside To Blog Today

This is the second beautiful day in a row here in Seattle and I’m determined to enjoy it.  I have had my nose buried in news, politics, corruption, scandal and bad policy for about six months straight and I’m going to take this lovely day off from all the ugly, and go plant some flowers.  Enjoy your day, I know I will, I’ll be back at it tomorrow, rejuvenated and restored for the next six months.  Peace.

Monday, April 24, 2006

George Bush: From Savior To Antichrist

Yes, I believe that Bush is the worst President in history for all of the reasons Sean Wilentz points out in his article “The Worst President Ever?” but Bush’s stance on global warming, his failure to do anything at all to change our course and his ruthlessness in stifling research and suppressing scientific findings on the subject could very well be the biggest.

There is a sense among us rational folks that Bush’s Fundamentalist Christian base are enthralled by him and believe him to be the one who will usher in the End of Days and have therefore supported his ignorance and rejection of all things scientific, especially climate change, because the sooner the Earth dies, the sooner they get to be hoovered up to spend eternity at their Lord’s feet.  But some of them are beginning to question the sanity of such of move, and that perhaps Bush isn’t God’s messenger on Earth after all.  As I’ve pointed out before (here), if Fundamentalists follow their own crazy logic, they should easily come to the conclusion that Bush is, in fact, the Antichrist, but I guess even following their own internal logic is a challenge.

About a month ago I wrote about a group of Evangelicals breaking with the President on climate change.  It seems that some Evangelicals have started reading their Bibles and have been reminded that we are supposed to be caretakers of the Earth and God may not look so kindly on those that did nothing to protect it.  Personally, I think that’s a silly reason to care about global warming, but as long as it works, I have no complaints.  Now, in addition to Evangelicals, the business community is growing concerned about Bush’s ostrich approach to science.  I guess they’re beginning to realize that a massive die off of coastal peoples will likely have a negative impact on their profit margin.  Clearly things are bad when GE starts asking the Senate for carbon regulations!

Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” will be released next month, and he may have found the perfect time for the message he’s been trying to convey for decades.  It’s possible that this movie will catch fire, not just with environmentalists, but also with mainstream Americans who are waking up to the reality that we have reached a critical time and that protecting the Earth is directly tied to securing a future for our children.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the trailer (here to view for yourself) was enough to ruin my day.  I hope the movie does well because it will give Americans a chance to see a glimpse of an alternate history.  As far as I know, the movie isn’t about what a great President Al Gore would have been, but the thought will still likely run through the minds of those who watch it.  How could we have allowed Bush, an incompetent man with regressive ideas, to run our country at a time when courage, ingenuity and forward thinking were so critical?

The word impeachment evokes strong feelings and memories for many Americans.  The impeachment of Bill Clinton was seen by Democratic and Republican voters alike as being “politically motivated” and the whole Watergate mess is something Americans would much rather forget, so it’s not surprising that the country is divided over whether or not Bush should be impeached.  I’ve often wondered what the numbers would look like if the question were posed to voters in another way.  “Would you rather not have Bush as President if he could be removed from office by magic?”  I bet there’d be near total support for that!  To have this Presidency simply erased would be a dream come true for the Left, and something the Right would probably welcome (well, except the top 1% that have seen their fortunes grow exponentially over the last five years).  That way, they wouldn’t have to have any ownership in what they have unleashed on the rest of us, a solution that fits in perfectly with their whole philosophy of abdicating responsibility and handing it over to dictators and God.

Unfortunately, magic won’t get us out of this mess and hopefully slight of hand, otherwise known as electronic voting, won’t keep us on the road toward making it worse.  I am an optimist by nature, but living under the thumb of the Bush regime has all but beaten the sunshine out of me.  I’m still holding on to that last little bit though, trying desperately to find at least one small thing each day that provides some small scrap of hope that things are turning.  Today, it’s that profit-seeking companies may have found that their future depends on ours, and that those who believe in God may decide to protect “His” creation.  It’s not much, but that’s how it goes in Bush’s America.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Failed Ideology

There is a big political shift going on, and no I don’t mean the President’s shuffling of the cards in his stacked deck administration, I mean out here, in the real America. Bush is increasingly thought of as an idiot by the public (I don’t know what took so many people so long to figure out what was obvious from the start), his approval numbers keep sliding downward and one of our country’s leading historians, Sean Wilentz, has written a devastating piece about the Bush Presidency for this month’s Rolling Stone, titled, “The Worst President In History?” After reading the article, the natural inclination is to wonder what the question mark is for.

But what is happening now, may be about more than just one man, one failed President and five years of steady decline. It has been an experiment in neo-conservatism, an ideology long thought by those currently in power to offer salvation for this country. Well, they've had their chance to radically realign our government, foreign policy, military and presidential powers to reflect their ideology, and what we are left with is a country unrecognizable to most Americans. The Republican Party, by buying into the neo-conservative agenda and supporting this administration’s every move, may have shattered any hope of maintaining their “permanent majority.”

The American people are becoming increasingly aware of the very serious economic and geo-political problems facing our country and that is a direct result of Bush’s policies exacerbating the problems and bringing them directly to the kitchen tables of working people. The disaster of Bush’s making in Iraq is beginning to affect the people of this country in tangible ways. The war in Iraq is less of an abstract problem when we personally know people who have died or have been wounded in the line of duty, when we see our neighbor struggling to make ends meet while her husband is serving our country overseas, and when the price of gas causes real economic hardship as well as uncertainty about our future energy supplies. Republican rule has led us here, and our current dire predicament is not only a result of failed leadership, but of failed policy that stems from an inherently flawed and dangerous ideology.

If Bush is, in the end, viewed by history as the worst President ever, the only way that we the people won’t share in the blame, is if the truth comes out. The truth about the 2004 election, the truth about the extent of the illegal domestic surveillance, the truth about the lies that this administration peddled in order to lead us to war, the truth about the secret deals that were struck between our government and oil/energy companies, and the truth about how far this administration has gone to cover up all of these things. We are in the process of rejecting Bush, his policies and his objectives, but until we demand an end to the secrecy and reject the notion that there is no need to go back and look at what has been done, we will continue to share in the blame. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this President, we can judge him now, and we can change our place in history by at least attempting to clean up his mess.

Enduring five years of divisiveness, fear mongering, lost jobs and increasing disparity of wealth has made us tired. We are worn out from the decline and fearful about our future, but we are increasingly on the same page. Neo-conservatism was rejected by the left from the very beginning, we saw it as cynical and based on fantasy like assumptions that ignored history and logic, but it is now being rejected by the right as well. Two minority groups, the neo-cons and the religious fundamentalists, have taken control of the Republican Party much to the chagrin of true conservatives and moderates. The reality is, Republicans can’t win without these two extreme groups and the last five years has provided them the opportunity to take root within the Party, and in a two party system, that leaves only one place for those moderates to go. If Republicans want to hold onto their majority, they better purge their party of extremism and the first step is excising this President. It may not help them in the short term, but it could cut the length of time they will be shut out of government. They struck the deal with the devil, now they’ll have to pay the price.

The only way that we can stop the divisiveness in this country is if the Democrats can take the lead. This country can’t handle another President that supports this war. The situation in Iraq is not what we were told it would be, it is a burgeoning civil war that the American people don’t want anything to do with, and without public support, it can’t be won. We need a President that was against this war in the first place, a President that we can be assured won’t lead us down a similar path again, a President that will take bold action in solving the big problems that we as citizens are becoming more and more aware of.

