Friday, June 30, 2006

Hope & Balance

Guest Post By Fellow American J

Because I am on the web every day for at least a couple hours (I know, get a life!), I am on over a dozen email lists that have to do with political matters. If you’ve signed up for a request to get email news from groups like ‘’ or ‘’ then you know what I mean when I say I get more emails from these folks than friends. And I am not complaining! Some days it feels really out of control when I click my ‘’Send/Rcv” button in Outlook Express and get 15 messages, 12 which are from my groups who feel that I need to know about ‘Clean Money Day’ or Lt. Watada’s War Against The War so urgently that there should be an email rushed to my Inbox the moment enough news is available to make an article. It’s so funny because I really enjoy learning about most of this stuff….a good amount of which I would probably miss as I am too distracted by one scam after another from the Loonies in the Zoo called Washington.

Last Thursday I got one that made me cry.

Yeah, I know. I am shocked as you. Who would have thought that a jaded, fact-weary, illion-immune spirit like me would be choked up over a mass emailing?

Here is the bit that got me:

We ask you to join us now in honoring the strength and leadership of the Senators who stood with you:

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), co-sponsor
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT)
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), co-sponsor
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

When I saw that, let me tell you, I was speechless – and that happens on an average of twice a year.

After the initial downright delight, I felt a bit guilty because like a typical lazy American, I neglected to vote in the primary this year. I hate admitting it because it smells like hypocrisy big time. I can’t even say I didn’t bother because I knew Menendez would get in….I just didn’t read up on anything (too busy complaining – typical Liberal) and was ashamed to make what I felt would be an uneducated ‘guess’ on who would be best for my home cesspool of New Jersey. So when he won, I thought about how Blue will always be my favorite color and even though it’s a cesspool, it’s still Blue.

If you read my blog, you know I am long over due for a pleasant surprise, so to get this….to get BOTH of the NJ Senators vote with my beliefs….well, hey….that is just amazing. But what made me cry was it was just *so* against the odds. They stood up to their cowardly co-Democrats. They stood up to Chimpy and Beelzebub and The Black Cat and Numbsfeld. That felt something like Hope. And I haven’t felt that in a really really long time.

Tuedsay June 27th was my fourth year without someone who meant a lot to me that passed away.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Carnage of the Animals (music definitely not by Camille Saint-Saens)

Guest post by Mark W. Bradley

I’m a sixth generation Californian on my mother’s side, but my father’s father migrated to the Golden State from Texas less than a century ago. One of my great, great, great (trust me, he wasn’t that great) grandfathers was Hillary Logan, a marginally successful cattle rancher and steadfast guardian of white “racial purity” from Gatesville, Texas. Hillary was the father of twelve sons, most of whom came of age during the “War on Federal Government Intervention” (1861-1865). He was thus well-placed to bestow upon the Confederacy a critical mass of uncritical cannon fodder. My own great, great grandfather, Lt. J. H. Logan (he wasn’t that great either), managed to survive four years with the 10th Texas Infantry, and after the war went on to sire his own passel of corn-fed crackers, one of whom was great grandfather to my fourth cousin, Lamar “Buck” Logan.

I wouldn’t say Buck and I are close exactly, but on a recent trip to the Lone Star State I stayed on his fifty-five acre Crawford ranch with him, his wife Fayanne and their son Clayton. Upon my departure, I extended an offer of reciprocity -- should they ever find themselves in California, they were to call me and I would, of course, open my house to them. Being a typical Californian, I clearly meant the offer as nothing more than an empty gesture, never for a moment imagining the ignorant peckerwoods would be obtuse enough to take me up on it. Consider, therefore, my shock and consternation at being awakened last Sunday night just short of 11:30 to the sound of a loud knocking on my front door. As I stumbled warily toward the light switch that illuminates the front porch, I spied my distant cousin and his teenage son munching hungrily from a baggy full of goobers, and casually urinating into my wife’s meticulously manicured flowerbeds.

No sooner had I hustled them inside than Buck launched into a breathless explanation of their sudden appearance on my front porch.

“Clay and me was readin’ the dictionary the other day, and we run across the word ‘aardvark.’ It says in there that aardvarks only live in two places: Africa and the zoo. Clay remembered from when you was stayin’ with us, you said you lived near a zoo, and we figured that was a lot closer than Africa. So we decided, since Clay had vacation time stored up at the land-mine factory there in Crawford, we’d use the time to improve our minds, you know, learning about aardvarks and such…”

“They don’t have zoos in Texas?” I inquired.

“I don’t know of any,” Buck replied. “We just knew for sure there was one by your house, so we come here to see for ourselves.”

“You must be exhausted,” I said. “Why don’t you sleep here in the guest room, and in the morning I’ll take you to the zoo.”

“We’ll sleep in the pickup,” offered young Clay. “We don’t want nobody stealin’ our shit.”

“See you in the morning then,” I replied.

The next morning after breakfast, the three of us headed over to the zoo. On our way there, Buck began peppering me with what can only be described as an odd series of questions.

“Are there many dangerous animals at the zoo?” he asked.

“Sure,” I answered, “polar bears, Siberian tigers, lots of things.”

“What’ll we do if any of ‘em gets loose while we’re there?”

“I don’t think that’s likely,” I replied. “But in the event one of them did, I’m sure the zoo keepers have tranquilizer guns on hand.”

“But what if they don’t?” he inquired. “Do you think somebody might have to shoot the animal, I mean if it was dangerous enough?”

“I suppose.”

“Would you shoot it yourself if you had to?” Clay asked.

“If I had to in order to save someone’s life, I guess I would,” I answered, with growing discomfort.

At that, my two houseguests got uncharacteristically quiet.

Shortly after this unusual Q and A session, we arrived at our destination and parked the car near the entrance. I insisted on paying the price of admission, which left Clay with plenty of money to purchase a variety of items, including cotton-candy, an elephant’s head hat, and a large iced coke, into which he poured the contents of a silver flask he’d hidden in the front of his pants.

“Where are the big cats?” Buck asked.

“About a hundred yards along that pathway,” I told him, handing him the color-coded map. “I’ll meet you guys over there as soon as I take a piss.”

I had to wait in line to use the urinal, so I suppose I spent more time in that restroom than I intended, perhaps four minutes or so. In any case, the unscheduled delay turned out to be (to say the least) catastrophic.

My first indication of trouble was the sudden arrival of several terrified zoo patrons seeking cover from what sounded like a running gun battle outside the restroom. The second was an impossibly loud explosion, followed by the sound of shrapnel ripping its way through the nearby banana trees.

After that, I was less surprised than you might think to see a troop of screaming chimpanzees come barreling headlong through the open doorway and into one of the stalls, cowering in fear as they fumbled furiously to secure the broken lock behind them.

Alarmed as I was at this series of events, a vague familial obligation to see to the well-being of my Texas relatives drove me (tentatively and on my hands and knees) to make sure that they were, in fact, safe amidst all the sudden calamity. I thrust my head out of the doorway to get a better look.

Within my line of vision the carnage was widespread and devastating. Stampeding animals of every size and description, from furiously flapping flamingos to wounded and wild-eyed wildebeests, collided and careened into payphones and concession stands. Equally panicked people knocked each other to the pavement as they zigzagged from exhibit to exhibit, sobbing uncontrollably and crying out in voices quivering with terror. In the center of it all, a magnificent Asian lioness stood majestically astride an enormous pile of caramel-corn, trying to decide whether to pursue a zebra with a shattered hip or a pack of tasty-looking cub scouts.

Within a few short minutes, the distant sound of police sirens grew unbearably loud, conjoining itself with the hurricane of helicopter blades overhead, creating an ear-splitting cacophony that muffled the individual sounds emanating from the humans and other animals in distress. Just then, I caught my first glimpse of Buck and Clayton.

Evidently, they saw me as well, as Clay smiled, put down his semi-automatic rifle and waved his hands over his head to draw my attention. Buck, too, signaled for me to join them, just before lobbing a grenade into the Reptile House. Once the smoke had cleared and the last of the glass shards had come to rest on the asphalt walkway, I did just that, for no earthly reason I can discern, given the benefit of hindsight. When I reached them, Buck grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me roughly into the now empty grizzly bear enclosure.

“What’s the matter with you, boy!” he shouted over the din of battle. “You’re acting like you ain’t never been in combat before! Get your fool ass down quick ’fore you get it shot off!”

“Where’d all these weapons come from?” I asked in bewilderment.

“We brung em with us,” said Clay, with unmistakable pride in his voice.

“Why the fuck would you do that?!!” I demanded.