We have to become energy independent, we have to address global warming, we have to invest in our infrastructure, we have to force American companies to invest in our future, we have to make the wealthiest among us sacrifice to bring the rest of us back up (we sacrificed to elevate them) and we have to become one country again. One country with common goals, and a common vision of what our country should be, divisiveness has brought us down, consensus will raise us up. Republicans must take the blame and Democrats must take the lead in finding the high road.

As Mr. Wilentz points out in his article for Rolling Stone, historians agree that Franklin Roosevelt was one of our best Presidents ever. He took control at a critical time in our history and took bold action to correct the problems we faced. Democrats pay a lot of lip service to FDR and laud him as one our Party greats, but what they really need to do right now is embrace the lessons learned from his leadership. We are again at a critical time in our country’s history, now is not the time for timidity and political triagulation, it is time for vision, leadership, honesty, efficiency, openness and action. The status quo is not good enough, and we cannot handle another failed presidency. Electing Republicans will guarantee failure but Democrats must convince us that they can not only mitigate the damage, but repair it as well. It’s what FDR would do.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Local Politics

We’ve got some great local candidates running for office in Washington State this year.  Darcy Burner is running for Congress in the 8th district, trying to unseat Dave Reichert, and her ability to raise money has dazzled the National Democratic Party apparatus and landed her on the cover of Roll Call.  Reichert is in trouble, and Darcy Burner could very well be one of the new Congresswomen that help take back the House for Democrats this November.

One of the great successes of the Republican Party over the last twenty years has been their ability to cultivate candidates from the local level.  Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy and the investment of Party money into building up the infrastructure of the state parties across the country will help our side to do the same.

Tonight on Moral Politics, a local Seattle political talk show that airs at 6 pm PST on Channel 77 and can be seen streaming live on the web here, one of our up and comers will be talking about what he calls, “a different kind of politics.”  Eric Oemig is running for the 45th District’s State Senate seat and he is a great candidate. He has spent a lot of time talking to the people in his district, visiting over 1300 homes and finding out what matters most to them, so be sure to watch, especially if you live in the 45th district because it’s time we get the representation we deserve, at every level of government.

It’s hard to get good people to run for office these days, I know I surely wouldn’t want to do it, but for those who are willing to take the plunge, we should support them in every way we can.  I’m hopeful that long time activists like Mr. Oemig are taking the next step and running for office, that first time candidates like Darcy Burner are catching fire and raising money on the grass roots level, even exceeding expectations, and I’m encouraged by the vision of Howard Dean and his commitment to see the 50 State Strategy through, even as the Party elites fight him every step of the way.

We don’t want to emulate the way Republicans run their campaigns, complete with distorted information, smear tactics and voter suppression, but we can use some of their strategies that do work and that we can live with, like getting involved on the local level, cultivating candidates and supporting them in all races, from School Board to US Senate.  We all know that money has corrupted our political system and that far too many of our representatives are beholden to the Corporations that helped pay their way into the halls of power, but grassroots activism works too, and we must make a serious effort to wrestle the purse strings of power from Corporate interests and take hold of them ourselves.  

We must get behind good local candidates, help cultivate their talent and support them financially so that they are only beholden to us.  Until we can get the money out of politics and commit to publicly funded elections, we will have to buy our candidates the same way Corporate America does.  It may not be fair, but it will work.  If we all do it, it won’t take much from each of us, after all, the mantra of grassroots activism is “every little bit counts.”  Darcy Burner, in raising $150,000 in ten days largely from individual small donors, has proven the slogan to be true.  There are lots of great local candidates out there, so find them, toss a little money their way and we will be one step closer to having real representation in government again.  If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a reality we would be well served to recognize.  Hey, no one ever said politics was pretty.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Podcasting Liberally With No Special Guest

Here’s the latest installment of the Drinking Liberally Podcast, the show is 54:46, and is available as a 34.6 MB MP3. You can go to for complete archives and RSS feeds and find your own local meeting place at

At the table this week were Will, Gavin, Carl, first timer Jeremy, a writer and editor for Seattlest, little ol’ me, and hosted, of course, by David Goldstein of the infamous Horse’s Ass (as opposed to AN infamous Horse’s Ass, which he’s not (at least not in my experience (so far))). As I mentioned, there was no special guest, but Goldy assured us that “we’re all kinda special in our own way.” Thanks Goldy, I think.

On the table for discussion, Big Dick’s trip to Washington State, Ron Sims’ wonderful plan to expand bus service but why trains are better, the proposed new stadium for the Sonics and Goldy’s ingenious idea for how to fund it, the retired Generals’ outpouring of non-support for Rummy and, of course, the ineptness of the Bush administration in general. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Confab creators, Gavin and Richard, for producing the show because without them, we’d just be liberals drinking in a bar instead of liberals drinking in a bar with headsets on.

Deciding The Decider Is A Dunce

What does it do to our national psyche to have this man, this bumbling idiot, this “decider” of all things, as the President of our country?  Not only is he an intellectual lightweight, he appears, at times, to be mentally challenged.  I fear that the message we are sending to the rest of the world is, “Yup, this is the best and the brightest that we have to offer.”  Isn’t that what the Presidency should be?  And if it is, surely watching this man speak has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that, as a country, we are suffering from low self-esteem, and not just slightly low, but scraping the bottom of the barrel low.

So, what is the cure for national low self-esteem (although the more I study Bush Jr., the more I wonder if it’s actually national self-loathing)?  Should we look in the mirror and chant daily affirmations?  Or perhaps the answer is what psychologists and motivational speakers tell individuals, believe that you are worthy and you will become so.  There does seem to be an awful lot of that going on, but up to this point, I’ve been chalking it up to arrogance, self righteousness and ignorance, but maybe these faux patriots are on the right track, even if purely by accident.

If we pretend that we are the America that we were raised to take such pride in, we can actually become that again.  But the flag waving, yellow ribbon wearing, “America lovers” that we see every day are just imagining that we are the country we love, and are missing the critical step of behaving as if it were true.  To become what we believe in, we must back it up with action.

We can pretend to be patriotic and love our country, but in order to become authentic patriots, we have to behave as if we already are.  Support our troops with proper equipment and training, provide for their families while they are away, give them clear objectives and leadership that is competent enough to carry it out.  We can pretend to be educated, but to become truly educated we have to behave as if we are.  We must look at all sides of an issue before choosing a side, we have to read, listen, learn and think about things rather than simply dig up facts to support our already firmly entrenched views.  If we want our country to be great, we must behave as if it is, and that means using the tools of our democracy to make it so.

The only way to feel better about America is to act as if we are better.  We cannot allow one man, one radical vision, one delusional ideology to destroy who we are.  To use more psychological jargon, the first step is acceptance.  We must accept that this President does not represent us, that he is not the face of America that we want scowling at the rest of the world on our behalf.  That acceptance is settling across the land, and now those of us that have already accepted that truth must lead the way in our actions.  There has to be a price paid for embarrassing our country, for dragging down our morale and making us feel less than we are.  This man, this idiot, this sad excuse for a leader must be removed from the helm.

Rendering him impotent is not enough.  As long as we are forced to watch his stumbling speeches, his mangling of the language, his reverse Midas touch that turns everything to shit, his disastrous policies that bankrupt us financially and morally, we will continue to feel bad about ourselves.  We do not have the leadership we deserve, so let’s stop acting as if we do.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Kentucky Common Sense

The Board of Education in Kentucky is making some common sense recommendations for their textbooks and of course the religious right is offended.  They want to include the dating designations of B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) along with the currently used B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini).  It makes sense to include the new designations, if for no other reason than to familiarize students with the terms that are increasingly used in scientific study.  It hasn’t brewed into an all out fight yet, but that may change as already The Family Foundation of Kentucky is making noise over the proposal.  One of their arguments against it is that it will confuse the children.  If knowledge and information confuses them, we’ve got bigger problems than how we designate dates in our school textbooks.

Who Says The Early Bird Gets The Worm?

The New York Times received a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the NSA warrantless domestic surveillance story. It was a great piece of journalism and an excellent example of the press acting as a check on abuses of governmental power. My only beef is that they should have received the honor last year, but they didn’t because they chose to sit on the story for months, and by doing so, they showed their willingness to abdicate their responsibility to inform the public when it matters. If this story had come out before the election, things may have turned out differently and that is something the New York Times will have to live with.

It’s a great piece yes and James Risen deserves accolades for his work, but timing is everything, and the impact of a story should be as relevant as its content. Would Seymour Hirsh’s piece on the My Lai massacre have had the same impact if the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, and the 33 other newspapers worldwide that published it, had instead sat on the story until after the war? The people’s right to know is not contingent upon whether or not the information being revealed is convenient for the Bush administration. In the end, The New York Times failed its reporter because a year late, and integrity short, does not a prize worthy article make.

Paying For The Pleasure

The Japanese want our forces out of their country so badly, that they may even be willing to pay 75% of the $10 billion the US says it will cost to relocate them. I wonder how much Iraq would be willing to pay for a similar deal? I guess they’ll have to wait 60 years to see the price tag for purging US forces from their country. We invade, we occupy, but you pay the cost of our ticket home when we’re done. Nice.

Check Out Confab

The producers of the Drinking Liberally podcast (found at Podcasting Liberally), Gavin Shearer and Richard Huff, were nice enough to invite me to participate in their podcast, Confab.  It’s not all politics, just good conversation with some smart, funny people.  We did get stuck on the immigration debate for a while, it was interesting to hear so many differing views from people who all come at it from a different angles, but who all recognize that it is a real problem that desperately needs solving.

So check it out.  On the couch this week:  Brian Gaither, Richard Huff, Sara Lingafelter, Will Kelley-Kamp, Gavin Shearer, Keith Vaitkus and me.

Topics include:  Forrester’s report on podcasting (I know, podcasting about podcasting is like blogging about blogging, but sometimes it can’t be helped), the Confab birth story, immigration, healthcare, to re-build or not re-build the Viaduct.  Also, Sara shares her knowledge of employment law and Will reveals his obsession with “The Two Percent Solution.”  You can listen to the show here. (38 MB MP3, 56:21 minutes).  Enjoy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Paradise Of Lost Souls

There’s a certain amount of comfort we take in knowing that our elected officials are intelligent people, able to handle the enormous task of running our government and executing our foreign policy and we rest assured knowing that they work for us, are accountable to us, can be fired by us and must work within the confines of our Constitution that ensures one branch of government has oversight authority over the other two. At least we used to be able to take comfort in those things, not so much anymore.

It’s flabbergasting that this administration has declared it need not be accountable to anyone. It’s downright disgusting that Congress hasn’t felt the need to disagree, let alone disabuse them of such a radical notion. Each morning, many of us expect to wake up to more reports of abuses of power as well as justifications for those abuses, usually courtesy of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It’s hard to think of a single thing, however outrageous, that this administration won’t do, “Bush Nukes Iran” (without Congressional approval of course) is only the most recent nightmare headline that many of us fully expect to wake up to some day soon.

Bush has an approval rating of around 35%, and the Republican led Congress is down around 23% approval, yet here we are, and our only option seems to be waiting around until November when we hope the balance of power will shift, at least a little bit. It’s hard to know what to do, vent about how little democracy we have left or cheerlead for change. The only problem is, there’s no one to cheer for other than the beaten down Americans who are working harder for less money and going into personal debt even faster than our country, but short of an uprising, what leverage do we really have? Only half of us vote, and the ones who benefit the most from Republican tax breaks, have a better turnout percentage than those of us who don’t, and that’s a very sad truth. The good news is, there are many more of us than there are of them, but far too many of us are too tired, too disenchanted, too overworked to get worked up about elections. If we can change that, we can change the direction of our country.

The reality of how far we have fallen as a country, and just how much work it will take to bring us back can be overwhelming. Just imagine what it would be like (most likely, if you’re reading this, you’ll have to) working two minimum wage jobs, just to put food on the table. It certainly wouldn’t leave much time to worry about politics. There is a rampant assumption that non-voters suffer from apathy, and that may be true of some, but the 30 million people in this country trying to survive on minimum wage, without health insurance or decent schools for their kids, one missed day of work away from being homeless, most likely don’t vote in greater numbers because making it to the polls doesn’t even rank in the top ten things to worry about on election day, for most of them, a day like any other.

While the news is bad on just about every front, a raised debt ceiling, a stagnant economy that may or may not be on the brink of total collapse, more poverty, more homeless, more death and destruction in Iraq, the looming possibility of yet another war with Iran, there still seem to be signs that we are nearing the end. Apparently Tony Blair cancelled a trip to the U.S., just to avoid being photographed with Bush, and here in Washington State, Congressman Dave Reichert was happy to take money from a fundraiser featuring Dick Cheney, but he refused to go on stage to avoid the photographic evidence of his complicity in the damage this administration has caused. Bush is the stinky sock that no one wants to pick up, the sulfur smell that no one wants to be blamed for or tainted by. Surely that’s an indication that the shine has come off, and we can only hope that his influence will soon dull as well. I guess it’s enough to get us through another day. Paradise it isn’t, but the end of this hell is a bright speck on the horizon, at least I hope that’s what it is.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Donald in Miscalculand

A guest post by, Mark W. Bradley

One day, when he was in the third grade, Donald Rumsfeld brought a bomb to school. He put it on the teacher’s desk.

“Is it real?” she asked.

“Maybe,” he replied.

“You mean you brought it to school, and you don’t know whether or not the thing is armed?” she asked.

“It’s really hard to know something like that,” he said. “At least until all the facts are in.”

“Where did you get it?” she demanded, with growing alarm.

“I found it on my way to school. It was just lying there by the side of the road, so I picked it up,” he offered.

“Why would you bring such a dangerous thing to school, Donald?” the teacher asked sternly.

“Well, technically, we don’t really know if it’s dangerous or not, do we? I mean, it might be dangerous, but then again, it might not be. It all depends on a number of factors. For instance, the detonator might be fully operational (at least in theory), and yet not have received sufficient pressure to activate the explosive material inside the detonation chamber. On the other hand, it may be temporarily malfunctioning for a variety of reasons, including faulty assembly at the manufacturing plant or even incidental field damage attributable to mishandling, in which case the devise may be entirely harmless, at least for the foreseeable future. Of course, there is a third possibility we really ought to factor into the equation, which is…”

Just then, as Donald was expounding on the mind-numbing range of variables inherent in the situation, the bomb suddenly exploded, killing the teacher and two students, and causing considerable collateral damage to the rest of classroom. Five students were hospitalized for a period of several weeks, some suffering massive trauma and/or multiple amputations. One boy (who had been passing a note to the girl behind him at the time of the explosion) lost about half the occipital lobe of his cerebral cortex, an injury that caused him considerable hardship for the remainder of his short life.

For the next few months, the students at Drew, Fisk and Gould Elementary School had to be bussed to nearby schools, while the infrastructural damage to their own campus was painstakingly repaired by a construction company conveniently owned by Donald’s father, also a member of the local school board. The cost of the reconstruction was covered by the sale of bonds, most of which were purchased by Donald’s uncle, J.P. Rumsfeld, at an unusually high interest rate of 73%. Finally, by the end of May, the school was reopened and the children returned to class, anxious to resume their education.