“How the hell we supposed to kill all these dangerous animals if we ain’t got no guns?” replied Buck, aghast at my evident stupidity.

“What are you fucktards talking about?” I shouted. “These animals were no threat to anybody locked safely in their cages!”

“Well, they’re sure as a hell a threat now,” interjected Clay. “Just look at that leopard chewing on that dead guy’s arm…”

At that point, Buck showed signs of becoming frustrated with my inability to grasp what, to him, was perfectly obvious.

“You know, the trouble with you gutless liberals is that you never want to take a preventative approach to problems like this. Last night you told us these animals were dangerous, and agreed that some of ‘em might have to be killed. Hell, you even told us you’d kill one yourself if it was absolutely necessary! Well guess what? It’s necessary now, isn’t it? So if I were you, I’d spend a little less time pissing and moaning about how we all got into this mess, and a lot more helping us figure out how to get out of it!”

“Never mind the Goddamn animals,” I said with more than a little irritation in my voice, “what about the shotgun-wielding SWAT team forming a perimeter around us as we sit here pissing away the last few precious moments of our miserable lives?”

Buck replied without hesitation. “In a situation like this, cutting and running is not an option. As Texans, we will not accept any outcome short of complete and total victory. To do otherwise would be to dishonor the memory of the animals who died so bravery here today.” Then he turned toward the police and let out a rebel yell to shake the rafters. “REMEMBER THE ALAMO!!”

Strangely enough, that was the exact image bedeviling my thoughts at precisely the moment the tear-gas canister cleared the walls of the grizzly pen where we were holed up. When it exploded, I experienced an intense flashback to the sixties, as the abrasive gases permeated every orifice of my body, transporting my nerve-endings back to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Bummer, dude!

I must have lost consciousness at that point, because when I came to, I was in a body cast, chained to a hospital bed. On either side of me were gurneys containing my two cousins.

“Don’t worry,” Clayton whispered to me in low, conspiratorial tones. “My dad’s militia friends are coming to bust us out of here later tonight.”

In the event anyone happens to see a nurse on this floor sometime before sundown, please tell him or her I’m ready to reconsider their offer. I’m now prepared to volunteer for that series of high-risk medical experiments offered earlier to me as an alternative to incarceration for the duration of my natural life. That’s predicated, of course, on my swift and confidential removal to a locked vault somewhere beyond the confines of this hospital…

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Vote Insecurity

The Washington Post has finally acknowledged that an election can be stolen without a vast conspiracy, thanks to electronic voting machines.  Of course they are reporting on a hypothetical election, but still, it’s a step forward at least.  The truth of the 2004 election will likely never be dealt with by the MSM, but if they can accept that the possibility of stealing an election is there, perhaps there is still a chance for meaningful changes to our vulnerable elections.

Not Going Away So Much As Resting Up For What’s Ahead

It has been a long six years under George W. Bush, and the last nine months of writing this blog have been some of the most rewarding and exhausting months of my life.  I look over the posts that I have written and I love every bit of it, the hope, the frustration, the optimism and even the rage, because it shows me that at least I am not sleepwalking through this time, when we all know that that would be the easiest choice to make, sometimes many of us wish we could, if only for the peace and quiet it would provide.  I especially love reading the comments.  You people are smart, insightful, thoughtful, articulate and sometimes even mean and nasty (and don’t think I don’t see the value in that, especially when you smack down the trolls better than I ever could).  I honestly don’t think I would have made it through this last year without you.

All that said, I am taking a vacation from as many items on my self-imposed “have to” list as I can for the next two week, and blogging is at the top of the list.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love blogging and I plan to keep doing it, but I need to not “have to”, just for a little while.  I want a chance to slack, not read the news and be free to express opinions that don’t have to be well thought out or defended (wow, I think I’ve just described your average Bush supporter).  Plus, my kids could use some focused attention for their first few weeks of summer and I could use the joy it brings to give it to them.  

I will likely continue to post some and my husband, Man of American Dissent, as well as my father, Mark W. Bradley will be posting some too.  In addition to the family help, Betty Cracker, Fellow American J and Will Kelley-Kamp of Pike Place Politics have all agreed to grace the pages of this blog with their witty, intelligent, honest and sometimes provocative commentary on issues local, national and international.  I can’t wait to read what they come up with, I’m sure it will be great.

Have fun with the guest bloggers and wish me luck on staying away.  Just watch, Jason Leopold will turn out to have been right, and a Karl Rove indictment will become public tomorrow testing my determination to take a break to its fullest (although you’d get no complaints from me).  With so many great bloggers, there may end up being more content here than usual, so don’t forget to scroll down and make sure you didn’t miss anything.  

So stick around, enjoy and I’ll be back bright eyed and bushy tailed on July 12th (and maybe at points in between).  Give the guest bloggers some love (and some grief), I know you’re good for it.  Peace.

Love The One You’re With (Or At Least In Reach Of)

Here’s an idea. If there isn’t a Congressional candidate in your district that you are passionate about supporting, why not look elsewhere? If you live in a red district in a red state and have for your choices, Republican numbskull that will only do harm and Republican lite numbskull that may do less harm, why not look to other rural districts that do have a candidate that will represent you, even if they won’t directly? A progressive candidate from a rural district will work for issues that matter to progressive rural voters no matter where you cast your vote. It seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve been taught to think that Congressional races are local and only presidential elections are national.

The same is true of solidly liberal districts. My Congressman, Jim McDermott, is as liberal as they come and will be re-elected without any help from me, so I have decided to focus on candidates outside of my district and commit to giving them the support and money that it takes to win. I generally don’t give money to candidates and have in the past preferred to focus on grassroots issues campaigns as a place to send my cash, but when Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD came to Seattle several months ago to promote their book Crashing The Gate, one of the most memorable quotes that they had to offer was, “If you don’t like the way Congress is beholden to special interests, then buy a Congressman, one dollar at a time.” That is a powerful statement and it makes a simple kind of sense.

Until we have publicly financed elections, we can either refrain from engaging in the system altogether, or we can engage in it as a group, forcing elected officials to be beholden to the people (lots of small donors) instead of big business that can cut the big checks that always come with strings attached. I have since made my first contributions directly to Congressional and Senatorial campaigns, to Ned Lamont, Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark, none of whom will be representing my district, but each of whom, given the chance, will represent my progressive values, not to mention take out some pretty nasty Republicans (one of them even posing as a Democrat (Joe Lieberman) that shall remain nameless).

I have recently met and become a fan of Peter Goldmark, the Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional district of Washington State. I live in Seattle, on the other side of the mountains from the 5th district, yet this race has become important to me. Here is a seat that the Democrats could win, a rural district that could be represented by a progressive rural candidate with a forward thinking agenda and a down-home manner. He’s a third generation rancher with a Harvard education that knows more about molecular biology and farming than most of us could ever hope to know. I think he is uniquely qualified to serve in Congress and address the pressing farming and energy issues that have more of a nexus than ever before. He not only knows the importance of bio-fuels, he knows how to make them profitable for his district.

Peter Goldmark is no Jim McDermott, but the beauty is, he doesn’t have to be. I recognize the importance of having diverse leadership in DC, as long as that diversity works in favor of working people of all stripes. The working people of Eastern Washington have more in common with the working people of Seattle than they do the corporate elite whether they know it or not. Peter Goldmark is just the kind of candidate that can bridge that gap and his success in doing so would make our whole country stronger.

So if you have a candidate in your district that speaks for you and that has a chance at taking the seat, give what you can. If you don’t have such a candidate, look elsewhere, hell, give to Peter Goldmark (preferably by Friday when the money gets reported) if there’s no one near you. And before you ask, I have no affiliation, not even in the most tangential way, with the Goldmark campaign. I just know a good thing when I see it and I’m happy to promote a candidate that speaks to the issues I care about and that I trust to represent me, even when he doesn’t have to. That is the rarest of things in this polarized political climate and I plan on taking any and every opportunity to promote those candidates that not only believe in the common good, but that have a damn good plan for promoting the most good for us common folk. Good grief, we’ve suffered enough, it’s high time that the people rule the People’s House again. If we manage to take over, we’ll even promise to kick the corporate scum every once in a while. Turn about is fair play after all.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why Do They Hate Us So?

The Bush administration has a way of turning losers into losers with power.  Not long ago Jonathan Turley, on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, likened the Bush administration to the Sopranos because of their penchant for hiring criminals and for advancing the careers of those that show a willingness to step right up to the legal line and cross it when necessary.  George Bush seems enamored of the “honor among thieves” philosophy of governing, but with so many thieves running the country, we are quickly going broke and are increasingly (mysteriously) viewed by the rest of the world as a threat to world stability.  Bush can say that that sentiment is “absurd” all he wants, but our actions (and the results of our actions) speak for themselves.