On his first day back at school, Donald was accompanied by his mother, who was there to shield him from any unfair criticism he might receive at the hands of disgruntled parents or fellow students. In fact, it was a good thing she was there, as one particularly angry teacher confronted Donald as he attempted to enter the science room.

“What are you still doing here? Haven’t you caused enough trouble this year?” the teacher growled.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Donald’s mother. “Just look around you, Buster… This school was in pretty sad shape before my son started going here. Now, look at it! State-of-the-art classroom facilities, freshly painted hallways, a new concrete pillar holding up a brand new section of roof…”

“That’s not the point!” the teacher replied. “People were injured here, some even killed! Don’t you or your son feel any remorse or even responsibility for that? What kind of heartless people are you, anyway?”

“How in the world can you imagine my son is responsible for what happened?” she retorted with indignation. “Let me remind you of the facts as they then existed on the ground. First, there was a time-bomb of mass destruction ticking away at this school, and no one had the guts to disarm it! If my son Donald hadn’t stepped into the breach and boldly taken it upon himself to safeguard the lives of everyone here, God only knows how much many more casualties might have resulted. Secondly, I don’t think anyone here could have predicted that tampering with an explosive devise would have had this kind of destructive effect. And thirdly, I think we can all agree that the school is better off without Mrs. Pesterwell, rest her soul. She did mistreat the children so…”

“She was a brutal dictator!” whined Donald. “She got what she deserved!”

Although the teachers and parents all signed a petition to have Donald expelled (or at least suspended) from school, when they presented it to the school board, they received the following response:

“Having examined the facts in this case, we have reached the conclusion that Donald Rumsfeld acted with outstanding physical and moral courage (not to mention uncanny foresight) in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the terrorist assault on Drew, Fisk and Gould Elementary School. As such, we see no valid reason why he should not be allowed to complete the third grade coursework required for his Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from nearby James Buchanan Community College…”

After a predictable spate of grumbling from those who felt justice had not been served in this particular instance, things pretty much settled down to normal.

That is, until on his way to school one day, Donald found a mayonnaise jar full of nitroglycerin….

Mark W. Bradley is a schoolteacher and political satirist in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at:

Outraged At Being Portrayed As Outraged

There’s been quite the controversy over the Washington Post article “The Left, Online and Outraged”. My first reading of it certainly didn’t elicit the same response that it has from other lefty bloggers, many are pissed at the suggestion that we are all angry, raging, venom spewing, foul mouthed hate mongers. What do you expect, it’s the Washington Post? I usually try to refrain from blogging about blogging, but with all of the hoopla, I figured I might as well throw in my two cents. It’s Easter, who’ll actually read it, right?

So the Washington Post chose Mary Scott O’Connor and My Left Wing to profile instead of the myriad of left leaning blogs that are rational critiques of policy and meticulous accounts of scandal, crime and incompetence. And sure, by doing so the WaPo focuses their readers’ attention on only a small part of the blogisphere, one they frame as the radical extreme, but that makes for a much better story than wonky political analysis (a practice given up long ago at WaPo). It’s not as if the Washington Post is a bastion of real and reliable news, isn’t that why we make fun of them on a daily basis?

This was a personal profile and I think that the portrayal was an honest one. From what I can tell, Mary Scott doesn't appear to have the huge problems with it that others seem to. I also think that what she has to say, where she comes from, the honesty with which she puts forth her ideas, her history and herself, will be appealing to many WaPo readers and might even drive them to blogs for something more real, the news from the other side, if you will.

While I understand the frustration of many bloggers, who toil away each day doing serious and well put together work, I’m just not able to get all worked up about this one. Maybe the purpose of the story was to marginalize us, to make us seem unhinged and irrational, but beyond the fact that it won’t work long-term, why do we really care? Do we need or want the Washington Post to validate the work we do? And why take that frustration out on Mary Scott O’Connor? You may not like what she writes, you may even think that her rants reflect badly on your more tempered approach to blogging, but the great thing about the internet is that there’s room for all voices and there is no denying that My Left Wing appeals to a growing audience and perhaps anger is the first step in getting those readers activated.

The Smirking Chimp, also mentioned in the article, has many angry readers as well, this I have deduced from experience. I regularly get beat up by commenters there if I dare write an article suggesting that we are not doing enough to counter, in an effective way, the onslaught of bad legislation and bad policy coming out of DC, or that we must do a better job in framing our values for easy digestion by Middle America. I’ve decided that many of them are just looking for red meat to chew on. People are angry, and moving them to action is a challenge that MSOC has taken on with gusto, how dare we fault her for that?

There also seems to be this “well, who is she to be blogging?” mentality. Yes, there are many lawyers and policy analysts blogging for the left, but does that mean that the everyman(woman) has nothing to contribute to the dialogue? I, after all, am just the (liberal)girl next door, but I have an informed opinion and I like to think that I’m giving voice to others just like me, the same thing that Ms. O’Connor does. The “professionals” out there may not appreciate our views, but they certainly must deal with them. We may not be the ones that ultimately come up with the answers, but we can at least articulate the problems as we see them, a valuable service for those blowing in the wind trying to find direction.

And while I disagree with the Washington Post’s framing of My Left Wing as the radical extreme as well as their attempt to paint us all with the same brush, I am much more bothered by other lefty bloggers continuing the meme. Don’t we have every reason to be angry? And if we express that anger does that automatically mean we must be relegated to the fringe? There is a place for both, venting of the anger and a positive agenda that will help us move past it. If the Washington Post chooses to focus on the anger, that’s because focusing on the other creates an immediate problem for them. The “angry left” is easy to write off, they’ve been doing it for years, but the serious policy blogs create direct competition for them, is anyone surprised that they didn’t select one of those to profile? If you are, you’re just being silly and looking for validation from the one place you’ll never get it.

The Washington Post is no longer the paper of Woodward and Bernstein, it is the propaganda arm of the Bush administration. Of course they want to make us seem crazy, and I say, let ‘em, would they be going to all the trouble if they weren’t concerned? We all know how blogs work, increased readership comes from clicking around, and by directing their audience to My Left Wing, the other blogs will be found. If they want to help boost our readership, fine by me. I've received a nice bump on my site meter as a result, and I doubt that all of them are coming to laugh at the angry liberals. I think they're coming because they're curious, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Day In The Life Of A Lefty Blogger

David Finkel of The Washington Post has published an article today about Mary Scott O’Connor, the proprietor of My Left Wing.  If you’ve ever wanted an inside look at the daily life of a blogger, this is peek behind the curtain.  For a lot of us on the left, it is rage and frustration that fuels us, but few express it as well as O’Connor.  I rely on her daily rants to calm me down enough to write each day, occasionally it doesn’t work and I have to rant too, but most of the time, her free expressions of anger and grief help relieve me of my own.  A valuable service for sure.

Congratulations Mary Scott, I hope this exposure brings more people to My Left Wing. There sure are a lot of us out here that need to hear what you have to say.

Believe It Or Not, It’s A Fun Read

Over at the Awful Forums, there is a great thread started by Martin Random, a supposed White House insider, and he’s dishing dirt about our favorite Bush administration villains.  It seems like a hoax, until you start reading the rest of the thread and his answers to questions asked by the rest of the folks in the forum.  Whether he’s for real or not, it is a very fun read, I’m still not done, but I’ve been stuck there for a while so I thought I might as well direct you there too.