There is a lot of talk in political circles about our failure to secure Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but rarely do we hear about the affects of not securing Afghanistan before we hightailed it out of there (abandoning our promises to the Afghan people) and turned our attentions (and military power) toward Iraq.  Getting rid of the Taliban was worth the effort, even if Afghanistan wasn’t a terrorist training ground, but we failed to do that, opting instead to run them out of the cities and into the countryside where they could regroup and organize an effort to fight another day, a day that may be right around the corner.  

Current President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was hand picked by the Bush administration to lead the country after the war, but Karzai’s inability to exert influence beyond the city limits has earned him the nickname “Mayor of Kabul”.  Whether Karzai is respected by the people of his country or not is of little consequence to the Bush administration.  It has long been speculated that our only real interest in Afghanistan is in getting a natural gas pipeline built anyway.  Hamid Karzai worked on behalf of Unocal to get that project up and running before the war and despite his waning power, he will be supported by the Bush administration until that pipeline is built.  Secretary of State Rice just yesterday restated US commitment to Karzai.  He may be a loser, but he’s their loser and they still think he can deliver the goods.

Zalmay Khalilzad, current US ambassador to Iraq (former ambassador to Afghanistan), was also on the Unocal payroll as well as a member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).  Candidates in the Afghan elections say that Khalilzad worked behind the scenes in Afghanistan to ensure a Karzai victory, and once that mission was accomplished, he moved over to Iraq to oversee elections there (where again there were charges of backroom manipulations).  With all of the talk about “spreading democracy” in the Middle East and “re-building” Iraq and Afghanistan, you’d almost think we cared about the people there.  It’s clear that American interests are being protected in the region, what’s not as clear though, is who’s looking after the interests of the Afghan and Iraqi people.

It’s hard not to think that this is what “stay the course” really means.  Stay the course until we have secured access to the oil fields of Iraq.  Stay the course until we have built permanent military bases along the future route of the oil pipeline that Unocal wants to build.  Stay the course until the objectives of PNAC have been met.  The military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are not about terrorism, WMD, or spreading democracy.  They are about securing control of energy reserves in the region.  Having our hand on the spigot secures our energy needs, paves the way for obscene profits for American companies and ensures that the US remains the dominant force on the planet.  The rest of the world understands this and we would do well to come to terms with it too.  If we do, we won’t have to wonder why the rest of the world hates us, the reasons for that become perfectly clear.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Chicken Or The Egg?

According to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration is so secretive because the press has been publishing leaked information. I would imagine the press would say they’ve had to rely on leaked information because the Bush administration is so secretive. Too bad neither side understands their job fully. The press is supposed to push the administration for information, challenge their assertions and dig for the truth. The administration has forgotten that they work for the people and that while doing the people’s business, it is the people right to know how that business is being conducted.

The Bush administration has proven that they are an insular and secretive bunch and they have demonstrated over and over again that their ideology trumps the Constitution and the laws of this nation every time. Never has the executive branch claimed so much power and this administration has done so without any real opposition from Congress or scrutiny from the press. That is not a good mixture for a flourishing democracy.

Bush was pissed that his illegal activity with the NSA domestic surveillance was revealed, he was pissed that The Downing Street Memo’s revealed his strategy for building facts around an already decided upon policy of invading Iraq, he was pissed that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were made public, abuses that were allowed for by Alberto Gonzolas’s perverted idea of what constitutes torture, and now he is pissed that the New York Times has revealed the details of a program that analyzes the banking transactions of suspected terrorists. So pissed that he has sent out his surrogates to call the NY Times, “treasonous” and suggest that an investigation into possible criminal charges against the paper is warranted. Is it only a matter of time before investigative journalism becomes illegal altogether? Once government malfeasance is no longer fair game, is corporate wrongdoing next?

It has only been in the last year that traditional media has started to ask serious questions of this administration and go ahead with publishing stories despite personal phone calls from the White House attempting to quash them. We need a robust press in this country. This administration has been allowed to get away with too much already and the unchecked power they have acquired is treading on our Constitutional rights as citizens and threatening our democracy. Is the New York Times treasonous for shedding light on a White House with the drapes closed tight, or does that title belong to an administration that lied us into a war of choice, that spies on citizens and reveals the identity of a clandestine CIA operative tracking weapons of mass destruction into Iran for no other reason than political payback? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Exponential Bogeyman

Guest Post By Man of American Dissent

There was a stark image accompanied by very simple headlines and captions prominently featured in the MSMisphere yesterday. If you happened to see it you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s mostly gone now, but that doesn’t really matter because the cat is already out of the bag and he has scratched the collective subconscious of everyone in his wake. If you were afraid of Willie Horton, (not the man himself, but rather the wretchedness of the situation in which he came to national prominence) you had better run and hide under the bed again. What could possibly be more frightening than a dangerous and angry black man hell bent on going on a rampage to defile your woman and kill your children? How about seven of them swearing loyalty oaths to Al Qaeda and conspiring as “Terrorists” to execute a mass murderous killing spree plot, terrorizing the entire nation? Yes, that should do the trick just fine. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages please welcome The Magnificent Seven to the mainstream media stage. That’s right. The big bad black bogeyman is back. New!!! Improved!!! Scarier than ever when multiplied by a factor of seven.



The severity of the threat and the reality of the plot have now been seriously called into question by several sources. Raw Story has this bit in a report…"when you start deconstructing a case, you see that there's a lot of talk.", and The Herald Sun says "…as more details emerge of a supposed terror plot interrupted by US authorities, the plotters and their half-baked plan seem less than deadly and more than a little ridiculous. " .

Unfortunately the message conveyed by the bold headline “TERRORISTS” above a picture of seven black men is simple… Black men are terrorists. I’m sure they’re banking on this one as a guaranteed winner. Any statement to the contrary only reinforces the point. Of course deniability on ownership of the idea is there (just remember, nobody explicitly said anything about Saddam being directly responsible for 9-11 either). I’m certain that the brilliance of this is not at all lost on the strategists of the right. This one drives directly to the heart of the most insidious aspect of racism in this country. It is the simple fact that so much of the time racism is subtle and if you’re not impacted by it you will be mesmerized by the illusion that it’s not really much of a problem in our modern society. The truth of the matter is that on the issue of race this country is fucked. This is the most subtle yet blatant and disturbing play of the race card in years. It’s another prime example of even more damage that the Right is inflicting upon the social fabric of our nation. At present I don’t have solutions to offer on this one, just some extra outrage (McGovernment will supersize your outrage for free these days) at what I’m seeing the current power structure in his country get away with.

Breaking In A New Guest Blogger

I’m going to be taking a much needed break for a few weeks starting Wednesday, but I’ve got some great guest bloggers lined up to keep you entertained while I’m resting up.

The kids are out of school for the summer and could use some concentrated mom time, plus, I feel like I need to step away from the news for a while, read a few novels (not to mention the stack of political books I’ve been meaning to get to), enjoy some fun in the sun and significantly cut down on the amount of time I spend reading bad news and digging up the facts of GOP malfeasance. There seems to be an unlimited supply of that so I want to be ready for the year ahead.

I’m sure I won’t be able to stop blogging completely, even for a few weeks, so there will likely be more content up than usual. All of the bloggers I’ve lined up are great (I will reveal who they are on Wednesday), but one of them is new to the medium so I’ll be breaking him in, hopefully today or tomorrow.

My husband (who will now contribute occasional commentary as Man of American Dissent) is the one that encouraged me to start this blog and he has been a great source of inspiration, story ideas and one-liners all along the way. He has a lot to say but not a lot of time to write it down. Luckily for me he’ll be taking some time off as well, so I’ve asked him to join the other bloggers during my absence.

Right now he is particularly pissed off about the way the MSM has covered the story of the “terrorists” that were arrested a few days ago. I am too, but I’m going to let him cover this topic, the way he’s been snarling about it around the house, he needs it more than I do.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It’s The War Stupid

The war is a problem for the Democrats, not as big of a problem as it is for the Republicans, but a problem nonetheless, although listening to traditional media you would get the impression that the opposite is true. With the television pundits and columnists for the big papers all highlighting how “divided” the Democratic Party is, they are ignoring the fact that the Republicans in Congress have signed onto the Iraq occupation again, but this time with the full knowledge of what a disaster the policy is. What’s so great about unity if you’re unified behind a failed policy? I’d like to see the MSM explore that angle a little bit.

It is true that there is a battle raging within the Democratic Party, and thank goodness for that. This is a process that is long overdue and now that liberals have begun building an infrastructure with online communities, alternative online news outlets and blogs, grassroots organizations have a place to advertise their actions and promote their works and liberals have a place to express their opinions and organize for change. And the politicians are paying attention, they visit the blogs too, they want to read what is being written about them. Whether or not they will be influenced by what they read remains to be seen, but we’ve at least got their ear for now.

Candidates that have taken a position against the continuing occupation are doing well in the polls, even in states that are currently represented by Republicans. Sherrod Brown is now outpolling Mike DeWine in Ohio by 9 percentage points. Jon Tester is up at least 4 percentage points over Conrad Burns. Sheldon Whitehouse is running neck and neck with Lincoln Chaffee. Ned Lamont may very well beat Joe Lieberman in the primary. And these are just a few of the examples.

Now, Democrats that haven’t taken a stand against the Iraq occupation, like my own Senator, Maria Cantwell, will be in for a rocky ride. Cantwell is slipping in the polls and now only has a 4% cushion against Republican Mike McGavick. 9% of Democrats in Washington said they would vote for a third party candidate in the general election, that is a number that should concern Cantwell and other Democrats refusing to change course. Maria Cantwell has said she has “no regrets” about her vote that led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. With everything that has happened since she cast that vote, that is a just plain stupid position to take and it will hurt her come November.

The people are firmly behind a withdrawal of our troops and our troops are ready to come home. There is no winning when it comes to the Iraq occupation, the Bush administration knows this, Republicans in Congress know this and the Democrats better figure it out. The GOP is content to use Iraq for political gain, they can’t back down know, they own this occupation and it’s all they have left to run on since their domestic policies stink even more. But Democrats aren’t as tied to the occupation, they have other options.

In order to stay the course, you have to chart one and the Bush administration doesn’t know where they’re going. George W. Bush is blinded by his quest for power and deaf to any advice that doesn’t come from within the echo chamber of his own making. Staying the course with him at the helm will only lead us further astray. Democrats still sticking with this occupation need to admit they made a mistake and get behind a plan for withdrawal. Choosing to stand with this White House on Iraq is a bad idea and Democrats should let the Republicans stand there alone.

Podcasting Liberally Talks Tax Policy

I don’t really know what to say about this week’s edition of the Drinking Liberally podcast.  We spent an awful lot of time discussing tax restructuring but it did lead to a great debate on the larger issues of tax fairness, tax infrastructure and how it relates to healthcare reform, rural versus urban areas, how Republican rhetoric has convinced rural voters that they’d be better off without the urban riff raff, and whether or not liberals should use the perceived slights we’ve supposedly inflicted on conservative rural voters to teach them a lesson about the economic reality of the urban/rural relationship.  Should urban liberals save rural conservatives from themselves or should we use subversive means to bring them around?

On the podcast you can hear me, Will, Carl, Sandeep, Lee, and first timer Ray, all expertly moderated by David Goldstein (almost as if he’s a professional radio talk show host).  It’s a lot more fun to listen to than you might imagine a tax debate would be, a little on the wonky side for sure, but entertaining nonetheless.  

The show is recorded live at Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally and is available here as a 34.2 MB MP3.  Archives and RSS feeds can be found at

Thursday, June 22, 2006

By Some Measures The Iraq Invasion And Occupation Are Hugely Successful

72% of our troops think we should leave Iraq this year. These are the young men and women who know the situation on the ground, they can see with their own eyes that the situation there is not getting better, but rather deteriorating at a rapid pace. Yet, the Republicans in Congress and this shameless administration refuse to shift the current policy and continue to spout their favorite slogan of “stay the course” and label any attempt to correct this course as, “cut and run”. It is Vietnam all over again. The civilians making all of the decisions know that the objective (whatever that is this week) can’t be met, yet they continue to send our young people to die in an occupation with no end.

The Bush administration lied about the reasons for invading Iraq, lied about what we are there to “accomplish” and lied over and over again about the situation on the ground. They have even lied about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of our men and women in uniform. Shameful. This administration has nothing but contempt for the people, and that includes the young men in women they send to die in Iraq for money, oil and power. I have heard reports of how Bush is all torn up about the deaths of our men and women serving in Iraq, it may be true, but with all the lying that comes so easily to these people, I have a hard time imagining that it is. They’re just poor kids mostly anyway and George W. Bush has no use for the poor. Well, except as cannon fodder and low-wage workers to keep profits up of course.

So maybe I’ve got this all wrong, maybe the objectives of the Bush administration are in fact being met in Iraq, they’re just not the objectives that we the people are allowed to know exist. There are making serious progress on the US Embassy in Iraq, the largest in the world that is said to be the size of Vatican City. And those permanent military bases are coming along nicely. And the oil companies are making record profits. And the military industrial complex is firing on all cylinders. And contractors like Halliburton are swimming in American tax dollars. It’s hard to imagine these are merely unintended consequences. Are we to believe that it’s just dumb luck that the construction on the military bases and the embassy are running full steam ahead because they just happen to be taking place in areas where there isn’t as much violence as, say, the electrical plants? Or that there was no design to the high price we pay at the pump now, thanks to the manipulation of supply now possible because we are in Iraq with our hand on one of the spigots? Or that Vice President Cheney’s old company (that he still holds stock in) has been the biggest beneficiary of no-bid government contracts that have earned him millions?

My dad has studied history most of his life and although my eyes glazed over when he would regale me with stories of the past, there is one thing he told me over and over again that has always stuck with me, “If you want to know the truth about why something happened, it's helpful to take a close look at who benefited most.” Most of us knew that the WMD story was crap, the same way we knew the “spreading democracy” story was crap, neither one passed the smell test. The most recent crap being shoveled upon us are, “when the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down” and “we’re fighting the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here” and “we can’t pull out of Iraq now because it will descend into chaos and become a terrorist breeding ground.” The Iraqis are standing up, they’re just not on our side, how could they be? We are occupying their country, clearly intent on staying, and setting up a government that will allow us unfettered access to their oil. In some instances (who knows how many exactly) the Iraqi troops we are training, are turning around and killing the American troops they’re patrolling with. The Iraqis do not want us there and we cannot “train” them to turn on their own, at least not in the numbers we need.

As far as Iraq descending into chaos, I think we’ve accomplished that already. It has been three years since Bush declared victory in Iraq, but since then we have managed to spark a civil war, erode any good will that may have existed after toppling Saddam Hussein, and we have let loose death squads that are terrorizing the Iraqi people, perhaps even more brutally than Saddam did. With friends like us, who needs enemies? As long as we stay, the insurgency will grow. You see, we call them an insurgency, but they likely consider themselves patriots fighting for their country.

I watched John Kerry on C-SPAN yesterday, defending his amendment on the Senate floor. For all of the problems that I have with John Kerry, I have the utmost respect for his service to this country. He spoke passionately on behalf of those fighting on the ground in Iraq. I honestly don’t think this is a purely political move on his part, I think having served in the military and having fought in battle, he understands the immorality of continuing on with a failed policy that costs more and more young American lives every day.

Kerry brought up the fact that former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote years after Vietnam that he knew the war couldn’t be won, yet he continued to send young men to their deaths for a lost cause (half of the dead in Vietnam came after that point). John Kerry, John Murtha and Russ Feingold are determined not to let that happen again. They are convinced that we cannot prevail in Iraq with “stay the course” and they have no faith that the Bush administration will change the policy, leaving them with no other option that to push for a redeployment of our troops this year. 72% of the troops and 60% of the American people are with them. What happens next is up to us. I’m going to call my Senators again right now and ask that they support a plan for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Vietnam was ended because the public demanded a change. Ending this war depends on the same and candidates that refuse to get on board need to be sent home. Our troops deserve at least that much support from us.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Back Into The Religious Fray

Since traditional media prefer to promote right wing blowhard Christian activists on a mission to remake our government according to their limited interpretation of morality, I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to help publicize the works of Christian people and organizations fighting to take their religion back from the conmen/women who are peddling a warped Christianity in order to manipulate people and attain political power. I’m going to start with Randall Balmer, an Evangelical taking on the religious right.

The kind of religious plurality that Randall Balmer describes in his essay, “Jesus Is Not A Republican” excerpted from his soon to be released book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament, is appealing, even to an atheist like me. This is the kind of work that I hope Christians will read, especially those that are uncomfortable with the public face that has been put on their religion by the loudest spokesmen for the religious right. Repairing the damage that the religious right has done will not be a passive endeavor.