A few of the nuggets are Cheney has bad breath AND he’s a close talker (not a good combination), Rumsfeld wears iced underwear, Tom Ridge is a freak, Homeland Security spends millions of dollars on useless products from China that it buries in the dessert, and although I didn’t like what he had to say about Russ Feingold, I still recommend the thread, it’s great fun, even if it’s not true.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Omaha’s Just Making Legal What The Rest Of The Country Is Already Doing

The Legislature in Nebraska just passed a bill that will break up the Omaha school district into three smaller parts, one black, one white and one Hispanic. Of course they will not be exclusively so, but because the population there is largely segregated and kids must go to their neighborhood school, the make up of the schools will be predominantly one race. The argument for the bill is that minority communities will be given more control over their own schools, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is legalized segregation. The bill will likely be challenged as a direct violation of equal protection, but Omaha is simply validating what is already happening in public schools across the country.

Five years ago, my husband and I took our daughter to her first day of school. We had her tested for early enrollment into Kindergarten because she was already reading and waiting another year seemed ridiculous. Because she had to be tested over the summer, we had to take whatever placement we could get, which meant that she ended up at the public school with the least competition. I find it sad that there’s competition to get into specific schools, it shouldn’t matter, all of our public schools should be equally great.

Anyway, we dropped her off at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, watched our little girl navigate the throngs of kids and, of course, I cried. Once we were finally able to pull ourselves away from behind the bush where we’d been eyeing her progress, we got into our car and drove home. On our way, we passed another public school and I realized, as I watched the mostly white kids streaming around the beautiful building, that we had just dropped our daughter off at a run down, mostly black school. Segregation lives in Seattle, I just hadn’t noticed before then. And Seattle is not alone, not by a long shot.

We can talk about what a disaster No Child Left Behind is, but beyond one bad government program is the fundamental truth that we have segregated schools in this country, and the way we fund them makes clear that we have some serious problems with race. Just like Hurricane Katrina laid bare the reality of race and class as we watched poor black people begging to be saved, the state of our public schools exposes this same dirty little secret. A hurricane comes and goes, but education is supposed to be the great equalizer and with segregated schools that are certainly not equal, we are ensuring that our race and class problems will continue far into the future.

Again, Oprah is ahead of our politicians on this, and is attempting to bring the issue to light in a series she is doing on her show that highlights the crisis in our public schools. She sent Anderson Cooper into a few public schools in Washington DC and what he found there was devastating. Peeling paint, holes in the ceiling, broken pipes, whole areas of the school shut off due to dangerous conditions, bathrooms boarded up and general decay. What must it be like to spend six hours a day in such a depressing environment? The kids who attend the school used words like, forgotten, abandoned, hopeless and worthless. By not funding our schools equally, we are sending the message to our kids that some of them aren’t worth our time, money or energy. How do we expect these kids to turn out?

Jonathan Kozol, in an article for Harpers titled, “Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid,” pulls no punches and says that our failure to call our educational system what it is, apartheid, is contributing to the problem. When we refuse to acknowledge the severity of the problem, we show that we are content to sweep it under the rug and ignore the long-term affects of a broken system. This is not simply a minority problem, while the injustice of a two-tiered educational system should spark enough moral outrage to spur on real changes to the system, it is also important for white middle class families to understand that this affects them too. How competitive are we going to be as a country if we refuse to educate our young people? We spend twice as much to incarcerate people as we do educating them. That is a disgrace, but beyond the moral implications, it makes little financial sense and allowing huge segments of our society to be left behind, will only create more crime, more poverty and more resentment that will steadily brew just beneath the surface.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund put out a report titled, “Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” in which they discuss the real problem of “feeder schools,” those that have a high drop out rate and a disturbingly high rate of students who end up in the criminal justice system. This has nothing to do with black students having a tendency toward crime or an inability to learn, but instead has everything to do with the unequal distribution of resources, segregated schools and the criminalizing of behavior in some schools and not others. By not funding our schools equally, by not investing in the decaying infrastructure and by not modernizing the way we educate our kids, we are putting ourselves on a collision course toward disaster.

There is no reason to continue funding our schools through property taxes that go only to schools near those properties. Any idiot can see that a funding system structured this way will continue to cheat most of our kids. Educational funding must be distributed equally, on a per child basis. All of our schools must be updated and provide an education that is relevant to the technological age. We must build more schools and make them smaller so that teachers can know their students and students can know each other. We should be sending our kids into a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment each day, that will facilitate learning and we should expect more of them. But how can we expect them to strive for greatness when we set them up for failure. We must show our children, all of our children, that we do care, that we do think they are worthy and that we are willing to invest in their future, because we know that if we do, they won’t let us down.

Bill and Melinda Gates, through the Gates Foundation, are investing a billion dollars in education in this country. They know that we are falling short and understand the long-term problems that will result from an undereducated population and they dare to ask the question, "What good is it for kids to graduate in 2006 from a school system that was designed for 1956?" How we answer that question will determine our future, not just for the poor, not just for minorities, but for all Americans and while private investment is great, the real solution is a public commitment to equality in education and a willingness to invest in our greatest resource, our children.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

General Dissatisfaction

I’m encouraged by the reports that career military officers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, in truth, I’m surprised it’s taken so long. If Bush is incompetent, then a whole new word must be devised to adequately describe the failure that is our current Secretary of Defense. I’m hard pressed to think of a single good decision the man has made, but in this administration, that’s certainly not unusual nor is it grounds for reprimand or gasp, dismissal. To get kicked out of this White House you have to speak truth to power or get indicted.

Abrupt departures from this White House are often followed by criminal charges. Sure, Lewis “Scooter” Libby got indicted before he resigned his post, but David Safavian abruptly left his post as the top procurement official at the White House Office of Budget and Management (OMB) a mere days before he was led away in handcuffs. And not long ago, Claude Allen up and left his job as Bush’s domestic policy advisor to “spend more time with his family” but it turns out that was code for, looks like I’ll be arrested next month on theft charges.

And truth speakers, like former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, former counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clark, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, all attempted to counter the echo chamber and were pushed out as a result. Kind of sounds like the mob doesn’t it? If you break ranks or challenge the boss, you will be punished, but if you get arrested, they’ll be there to help with your defense and make prison as nice as possible.

There have been rumors floating around that Cheney is thinking of retiring after the mid-term elections, but unless there are handcuffs in Dick’s immediate future, I wouldn’t bank on it. That slippery snake has too many heads, chopping off one of them won’t make a damn bit of difference. And as far as the rumors that Rumsfeld will leave his post, the surest indication that Bush won’t cut him loose is the fact that career military officers are begging for it. Much like they begged for more troops and proper armor for our soldiers.

Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff went public this week with his displeasure at how the Iraq war has been handled. He gives a critique of Rumsfeld’s handling of the war, but he also goes after those who made the decision in the first place. Newbold’s article, “Why Iraq Was A Mistake” published in Time, goes beyond mere criticism though, he also makes a plea to his former collegues to do what is right, come forward and tell the truth, no matter the consequences. He even expresses his regrets in not coming forward sooner.

So now we have five retired Generals demanding the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld. I just wish I had more hope that they’d be listened to.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Podcasting Liberally With Jesus’ General

The podcast was fun last night and it was great to meet Gen. JC Christian, Patriot of Jesus’ General, although it was a bit of a challenge to argue with him while laughing my ass off. Ganging up on Patriotboy this week were Will, Lee, Darryl, myself, and of course moderated (if you can call it that) by our host David Goldstein of Horse's Ass.

On the table along with the drinks this week were, immigration, Bush administration plans to bomb Iran, Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong’s Crashing The Gate book event here in Seattle and the bare ass of The General.

The show is 51:56, and is available here as a 31.5 MB MP3. Please visit for complete archives and RSS feeds.