There is a very real and powerful movement in this country that is intent on creating a theocratic state, ignoring it simply because it is too uncomfortable to discuss will not do us any good as a society. In this media crazed environment, thoughtful religious voices are being marginalized while loud-mouthed religious right activists are given more airtime than the rest of us should have to endure. I have heard over and over from self identified Christians that the religious right doesn’t speak for them and I take them at their word, but the religious right, in conjuncture with the GOP, is using Christianity as a means to gain political power and Randall Balmer makes a great case that it’s time to reclaim your religion and begin marginalizing the political faction so that the ties between religion and politics can be broken for good. That would be great for the country, and as Balmer argues beautifully, better for religion as well.

I may not have any use for religion in my life, but I have no desire to restrict its practice. I honestly believe in religious tolerance, I just don’t believe in tolerating a movement that seeks to legislate the morality of one particular religion. Thank the Founding Fathers for the First Amendment!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Democrats Should Take The Abortion Wedge And Shove It Up The GOP’s Ass

I was a guest on “The David Goldstein Show” on KIRO 710 radio Sunday night, and during the discussion, David took a call from a woman (a lifelong Democrat) that expressed her displeasure with the Democratic Party for its stance on abortion. She made a good point when she asked (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “Why in the world would the Democratic Party think that the same people who work for peace, for the poor and for healthcare for all, would not also be concerned about protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us?” She was clearly speaking about the “unborn” and she is clearly a “pro-life” Democrat that feels left out and ignored by her Party. Luckily for me (or her, depending on your perspective), her call came at the very end of the show and there was not enough time for me to respond, because as I discussed the issue with Will Kelly-Kamp (one of the other guests) after the show, I realized that I would have given a reactionary response rather than a measured and thoughtful one, and I do know that little progress is made through exchanges like that. I mean really, how many social problems has Rush Limbaugh solved?

Will mentioned to me that 40% of Democrats are pro-life and I was shocked by that number but my reaction was still, “That means that 60% are for choice and we don’t need two anti-choice Parties.” Of course that is true, but what if we stopped engaging in the debate about abortion rights on the Republicans’ terms and started defining the issue for ourselves? We all know that abortion gets the religious right out to the polls, but we also know that Republicans have no real interest in outlawing abortion on the national level, if they did, they could have done so already. What the Republicans want is to have the option of taking the moral high ground while doing nothing other than paying lip service to the abortion issue. Why don’t we take that issue away from them and put them on the defensive for a change?

Now I am firmly pro-choice and I have no moral issue with abortion whatsoever, but to ignore the fact that many people do, many Democrats even, would not be politically productive. The Republicans have managed to make this a very divisive issue, but really, it doesn’t have to be and it can be a winner for Democrats if they take the initiative and define the issue properly and in a way that we can all understand and support. What would it do to the Republicans if the Democrats put reducing the number of abortions in this country into the Party platform (without changing the language on choice of course, but in addition to it)? It would be devastating to the Republicans and would energize people like the woman who called in to David’s show. If done right, it could turn abortion into a unifying issue for the Democrats and neutralize the Republicans’ favorite perennial wedge. That kind of payoff is certainly worth taking a look at.

Whether abortion is legal or not, abortions will still take place, they took place before it was explicitly made legal and they took place privately when they weren’t available openly. Making abortion illegal does not save lives, it only puts more at risk. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, we must take a serious look at the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancy and the factors that drive women to terminate them. Doing this would show the Democrats’ commitment to the issue and expose the Republicans’ plan of simply making abortion illegal, as the ineffectual sham that it is.

But, before we can solve the problem, we must recognize that we don’t all have the same problem with abortion. For those who consider themselves “pro-life”, the problem is that there are too many abortions performed. For those who are “pro-choice”, the problem is that our right to make our own reproductive decisions is constantly under threat. But just because we define the problem differently, doesn’t mean we can’t find solutions in common. I’m not particularly concerned with reducing the number of abortions per se, but I am interested in providing women with more choices, and by doing that, those who are concerned with reducing the number of abortions would get what they want as well. We may not have the same reasons for addressing the underlying factors that contribute to abortion, but we can still come up with a plan that we can all get behind.

We all know what causes pregnancy, it’s not a secret and we should stop acting like it is when it comes to our children. They need to be taught about sex and how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and from unwanted pregnancy, sticking our heads in the sand and telling teenagers to “just say no” is asinine. We have to be realistic and give kids the knowledge and the tools they need to make good decisions when it comes to sex. And birth control should be easily and widely available, it’s just common sense that universal access to birth control will dramatically reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, thus reduce the need for abortion. I understand that some religious folks in this country don’t believe in birth control, but in the spirit of solving the problem (however we each define it), they are going to have to give on this issue as well. It flies in the face of logic to argue against birth control in an effort to reduce unwanted pregnancies. If some of the dietary restrictions set forth in the Bible can now be safely ignored, certainly the “every sperm is sacred” rule can be set aside as well. Sometimes rules become unnecessary and in this case, counter-productive to solving a problem. Far be it for me to tell God’s followers how to interpret the Bible, but if the issue of abortion is as important as they claim, they’re going to have to give a little too.

Now, Democrats for Life have proposed the 95/10 Initiative that sets a goal of reducing the number of abortions by 95% over the next ten years. Seems like a good idea, but for the most part, their proposals on how to get there are unrealistic and fly in the face of what the Democratic Party stands for. They advocate parental notification for minors seeking abortions, ultrasound machines so that women can see their “unborn child” before they chose to abort and prohibit the transport of a minor over state lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. But they have some good ideas in there as well, such as making the adoption tax credit permanent, funding childcare on college campuses, giving more funds to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, federal funds for pregnancy prevention education and a federally funded toll free number where women can get information about resources available in their area. These are great ideas, as long as the information provided is done so without judgment and without a specific end result in mind. But what they propose is just a start, there are much bigger issues that contribute to the number of abortions that are more in line with a progressive agenda and would be received much better by pro-choice Democrats that still make up the majority of the Party.

Many women that choose to have abortions do so for economic reasons. We do not have universal healthcare, so pre-natal care is a daunting proposition not to mention the cost of giving birth and the cost of well baby check-ups and doctor visits when your kid gets sick. If you have a job that provides healthcare, once you leave to have a baby, that healthcare goes away.

We do not have universal childcare, and let me tell you, childcare is expensive. I chose to stay home with my children for many reasons, but one of the contributing factors was the outrageous cost of childcare, in Seattle it runs around $1000 a month per kid. If we build a birth to college education system in this country, women could return to work and not have upwards of 50% of their income going towards childcare.

We also have a failing education system that is leaving far too many of our kids behind, kids that grow up with few opportunities to make a decent living and when they get pregnant, they see those options shrink even further. We have an economy that is loosing family wage jobs at an alarming rate and without economic security, it is sometimes difficult to carry on a pregnancy when you know it will only put the children you already have in further economic jeopardy.

By focusing on these issues in a concerted effort to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, Democrats could gain broad support from pro-choice and pro-life voters at the same time. I have no problem with trying to reduce the number of abortions, I just cannot get behind any effort to do so that marginalizes the rights of women to have sovereignty over their own bodies. But increasing resources for pregnant women and women with children, well, I say, when can we get started? I’m certainly not going to get hung up on the objective if the path we take to get there benefits women and working families at the same time it brings more disenchanted Democrats (and maybe even a few Republican “values voters”) back into the fold.

I’m tired of arguing about abortion, it would be nice to solve a few problems for a change rather than spending so much time defending the rights we have. This is one way that we can move forward as a society without having to take the Republican mandated two steps back first. I think it’s at least worth a discussion.

Monday, June 19, 2006

This War

Man does this war wear on me. I know that war is ugly and violent, but this war, not only was it unnecessary and based on lies, but it has devolved into the kind of mess that we normally stay out of and yet, we are the spark that caused it and the oxygen that keeps the flames growing ever larger. Despite the non-existent reporting outside the heavily fortified Green Zone and the marginal reporting from within, we still know certain things. We know that the Iraqis have had their country destroyed and are living with a few short hours of electricity a day. We know that their communities have been decimated by sectarian violence that has erupted all across their country. We know that our soldiers are dying and being wounded in an occupation that was ill advised and a peacekeeping mission that becomes more and more dire everyday.