Sorry, But I Just Have To Rant

Bloomberg is reporting that Iran can have nuclear weapons in a matter of weeks.  Is this just another snow job by the Bush administration bolstered through selective leaking of intelligence in order to make their case for war with Iran?  Are we really ready to let this happen again?  Are we so powerless that we have no choice but to sit back and watch another preemptive strike on a country that poses no threat to us?  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY?

I hear Democrats agreeing with the Bush administration that “something has to be done about Iran” but my question is why?  Why must we stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program?  Because we’re so responsible with the power we wield by being the sole nuclear superpower?  That’s freaking laughable!  The only countries not in danger of a preemptive US invasion are those that possess nuclear weapons.  How can we fault Iran for wanting to protect itself from our warmongering President who can do whatever he damn well pleases, with no oversight from Congress, and no accountability to the people?  ARE WE SO FAR GONE THAT WE ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT THE DEATH OF OUR DEMOCRACY BECAUSE BUSH IS SUCH A GREAT GUY?

On the whole, we are overfed, undereducated, complacent, impotent, simpleminded, myopic, religiously delusional and apathetic.  The immigrants protesting around the country have a better understanding of America than the rest of us.  Perhaps, as a group, they have suffered from poverty in a way we never have and therefore have a deeper appreciation for the idea of America.  Are we convinced that the idea of America is dead, regardless of what we say out loud to each other?  Deep down, have we internalized the alternate history of our country, the history that shows imperialist tendencies, brutality around the world, exploitation of lands and peoples for profit?  HOW MUCH SUFFERING ARE WE WILLING TO WATCH?

They say that people get the government they deserve.  We watch too much television, don’t read enough books, don’t care that our children know less about American history than kids in China, eat too much processed food, don’t vote and have no clue what happens in the rest of the world.  Is it any surprise that a population like that ends up with a government like this?  DO WE REALLY HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE WORST TO HAPPEN BEFORE WE WILL BE WILLING TO GET OFF OUR FAT, LAZY ASSES AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

I don’t know where to go from here.  Living through this administration is like suffering from bi-polar disorder.  One minute there is hope that this nightmare will end, and the very next it seems impossible that it won’t end badly.  I have stated many times that the Bush administration, when caught doing the unthinkable, simply ups the ante.  Get selected President by the Supreme Court, voila 9/11 and instant political capital.  Questions arise about 9/11, preemptively invade a sovereign nation.  Get caught lying about the justification for invasion, out a CIA undercover agent working on nuclear proliferation.  When the investigation gets a little too close, use the NSA to conduct illegal surveillance of American citizens in order to quash dissent.  When that ugly truth gets out, make plans to bomb Iran.  HOW MUCH MORE ARE WE WILLING TO TAKE?

Do we really need to see the worst happen in our own front yard before we will believe that it’s happening?  I doubt that would even be enough though, it would have to be aired on television before it will seem real to Americans.  It seems crazy, with the quagmire of Iraq still devouring our young men and women along with what’s left of our treasury, that Bush would start another war, but that’s what he is, CRAZY!  And there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can, or are willing to do about it, and THAT’S JUST SO FUCKING SAD.

The Quick Slide From Incompetent To Liar

Erosion is usually a slow process, but not so for Bush administration credibility. There is something satisfying, if a bit frustrating, to see information that many of us on the left have known for years, finally making it into newspapers and onto newscasts. We knew that Bush lied us into the war in Iraq, we knew his administration went after critics with a vengeance and we knew that they’ve been covering up those lies from the very beginning, but now the rest of the country is getting the chance to know it too.

On the heals of Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker exposing Bush administration plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in their effort to spark regime change in Iran, it seems the press has decided it doesn’t want to sit idly by and wait to cover the devastation such a move would cause.

The Washington Post declares today that the Bush administration knew they were lying when they said that they had found WMD in Iraq. As the words, “We have found weapons of mass destruction” were leaving President Bush’s lips, the Pentagon had already informed him that the mobile biolabs recovered in Iraq had nothing to do with WMD. In the past, Bush has been able to spin the cherry picking of intelligence as “a different point of view” and even on occasion a mistake. But this time, he knowingly lied to the American people and that makes all the difference.

With the problems in the 2004 election, the failure in Iraq, the Downing Street Minutes, the NSA illegal surveillance, and the CIA leak case, Bush has been able to avoid any responsibility and the press has done nothing but make a little noise. Each time there is proof of administration culpability in deceiving the public, they seem to find a way to wiggle out of it. Many of us over the last couple of years have thought, “this is it, they’ll never get away with this one,” but they do. It feels like this time might be different, but we’re too jaded from past experience to be too hopeful.

This new revelation from the Washington Post may not yield much, but it does seem to be part of a whole piling on by the press. Maybe they’re not as afraid of crossing a President with a 37% approval rating, or perhaps they have finally had enough, whatever the reason, it may just spur on those who’ve been sitting in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to tell the truth. Colin Powell seems to have received the memo giving the all clear.

According to Robert Scheer at Truthdig, Powell gave him the skinny on the Niger claim.
“The CIA was pushing the aluminum tube argument heavily and Cheney went with that instead of what our guys wrote,” Powell said. And the Niger reference in Bush’s State of the Union speech? “That was a big mistake,” he said. “It should never have been in the speech. I didn’t need Wilson to tell me that there wasn’t a Niger connection. He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. I never believed it.”
It would have been nice if Mr. Powell had shared that information publicly when he resigned, but whatever, he’s saying it now and he is still a voice that carries a lot of credibility with Middle America.

Powell’s statement also puts the whole CIA leak case into perspective and I have long thought that Patrick Fitzgerald’s case could very well be the one that brings this administration down. The news last week that Bush and Cheney authorized the leaking of classified information is a political problem for sure, but it could lead to impeachment, even with Republicans in control of Congress. It may have been legal for the President to order the leaking of classified information, but impeachment is not only a legal remedy, it is a political one as well. As Dave Lindorff at Counterpunch explains,
“lying to the American people was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee as in impeachable offense in the case of President Richard Nixon, and was one of the counts approved by the full House of Representatives against President Bill Clinton. While not a statutory crime, Congress has long held that lying to the public can be a “high crime” meriting of impeachment under the Constitution.”

There is little doubt left that Bush has repeatedly lied to the American people and the evidence of those lies is beginning to make its way into even the mainstream news. We’ve been here before, staring at facts that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this President should be impeached, but if the pile on continues, if there is a backlash against Bush administration plans to bomb Iran, if career military men resign over the proposed use of nuclear weapons, if Fitzgerald can indict more members of the Bush administration, if the public decides that they’ve been lied to for the last time, maybe, just maybe Republicans in Congress will be forced to hold this President accountable. It certainly won’t be because it’s the right thing to do, but it may prove to be their only chance to save themselves and their Party. At this point, I don’t care how Bush goes, as long as he does.

Just A Bit About Me

I’ve received many emails inquiring about who I am and what drives me to write this blog everyday. It is a labor of love for sure, as there aint’ no money in blogging just yet, but I get as much from you as I give, so it’s no big sacrifice on my part. So in response to the inquiries, I thought I’d share as much personal information as I’m willing to part with at this point.

What to say about me? Hmmm. I live in Seattle, love the gray but hate how long it hangs around, left my job at a non-profit for six weeks of maternity leave, over nine years ago, and haven't been back. I never intended to be a stay at home mom, but I never thought I'd have kids either, so clearly I didn't know much at 25. I have a nine-year-old daughter who is so much like me (fiery, opinionated, smart, a little stubborn) that it's a constant challenge to parent her. She is a lovely girl, everything I want her to be as an adult, but that can cause some problems when it's my job to steer her in the right direction, since she's not easily led.