This war is not a war anymore. Once Saddam Hussein fell, it became exactly what this administration said it wanted no part in, a nation building exercise. And like most things this President doesn’t have any interest in, like governing effectively, his lack of interest leaves death and destruction in its wake. Iraq is the manifestation of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity and inability to engage in diplomacy abroad, and Hurricane Katrina is the manifestation of Bush’s lack of interest in effective government here at home. He is a failure of monumental proportions and we will be paying for his incompetence for generations to come.

I watched “Baghdad ER” on HBO the other night. It shouldn’t have been shocking to see the results of the violence in Iraq, but because there is virtually no coverage on our nightly news, somehow it was. The physical wounds are gory, but it’s the emotional wounds that are so heartbreaking to watch. These are such young boys fighting over there, and their limited life experience shows on their faces. They don’t seem to know where to put these extreme experiences or how to cope with the emotional toll of watching their friends die, let alone fearing for their own lives in a situation they see no end to. And the older soldiers, the doctors that are treating these men, the angst of knowing what this lack of a clear objective costs in human life, is painfully apparent on their faces as well. It may not be the place of a soldier to question the mission, but I can’t imagine that they don’t, maybe not while they’re awake and doing their job, but when they lay down at night in the limited peace that they likely find in Iraq these days.

Greg Mitchell, over at Editor & Publisher, wrote an article about a memo that was obtained by The Washington Post, a memo from the US Embassy in Iraq written days before Bush took his secret jaunt over to Iraq in an attempt to put a happy face on the occupation. Things are not getting better over in Iraq. Just because this administration says that they are "making significant progress in Iraq" and the media continue to toe the line, doesn’t make it so. Here are a few of the “highlights” from the memo (from E&P):

--"Personal safety depends on good relations with the 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors."

-- One embassy employee had a brother-in-law kidnapped. Another received a death threat, and then fled the country with her family.

-- Iraqi staff at the embassy, beginning in March and picking up in May, report "pervasive" harassment from Islamist and/or militia groups. Cuts in power and rising fuel prices "have diminished the quality of life." Conditions vary but even upscale neighborhoods "have visibly deteriorated" and one of them is now described as a "ghost town."

-- Two of the three female Iraqis in the public affairs office reported stepped-up harassment since mid-May...."some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative." One of the women is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

-- It has also become "dangerous" for men to wear shorts in public and "they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts." People who wear jeans in public have also come under attack.

-- Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

-- Since April, the "demeanor" of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more "militia-like," and some are now "taunting" embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." For this reason, some have asked for press instead of embassy credentials.

-- "For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover.'"

-- "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

-- The overall environment is one of "frayed social networks," with frequent actual or perceived insults. None of this is helped by lack of electricity. "One colleague told us he feels 'defeated' by circumstances, citing his example of being unable to help his two-year-old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in stifling heat," which is now reaching 115 degrees.

-- "Another employee tell us that life outside the Green Zone has become 'emotionally draining.' He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral 'every evening.'"

-- Fuel lines have grown so long that one staffer spent 12 hours in line on his day off. "Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without. ... One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day."

-- The cable concludes that employees' "personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials."

We know what the GOP plan is for Iraq, stick by the side of the President and stay the course. The course we are on will only lead to further deterioration of the situation in Iraq and of our standing in the world. The American people either understand this or, at the very least, are on their way to grasping it. The Democrats better figure out pretty damn quick that they must take a stand on the war, they can’t continue to ignore the issue and hope it simply goes away.

The occupation and peacekeeping mission in Iraq is on everyone’s mind. Some because they don’t believe in war, some because this particular mission was a strategic blunder of epic proportions, some because of the devastation we’ve caused, some because of the cost in American lives and US dollars, and some for of all of the above. The Republicans aren’t going to address these concerns, they have proven that over and over again, most recently with their sham debate on the war in Congress. The Democrats are not giving the American people an alternative to “stay the course” and as long as that’s true, they really only have a slim chance of making any gains in the midterms this November.

We cannot stay the course, the voters need another option and as long as the Democrats refuse to offer one, too many voters will stay with the devil they know, cross their fingers and hope for the best. The Democrats are right about one thing, we do deserve better, but saying it and stepping up to provide it are two different things. The sooner they are made to realize that, the better off we'll all be.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Damn You Joe!

Every time I start feeling good about the small steps I’m taking to become a better world citizen, consume less, trade in my car for one that runs on biodiesel, educate myself about both the history of this country’s exploits as well as the one’s that are ongoing, silly little things like that, I go and read Joe Bageant (one of my favorite American writers alive and at it today) and I have to face the fact that I’m still a bigger part of the problem than I can ever rectify with “lifestyle changes” and knowledge of the facts. I would hate him for it, if I didn’t know in my heart that he’s right.

Certainly we should do all we can as individuals to reduce our consumption, pay attention to what happens outside our borders and fight to make sure that we have representatives in D.C. that don’t make matters worse by raping the rest of the world in the name of American supremacy, but that is literally just the tip of the iceberg, the real problems extend miles beneath the surface.

The core of who we are, as a country and as individuals that have grown up with the advantages we have, is what must be challenged, and that is simply too painful a process for most of us to take on in the serious and sustained way necessary to really solve our global problems. Make them better, yes, but solve them outright, not so much.

So I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read “Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven: Democracy rots from the inside out” by Joe Bageant. He’s great at giving it to us straight with no chaser, but the burn of the truth is soothed by the colorfulness of his words.

Sometimes The Hypocrisy Is Too Much To Take

It’s not that granting amnesty to Iraqi insurgents is a bad idea ONCE THE WAR IS OVER, but having Republicans in the Senate advocating for it AS OUR TROOPS ARE STILL WALKING AROUND WITH TARGETS ON THEIR BACKS is just too much to bear.  These are the same assholes that have deemed Iraqis fighting against a foreign occupation of their country “terrorists”, and now they want to give the “terrorists” amnesty at the same time they argue for leaving our troops in harms way.  Am I the only one that feels like screaming with rage at this sort of blatant hypocrisy?

To make matters worse, bigots in the GOP have been railing against amnesty for illegal immigrants, but “terrorists” (by their own definition), well that’s a great idea!  Jesus H. Christ, what is wrong with these people?!

And on a lighter hypocritical note, The Colbert Report Wednesday night gave Congressman Lynn Westmoreland the opportunity to put his own hypocrisy on display.  This kind of shit galls me to no end, last week I got some flack for calling Christians to account, yet this pillar of Christian virtue cannot even name the commandments that he wants displayed in our courthouses and public buildings.  Unbelievable.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Darcy Burner, In Her Own Words

Instead of me writing about Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for Congress in Washington’s 8th district, I’ll just point you to her diary post today at Daily Kos (and give it a recommend). The fact that Bush is coming to Washington State tomorrow to help raise money for Darcy’s opponent (details of protest rally here), Dave Reichert, is a clear indication of just how vulnerable this Congressional seat is. I hope the local press takes lots of pictures of Reichert and Bush together as that can only help Darcy’s campaign.

Peter Goldmark: All Cattle And A Hat!

Last Sunday I had a chance to sit down with Peter Goldmark, the Democratic candidate running for Congress in Washington’s 5th district, and I walked away from the meeting even more impressed with him than before. He is a natural at being a candidate, and not in that polished D.C. way either. He is confident, knowledgeable, witty and clearly comfortable in his own skin. He’s easy to be around because he knows who he is, what he stands for and exactly what he can do for his district once in office. He has all of the qualities that voters say they want in a candidate and his straight-talking style is all too rare in D.C. today, making it that much more appealing.

It was an informal discussion at a local Seattle coffee shop and I walked away with the impression that he is exactly the kind of authentic candidate that will win over voters in his district, whether they are progressives or moderates. He says what he thinks, doesn’t pull any punches and being a rancher and long time resident of Eastern Washington, he understands the issues, both national and local, that matter most to the people of his district.

Peter Goldmark does not support this war, as he put it, “(it) should be wrapped up quickly so we can bring our troops home.” He is forward thinking when it comes to the environment, jobs, energy needs and sees the connections between all of these issues. He places high value on what he calls “national security commodities” that can help solve the “agricultural depression by giving (farmers) an opportunity to participate in the solutions.” As a country, we cannot continue to ignore global warming, our continuing loss of jobs and the danger of relying on foreign sources of energy and an integrated solution is the only thing that makes any sense. We need representatives in Congress that understand that.

He calls the budget deficit “shameful” and the level of corruption in Washington DC “outrageous”. He describes the repealing of the Estate Tax as one more example of how “the Bush administration is still trying to feather the beds of the richest 2%,” and of the Congress that supports the Bush efforts, Golmark deems them “the most irresponsible Congress that we’ve had in a long time.” I couldn’t agree more.