I have a four-year-old son who loves his mom so much that he doesn’t give her any grief. I call him my reward child. My husband is a musician but since that doesn't support a family of four, he has also learned to love his computer geek inside (don't ask me what he does because it's all Geek to me, programmer, build engineer, whatever, I don't know). He's also a very smart man because he's the one who saw me spinning out of control after the '04 election, set up an account at blogger, bought me a laptop, sat me down and said "write". The rest you can read on this now flourishing blog.

I love Seattle, it's a beautiful place and it's a city that feels more like a small town. The people are nice, it has seasons, which I like, although the summer is a bit too short for my taste. In short, I've made a life I love here. But I am a small town girl at heart, and sometimes I long for the smaller, closer knit community that comes along with that. I grew up in a college town in northern California that is surrounded by farmland. It was a great place to grow up and my entire family is still there and I miss them very much. It truly is "red state" meets "blue state" there. A lot of rednecks, stock car races, fishing on the river, cheap beer and BBQ's, but the conservative bent is tempered by the influence of the college making them, in my opinion, the best people in the world.

When I go back home I get a lot of "girl, you sure are smart" and “take it to ‘em missy.” They don't all necessarily agree with what I write on my blog, but they read it nonetheless and they are the first to support me in my endeavors. I like to think I'm slowly bringing the conservatives among them around. My immediate family has always been fairly liberal, but some have a decidedly conservative bent and a few of the more liberal ones didn't marry well in that regard (but they did in all the ways that matter, that’s for sure).

My mom was a struggling single mother from the time I was eight and her financial situation hasn't changed much since then. She worries daily about what will happen to her, and that’s just not right. She's worked hard her whole life, doing medical billing (after working at the nut factory, the hardware store and stint at Dairy Queen) and has no retirement to speak of. Her struggle is what fuels a lot of my writing, because there is something so fundamentally wrong with a country that doesn’t value hard work and what a feat it is to raise two great kids, and she did it all with dignity and grace. My dad is a history teacher, a political satirist and largely responsible for my addiction to politics. He always taught me that what I do matters, and that doing nothing in the face of injustice, is never an option. He couldn't be prouder of what I am doing now. Becoming a doctor or a lawyer would have been a disappointment by comparison.

I guess that gives you a little insight into who I am. It seems pretty clear that, to me, family is of the utmost importance. I don’t view politics as a spectator sport and I care deeply about what happens in the world around me, but those closest to me are what matter most. Being closer to more of them is the only thing that could ever drive me away from my beautiful home in Seattle. I'm a poor, small town girl turned middle class mom in the city. I'd say my life is pretty good. I just won’t rest until everyone is able to say the same.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Electile Dysfunction Is A Very Real Problem

With Karl Rove thanking the Republican National Lawyers Association for their hard work these last few years in ensuring clean elections, I’m starting to have the sinking feeling that Rove is one step ahead again. We are still seven months away from the mid-term elections, but Bush’s approval numbers are steadily declining, as are the approval numbers for Republicans in Congress, and neither show any signs of stopping their downward slide. While this would normally be good news, where there’s Rove, there’s fire, and he is still in charge of the day to day political maneuverings of the GOP, and backs against the wall is perfect for someone like him. He always plays the political game like he’s got nothing to lose, and at this point, he really doesn’t. If he’s happy with what his henchmen have been able to accomplish on the voting front, the rest of us surely have cause for concern.

I mean, what better way to do away with free and fair elections, than to make them so problematic, so plagued with errors, so inefficient and so unreliable, that people become convinced that the whole system must be scraped. It sounds farfetched, but it’s exactly where we are headed, and very few Americans seem to give a damn.

I am not afraid of technology, and it certainly has a role to play in the administering of elections, but only if electronic voting can be made as secure and reliable as electronic banking. If people’s money was treated with the same carelessness as our votes currently are, there would be wall to wall coverage on the news and uprisings of people and businesses refusing to allow the theft of our money, whether by “glitches” “human error” or “fraud”, so why is there no outrage when it comes to our votes? I guess money really is what makes this country go, as many have contended, because it certainly isn’t the idea of “one man, one vote” anymore, if it ever was.

At this point, I don’t care if the last few election cycles have been stolen by the GOP, what I care about is democracy, and without a vote, we don’t have democracy. Sure, we still have the right to vote, but if that vote is not guaranteed to be counted, if they can be lost in the black hole of Microsoft Windows, if people living in urban centers, and those voting in predominantly Democratic districts have to wait hours in line to cast a ballot, while white, middle-class suburban NASCAR dads, Soccer Moms and rural Evangelical voters can breeze right through (read The Conyers Report), if hundreds of thousands of people can be scrubbed from the voter rolls, if the GOP can use phone-jamming schemes to suppress voter turnout, we don’t have a democracy and one man, one vote is nothing but a lie.

While I agree that fraud in the last several elections didn’t play as large a part as the failure of the Democratic infrastructure and the refusal to even participate in the so called “red states,” that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a very real problem with the way elections are now administered. I am all for building the Party, creating a cohesive set of values that incorporate all of the issues we care about and challenging Republican domination in the red states, but I am also for an accurate accounting of our votes. Again, if Rove is happy with what his Republican lawyer friends have been able to accomplish in the last two years, I’m pretty sure GOP improvements in electronic voting are not going to bode well for any candidate with a (D) after his or her name this November.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Strong Is Our Democracy Really?

Okay, I’ve taken a lot of heat in the past for continually bringing up fascism, and I think I’ve finally figured out that I’ve been asking the wrong question.  It isn’t whether or not we are moving toward fascism, the real question is, how strong is our democracy?

My aunt, a lovely lady, not overly political but an informed citizen, actively gives back to her community, a working mother and wife of a very politically minded Republican, has expressed concern about us not really being as free as we think we are.  I went on a local cable access television show about a month ago and after the airing, she called me up to, of course, tell me what a great job I’d done and how much she enjoyed watching it.  The topic of the show was religion and politics (one of my favorites) and I said many things not flattering about the Bush administration, and my aunt said, “While I was watching it, I thought, oh my, I hope there isn’t a black sedan out in front of the studio waiting to take her away, never to be heard from again.”  Now mind you, she said this in a joking manner, but there is a hint of fear in that kind of thinking, a tinge of how we really feel when we make jokes like that.

I can see how some people could call me a “tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist”, it’s not true or fair, but I understand how some could view me that way, but my aunt, no way.  Yet she and I (and I would venture to guess more and more people everyday) have the same sense that our freedom is in some ways an illusion that we willfully buy into because not to, is just too scary.  

When we read news stories about citizens arrested for refusing to show ID while riding a public bus, “free speech zones”, pacifists and Quakers investigated by the FBI, toy stores forced to remove toys from their shelves by Homeland Security due to copyright infringements, getting a ticket for displaying an anti-Bush bumper sticker, being fired for supporting progressive radio, paying off credit cards and triggering an investigation from Homeland Security, a retiring Supreme Court Justice warning of dictatorship, and the latest in this string of disturbing incidents, a teacher handcuffed and slammed against a car by Homeland Security agents in front of the elementary school kids for asking the agents to move their car out of the school bus zone, it’s hard not to wonder how free we really are.

As Leander Pickett, the teacher involved in the bus zone incident, said, “You now you hear these stories everyday and say, 'This will never happen to me,' but yesterday it happened to me.”  While I will concede that these stories do not mean we are moving toward fascism, the fact that they are happening is clearly having an affect on whether or not many of us feel as if we are, at the very least, moving into uncomfortable territory.      

It’s a combination of the authority we are willfully giving to the executive branch, the way in which the current administration handles that increased authority and how their lack of concern for individual rights is trickling down to those charged with exerting that authority over the people.  Whether or not we are moving toward dictatorship as Sandra Day O’Connor warned, in the end may not be as important as the way we process that kind of warning.  If we feel oppressed, we will act accordingly and avoid confrontation by censoring ourselves and that is a direct threat to our democracy.  I already feel uncomfortable expressing my displeasure with this administration, even in my own home.  Sure, I do it anyway, but I’m somewhat confrontational by nature and to me security is overrated.  But how many other people, like my lovely aunt, will stop expressing themselves out of fear, or if not fear, just the desire to not be hassled for it.  

Life is challenging enough for most people with work, family, friends and community, why make expressions of political thought one more thing we have to censor in our lives? Especially since we were raised to believe that we didn’t have to.  That’s a lot of history to overcome and behavior that we, as Americans, have become accustomed to.  Is security really worth changing, in a fundamental way, how we operate as a county?  I certainly hope not.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reclaiming Liberalism

I used to call myself a socialist and I am wondering why I don’t any longer, my views certainly haven’t changed. I think is has everything to do with the shift in political language, the distortion of the word “liberal” and the resulting shift of the Democratic Party toward a more right wing ideology and a shedding of the liberal ideals that once grounded them.

I recently wrote a post for Conservative Amnesty, in which I invited conservatives to join the Democratic Party, telling them that they will find themselves right at home since the Democrats have adopted many traditionally conservative principles, smaller government, fair taxes, less government intrusion into our personal lives. While I do believe this is true of the Party, I don’t know how comfortable I really am with the new face of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps it is just a reaction to neo-conservatism that makes traditional conservatism seem more appealing, and maybe I don’t feel comfortable advocating for socialist policies because it is so far from where we currently are. I was politically socialized during the Reagan years and even then, socialism was easy to argue for. From where we sit now, it seems like an unreachable place and with the liberal perspective effectively silenced by the right, what chance is there of being heard while advocating for Democratic Socialism.

Michael Stickings over at The Reaction wrote a beautiful post about liberalism and he makes a good argument that the United States has always been a liberal society and regardless of the gains made recently by neo-conservatives and the religious right, we are already in the process of swinging back toward our more natural liberal center. I hope he is right, but what I got most out of his post is that liberalism is worth reclaiming. I have always believed this (made obvious by the name of my blog) and the bastardization of the word liberal that we on the left have allowed to go unchecked for so many years, must finally be put to an end. We are not Progressives, we are Liberals and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

When we allow the opposition to define us, we lose the connection to who we are. There is a reason that the word liberal reminds us of words like, liberty, liberate, and liberally. To be liberal, is to give freely, as in “be liberal with the whipped cream on my all-American apple pie.” We exemplify the best of what this country has to offer and are responsible for the history most choose to embrace as the basis for what truly defines us as Americans. Liberal is defined as favorable to progress or reform. We want to continue to move forward, make progress and reform what is wrong, in other words, we want to be liberal.

Even those who have been tricked into claiming the label conservative most likely are not interested in stopping progress. To be conservative is to be cautious, moderate, controlled, guarded, unimaginative, undaring, timid and opposed to change. That doesn’t sound like America to me. We are advanced, enlightened, free, rational, reasonable, tolerant, big-hearted, and generous, all synonyms for liberal and all perfect descriptions of what America stands for. We are a liberal country, and it’s time we started acting like it again.

Friday, April 07, 2006

New Lows

As the Bush administration and Republicans on the Hill continue to show us that they haven’t sunk as low as is possible when it comes to political retribution, regressive tax policy and infringements on the constitutional rights of citizens, their poll numbers show no signs that they’ve quite hit their low point yet either.

An AP-Ipsos poll out today shows Bush’s job approval rating at 36%.  The AP article announcing these numbers also gives the comparison of 47% approval rating for the President just before the 2004 election, and that still burns me up.  How is it possible for the AP to continue to gloss over that glaring inconsistency?  There has never been a President reelected whose job approval numbers were below 50%, yet we are still supposed to believe that George W. Bush, a guy who was only given the benefit of the doubt that he could handle the job of President in the first place because people thought he was likable, was able to win the Presidency a second time after a majority of voters realized he was in over his head?  What, are we stupid?  Call me a sore loser, but I’ll never buy that load of crap no matter how many times they shovel it out.

My big fear with these poll numbers is that Democrats will start to believe them.  It’s one thing to recognize that the Republicans are self-destructing, but it’s quite another not to take full advantage of the situation.  The failed leadership and failed policy of Republican rule will continue to facilitate their fall, but in order to put them down, if not permanently at least for a very long time, Democrats must return to their roots and provide a vision of this country that appeals to working people who are feeling the pain and want a way out.  Most of the country now agrees that Democrats are better, so stop gloating and show us the money!

If Democrats can do what Bush promised to do, unite the country with a common vision of how to stop the slide and start bringing us back up to where we want to be, a leader in education, innovation, production and world stability, the country will be eternally grateful.  Our swing to the right is over, but we’d rather swing back facing the other direction, instead of freefalling with our backs to the future.  Democrats must open their eyes and see that all eyes are on them, failing now is not an option.

Fundamentalism Is A Political Movement

I have made the argument before (here and here) that Fundamentalism is essentially a political movement rather than a religious one, it is true of the Taliban in Afghanistan and it is certainly true of Fundamentalist Christians in this country.  Evangelicals are about spreading the word of God through testimonial and recruitment, Fundamentalists are about strict adherence to the Bible through legislative action.  To a Fundamentalist, adherence to God’s words are not an option, but rather an imperative and not just for himself or herself, but for everyone.  Our Constitution was designed to protect us from Fundamentalism and fighting for our Constitution is the only thing that will stave off the American Taliban.

I suspect that even Fundamentalists would not argue with that assessment, after all, they are highly organized and highly funded in their efforts to change the laws of this land to reflect and enforce their worldview.  I also suspect that they would consider themselves Christians first, and Americans second, so there would likely be no apology for their actions.  There is a sense among the faithful that what is good and right, is ordained by God, but good and right are far too subjective in a world made up of shades of gray.  Where our collective worldviews overlap, is where we must legislate from, but the fringes are where we must draw the line.  This is what it means to live in a free society, compromise and the common good is the focus and not any one minority view takes precedence over the rest.

The Bible was around when our country was founded, if our forefathers had wanted to establish a Christian Nation, they very easily could have.  But they didn’t.  Instead they were careful to keep God out of the equation and instead referred to “their creator”, meaning whatever higher (or lower) power each individual chooses to credit with life as each of us understands it.  Even a strict constructionist will have a hard time coming to a different conclusion.

Religion plays a large role in American society, whether good or bad, that is the reality, but we are given a legal framework for how to deal with that fact and we must use it.  I would prefer that God not be referenced in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our money or in our courts of law, but I also am not burning to take them out.  But it is also important to remember that the word “God” was not put there by the framers of our Constitution, it was added later in the ebb and flow over the years of Fundamentalist surges, and I would argue that it makes our country weaker.  

By adding the word God to our Pledge of Allegiance, we have not expanded God’s influence.  We have only managed to make the Pledge obsolete.  I will forever remember the Pledge, as I said it every day in school growing up.  My daughter doesn’t know it at all.  Fundamentalists will argue that Secularists are to blame for driving the pledge out of our public schools, but I would argue the opposite.  If in 1954, the Knights of Columbus hadn’t have insisted that the Pledge of Allegiance to our country also become a public prayer, the Pledge would still be recited in our public schools today.  If we are to honor our history as a tolerant, open and free society, God must not be forced on the public, but rather chosen by the faithful.  Government is for the people, all of the people, and Church is where God is best honored.