But make no mistake, Peter Goldmark is no Seattle liberal. He stated clearly that he “believes in gun ownership, responsible ownership” and about environmental regulations, he says, “(government) cannot push environmental policies that ignore the human impact, it’s not sustainable.” I got the sense that he cares very deeply about solving environmental problems, but that people, especially farmers and small business owners, come first. I also got the sense that he doesn’t view environmentalists and farmers as opposing sides so much as different parts of the solutions that just need to be brought together. He is a charming guy, I have no doubt that he could make serious progress toward that goal if he is elected to represent Washington’s 5th district.

“I was brought up through personal liberty, but you have responsibility to community. Everyone has an obligation to your community, if the family next door needs help, you help them, we are not islands, we don’t act in isolation,” he explains. This belief that we “are not islands” is an important one, in our communities, in domestic policy and in world affairs. I hope voters in Washington’s 5th send Peter Goldmark to Congress in November because we need more of that kind of thinking if we are to have any chance of turning this ship of state around.

I have placed a button on my sidebar where you can contribute to the Goldmark campaign (and the Darcy Burner campaign as well) through ActBlue, or you can of course contribute to his campaign directly. We need to take back Congress and that happens one seat at a time, so give what you can, $5 or $4200 or anywhere in between (we don't want candidates to have to rely on corporate money, so let's put our money where our mouth is and support them ourselves). And if you live in or near Spokane, consider attending the “Peter Goldmark Bull Roast and BBQ Sauce Standoff” on June 25th. It sounds like fun, I may even cross the mountains myself.

Alone we don’t have the ability to buy the influence that the big corporations do, but together we can at least make a difference and guarantee that our elected officials work only for us. I believe that Peter Goldmark will work for us, let’s help him get the chance to prove it.

Unintended Consequences

I find this movement toward promoting nationalism, in flag burning amendments, laws making English our official language, and even some arguments regarding immigration reform, not well thought out and certainly not taking into account the consequences of such moves.  It would be great if we could all be proud of being Americans, but when we pass laws that restrict important information from those who don’t speak English, attempt to make national pride mandatory and political protest a criminal offense, it becomes difficult to know what we should be proud of exactly.

Beyond the fact that such laws run contrary to our history as a nation of immigrants with guaranteed freedoms of protest and speech, sometimes the unintended consequences are far worse that a lack of national pride.

I found this story in Utah a perfect example of how these silly laws can have very serious negative repercussions.  Passing a law 2000 that made English the official language of the state of Utah may have seemed innocuous at the time (at least to those pushing it), but now that the Governor of Utah has decided, under pressure, to shut down a web site that provides information about health services, taxes, state licenses and the like in Spanish, there are real people affected in very tangible ways.  

It’s not so much that the information available on the web site is not available elsewhere or that critical health and safety information is not being provided to the Spanish speaking community at all, but it does create a divisive atmosphere and makes it even more difficult for those already at a disadvantage because they have not yet learned English to become a part of the community.  Is promoting nationalism really worth all that?  Rather than proclaiming English as the official language, we should be providing more opportunities for immigrants to learn English.  Lending a helping hand and making it easier, rather than harder, for immigrants to assimilate into our society is a far more effective way to instill national pride, in both immigrants and those born here.  English as the official language and flag burning amendments won’t strengthen our country, they only encourage false pride.  And we all know what that precedes don’t we?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An Announcement From The Washington State Democrats

George Bush will be in Washington State this Friday to campaign for Dave Reichert and Mike McGavick.

Lets Show America that Bush and his failed policies are not welcome in Washington State!

Washington State Democratic Rally

Friday, June 16th
Westlake Center
400 Pine St
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Get Along Little Rover

In this media environment of sound bites and half-assed reporting, it is going to be up to independent media outlets, bloggers and those of us that read them, to counter the traditional media drum beat of “Karl Rove has been vindicated” by Patrick Fitzgerald’s announcement that the won’t be seeking indictments of Bush’s Brain. Rove is one slimy, slippery eel and although at first I was surprised by this development, I think ultimately, most of us were prepared for this possibility and it certainly doesn’t change the facts as we know them, that Rove, Libby, Cheney and Bush all lied to the American people, on their own and through Scott McClellan, when they said they had nothing to do with the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name to the press. The news today doesn’t change that fact.

This is certainly good news for the Bush administration and the GOP, as it frees up Rove to put all of his energy into maintaining a Republican majority in Congress this November. The Congressional races will likely be more ugly than even the 2004 Presidential election. The GOP has even more to lose now than they did back then and I expect to see outrageous mud-slinging prior to November and “unbelievable” vote tallies on election day because where there’s Rove, there’s fire, and whether or not he’s ever charged with arson, you can bet he’s holding the match.

I’m not as disappointed as I thought I would be by this news. I guess that’s because imagining Rove in an orange jumpsuit was nothing more than a happy fantasy picture in my mind that on some level I knew was just a visceral pleasure that had nothing to do with the real situation we are fighting. It would have been fun, but it wouldn’t have meant the end of the fight, not by a long shot. I still hold out hope that Fitzgerald’s investigation will continue to shed light on what happened in this White House during the lead up to the war and further expose the tactics this administration uses to silence its critics. As the case against Scooter Libby goes forward, Cheney isn’t out of the woods just yet and we can speculate that Rove, in an effort to get himself off the hook, may have provided Fitzgerald with information that will help that case move forward. Too bad the “Scooter and Shooter Show” won’t be opening (in a DC courthouse near you) until after the mid-term elections.

It is looking more and more likely that we won’t find out the whole truth of what really happened in the CIA leak case until after Bush and Cheney have left office, but that shouldn’t be a surprise either. This administration has locked down information better than any administration before and they seemed to have learned the lessons of Nixon, don’t just hide the most incriminating evidence, keep it all under lock and key so that the picture never becomes clear enough to find even a starting point. Allowing an outsider like Fitzgerald to conduct an investigation into Bush administration wrongdoing is a mistake they won’t likely make again. This desire for secrecy is why I have no doubt that Rove and the GOP will do anything and everything to keep control of Congress this November. It may take more “glitches” in voting software and purging of Democrats from voter rolls to do it, but thwarting democracy is a small price to pay for the riches to be gained and the crimes must remain hidden in order to continue the looting.

We have corruption at the highest levels of our government and it will take more than one lone prosecutor to remedy that. It will take each and every one of us, the citizens of this country, doing everything we can to make sure our voting systems are accurate and secure, to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire, to organize behind new candidates that will go to DC and actually work for us, to re-build a Democratic Party infrastructure that supports candidates that have loyalty only to the people they represent, to put pressure on traditional media outlets to cover the stories we care about, to speak out when we see wrongs being committed and join together with others in our community to find common cause and strength in numbers. In theory, this is still a democracy, so let’s exercise our rights and participate in the process before the process rolls over us and we lose those rights altogether.

Rove being indicted would have been a very high profile blow to this administration, but it is certainly not their only weakness. The real nuggets of truth buried in the CIA leak case are the lies that led us to war. Getting Rove off the hook for outing Valerie Plame doesn’t absolve the Bush administration of that, and with a public that is disenchanted with this President and skeptical about his war of choice, there are plenty of vulnerabilities to hammer away at. We may only be flies buzzing around the head of this administration, but a swarm of flies can be awful irritating. They may not kill you, but they will draw attention, drive you crazy and maybe even force you to run screaming in the other direction. The stink is spreading making our job easier. All we have to do is point the flies in the right direction and let the swarming begin.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Zarqawi Story

Who was that dead man in the photo that was put on display in a gold frame and professionally matted for that “polished” look? The U.S. and “Iraqi” government told us he was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and one of the most brutal terrorists on the planet, but Zarqawi, as we've come to know him, may have been more a manufactured villain than an actual man.

I have never seen or read anything that suggests Zarqawi was anything more than an amalgamation of different people, a creation of American propaganda. He was used as justification for the Iraq invasion when we were told he was the Al-Qaeda operative that, after being wounded in Afghanistan, sought medical treatment in Baghdad where he supposedly had his leg amputated. Clearly this was proof that Saddam Hussein was aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden. After the invasion, and after Zarqawi’s leg amputation, we were told that the masked man in the video seen quickly going down on bended knee to decapitate Nicholas Berg, was Zarqawi. I’m not saying that it wasn’t, but he showed some pretty amazing dexterity for a man with a prosthetic leg. But that can be explained away by claiming that the original story was wrong. How convenient.

And months after that, we were told that U.S. forces had almost captured Zarqawi in a car chase in Iraq, but Zarqawi managed to jump from the car and outrun (again, with a prosthetic leg) our soldiers where he “disappeared” into the desert. That’s quite a feat in flat terrain with few places to hide, even with the two working legs Allah gave you.

Yes, there are terrorists that are willing to kill in the most brutal of ways to further their cause, and the dead man in the picture may very well have been one of them. But the truth of Zarqawi’s influence in Iraq is not found in this media frenzy over his death that seems more designed to boost President Bush’s poll numbers than anything else. Trotting out a dead terrorist is good red meat for the base, but whether or not it changes the situation of the ground in Iraq is another story all together. I think most of us know that it won’t.

American Democracy: A Laugh Riot

Now even the New York Times has printed on its pages that the 2004 election certainly would have gone to Kerry had all the votes been counted and all the people who intended to vote, been allowed the “privilege”.  In other words, the will of the people was thwarted in 2000 and 2004 and Bush never should have been President, let alone for as long as he has been.  I find it shocking that this fact is not more shocking to the citizens of this country.  Of course it was just in the opinion section and not the conclusion of a rigorous investigative reporting piece, but at least it’s something, even a year and a half after the fact.

We should be questioning the validity of a Congress that can impeach a popular democratically elected President for lying about a sexual indiscretion, yet refuse to impeach an unpopular President that didn’t get enough votes to be elected, for lying the country into a war.  Where is the representation of the people?  I certainly don’t see it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dead Time Due To Deadwood

I have a couple of things in the works, but we are fast approaching the time when I retire to the couch and watch really great television so I’ll save them for tomorrow.  I don’t watch much TV during the week, but that’s only because all the good shows are on Sundays.

Tonight is the season premier of Deadwood, by far the best show on television today.  Two years ago, when I watched the first episode, The Sopranos instantly dropped to second place.  It is the ugliness of American history right alongside the convoluted integrity that we like to claim as our heritage.  It is the bare knuckles politics of forming a country and the sexist, racist, violent reality from which we were born.  What’s not to love about that?

I am going the way of the couch potato tonight, so you’re on your own cocksuckers!  If you watch Deadwood you know what I’m saying, if not, you really must check it out.  And even though I recently learned that the ratio of “fuck” to “cocksucker” in this series is around 10 to 1, the latter is definitely the standout word that is hard to ignore (or resist using, unfortunately).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury

While I do not apologize for the content of my previous post on religion, I do recognize that the tone I chose to take was a bit more confrontational that perhaps was necessary and may have ended up being less productive that it otherwise would have been, had I taken greater care in making clear distinctions between Fundamentalism, Christian activism and Christianity as a whole. I usually try to be as specific as possible, but this time I was reacting to a general movement and shift I see happening in this country and I chose to use the same tone that is used against liberals and secularists by the religious right, in order to make a point. Perhaps it was self-indulgent to use their tactics against them, and instead of highlighting their hypocrisy, as was my intent, I managed only to leave myself open to charges of the same. I do believe in tolerance, especially of views that I find most abhorrent, but when those views turn into political action it is my duty as an American citizen to speak out against them.

Is Christianity destroying the fabric of our society? That is a debatable philosophical question. There is an argument to be made that religion of any kind is hindering our ability to evolve into a more enlightened species. Over the span of human history there have been many Gods created by people to help explain and order the world in a way that made nature understandable. Is the one God that Christians believe in or the one (different) God that Muslims worship any different? As a legal matter, it makes no difference what anyone thinks of God or religion, choosing to believe in God is a deeply personal choice and everyone, in this country at least, is free to make that choice for him or herself. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right granted by our Constitution and critical to the functioning of our democracy. Whether or not religion makes our country better is a whole other question, and certainly not a political one.

Are the worst and loudest purveyors of divisiveness and intolerance in this country right now, self-proclaimed Christians? In my opinion they are and that must be addressed. When United States Senators stand on the Senate floor and use the Bible as justification for amending our constitution to prohibit gay marriage, Christianity is brought into the political debate. When religious activists lobby school boards and state legislatures to force teachers to teach Creationism in our public schools, Christianity is brought into the political debate. When governing bodies use God’s words as justification for denying women sovereignty over their own bodies, Christianity is brought into the political debate. If the Bible is going to be cited as a basis for legislation, then the validity of what the Bible teaches becomes fair game in the debate. This is exactly why religion has no place in politics.

I think because the vast majority of people in this country self-identify as Christian, it makes it difficult to have a productive conversation about the role religion should play in public life. Because Christianity is practiced in so many different ways, it has become difficult to distinguish between the Christian activists with political agendas and Christians that quietly practice their faith with no desire to change our laws to reflect their religious views. I admit that in my previous post, I was a bit careless in not making those distinctions clear. Call it temporary blindness of rage brought on by watching three days worth of sermons delivered on the Senate floor by self-righteous hypocrites posing as lawmakers.

Our Constitution provides for the personal freedom to choose ones religion, but it also is designed to protect the government from becoming a religious institution. Passing laws based on religious doctrine tramples on that right. Maybe that is easily lost in the debate when we have the vast majority all belonging to one religion, but because we are so heavily tilted to one side, it is extra important to pay attention to that right and protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority when it comes to religion.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Myth Of America

I am moving this comment and my response to the front page because I think it is an important question that we ask ourselves, is what we believe our country to be nothing more than a myth? I have touched on this topic several times, what it means to be an American? We were raised on propaganda that teaches us of our greatness, philanthropy and ingenuity, but we are not taught about our imperialist tendencies, our exploitation of others around the world and at what cost our “greatness” comes. That we must learn on our own.

Certainly we are not all bad, but are we really the great country we pride ourselves on being, the one we learn about in grammar school? Or is it simply that we must continue to strive to be as great as our founding documents suggest we can be? Even that requires amending our constitution to better reflect societal progress and the evolving nature of humans. And what does it say about us that we are now rolling back programs that have at least attempted to move us forward? Feel free to weigh in, I think it’s an important discussion to have.

Chief Says:

Love your blog, but need to ask when you feel the quote below from the end of this post was happening?

"if we ever hope to become the America that we once were long ago"

I can recall how the white settlers killed and subjugated the native Americans, how the Japanese Americans were rounded up in 1942 and put in detention (concentration?) camps, how beginning in 1953 or 1954 in Guatemala, we got rid of governments, even popularly elected ones, if they objected to U.S. companies business practices, not to even mention the enslavement of dark skinned people until 1865 and the further murder and ghettoization of people of color to this very day.

When were we what our history tells us we were? Remembering that it is always the winners who write the history.

We have always been a flawed country, based as it was on stealing land from the natives that lived here and building our wealth through slavery, but there has been forward movement and attempts to right wrongs after the fact. Now it feels as if we have stopped and are moving backwards.

American exceptionalism is a very real phenomenon and has led to all of the things you mentioned as well as more recent imperial exploits in places like El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Panama and now Iraq. Believe me, I have no illusions about this countries "greatness" and how it was achieved.

But at least when this country was illegally funding the Contras (through drug trafficking dollars no less) and actively suppressing the peoples will in Nicaragua, it was done behind our backs because it was too distasteful, even to Congress. What the Reagan administration did was illegal and immoral and was done without the people's consent. Now we, the people, have joined in as accomplices and that doesn't bode well for the health of our country.

There are far too many mistakes we have never officially apologized for, let alone taken any real responsibility for, but in the past, progress has been made in recognizing that some wrongs should not happen again (outlawing slavery, extending rights to people of all races and genders, reparations for Japanese Americans interned during the war). We have made attempts through Affirmative Action to level the playing field here at home and outlawing “redlining” so minorities have an equal shot at home and business ownership. We instituted social security so that the elderly weren’t forced to live their final years in poverty and welfare so that children wouldn’t starve. These things did not solve the problems completely, but they at least were attempts at progress and they are all under attack now. We are forgetting the lessons we have learned.

I guess what I mean by that sentence is that we must go back to moving forward and stop ignoring our history, the very history you put forth and more. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it and all that. We have never been angels, but we have never been hated by the rest of the world to the extent we are now, nor have we neglected our responsibility to our citizens at home to such an extent since the lead up to the Depression (and possibly the 80s when there was a great push to get rid of the social safety net). We have gone from mostly benign during the 90s (at least as far as our foreign policy was concerned, our economic policies under Clinton were anything but benign with WTO and NAFTA) to causing great harm during this administration. Maybe during the next one we can get back to benign and then move towards doing good. The world could sure use it.