Monday, July 31, 2006

More Of The Same From Bush, But Something New From The Democrats

Ken Melman’s job is to convince the press, and by extension the American people, that Bush’s war in Iraq is the epicenter of the war on “terra” and that both are a smashing success, if still a work in progress. It would seem an impossible task, but he is having great success. Either Melman’s a genius or we simply have the most compliant (bordering on propagandistic) press ever. I know on which side I fall in that debate.

There is a partisan divide so vast that there seems to be little agreement on anything these days. Well, at least as far as the public is concerned, our Democratic legislators can still find ways to give in to just about every Republican position no matter how bad. I just wonder what they think they will get in return and when they think it will come. It’s hardly bi-partisanship when one side refuses to budge while the other continually folds like a house of cards.

I find it particularly disturbing that Republicans are willing to push for unpopular policies with gusto while the Democrats have been content to cower in the corner, afraid to even bring up policy positions that enjoy overwhelming public support. Today the Democrats have released a letter to President Bush calling for the phased withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. I can only hope this is a sign that the Democratic leadership has been sufficiently frightened by Democratic voters intending to purge the Party of those like Joe Lieberman who refuse to represent our values in the House and Senate. We need an opposition party, not one that joins the other side simply to avoid being called weak. It’s time for the Democrats to heal their psychological wounds inflicted when they were booted out of power and start moving this country forward. The American people are behind troop withdrawal in Iraq. Democrats must focus on a positive agenda for the country and maybe, just maybe the Republicans will fail to convince enough people that the “war on terra” needs to be expanded to include Iran and Syria.

I scan the headlines each day and I can’t help but be disturbed by the connections I see. The New York Times, reporting on the “partisan divide” discusses the danger inherent in politicizing foreign policy, but that is exactly what has worked so well for Republicans in the last several elections. So much so that they are returning to the “freedom is on the march” well, yet again hoping it will bring them victory in the midterms this November. The obvious problem with making diplomacy and war partisan affairs is that solutions to complicated problems cannot be solved with campaign sound bites. We need our legislators to work together to solve problems, but the Republicans have made bi-partisanship obsolete. The Democrats have to figure out how to deal with that in a way that doesn’t involve bending over and giving in.

Also in the headlines today is Bush re-affirming his “plan” to bring peace to the Middle East while simultaneously conflating the current fighting in Lebanon as “part of a larger struggle”. This is the big fear for me. The Republicans have Fox News (and MSNBC and CNN to a slightly lesser degree) to help them sell their perpetual war in the Middle East and by simply using the same empty rhetoric such as, “The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East.” The same tired arguments and pie in the sky crap is what Bush continues to spout:

“This task is long, it is difficult work, but it is necessary work. When democracy spreads in the Middle East the people of that troubled region will have a better future. The terrorists will lose their safe havens and their recruits, and the United States of America will be more secure. The hard work of helping people realize the benefits of liberty is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.”

Yeah, that plan has worked so well in Afghanistan and Iraq, we should certainly keep up the good work and expand a policy that has been so effective. That is just delusional thinking, but the sad part is, some people still believe it.

So on the heels of those two stories, I read that the Bush administration, far from closing Gitmo, are instead set to open a new maximum security prison in Guantanamo (built of course by Halliburton). But I suppose we shouldn’t be concerned about that, after all, the purpose of the new facility is to “improve the quality of life of the detainees.” Now isn’t that thoughtful? It makes me more than a little nervous when the Bush administration and Halliburton start building more prisons able to hold even more “enemy combatants” that can be held indefinitely without due process and with such a vague definition of who exactly qualifies as an enemy combatant.

Anyone who speaks out against this administration is immediately deemed an “America hater” that is “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” Nothing new really. Using an overly broad definition that could be applied to political enemies, in a polarized environment, at a time when the executive branch has amassed unprecedented power and with a Congress that has abdicated it’s oversight authority, is nothing to be concerned about at all. We can all just slap American flags on our SUVs, turn on Fox News and enjoy our good fortune. God Bless America!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Minimum Value

The headline says, “House approves minimum wage increase”, but that is a blatant distortion of what the GOP controlled House did late last night.  Yes, they did approve a bill that raises the minimum wage to $7.25 over the next three years, but attached to the bill is the elimination of the Estate Tax as well.  Par for the GOP course, throw a few pennies at the poor while you shovel the real revenues out the back door and into the luxury cars of 7,500 American families that have made their fortunes on the backs of working people and likely never paid their fair share.  Good for the Democrats that voted against this bill that only seeks to widen the gap between the uber rich and the rest of us working stiffs.

The State Of The Church

In my ongoing quest to highlight the attempts of religious leaders to separate their churches from political agendas, there is another book from another Evangelical that preaches the value of separation of Church and State.  The perceived political power of Religious Right Values Voters will only be diminished if the Church takes on the very serious debate of whether or not the Church is the proper place for political activism and displays of patriotism.  Rev. Gregory A. Boyd is raising the issue in his sermons and in his new book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church.  Amen brother, it’s destroying our country too!

Even Bill Clinton Can’t Save Lieberman Now

The primary race in Connecticut is heating up, especially now that Joe Lieberman is trailing his opponent Ned Lamont in the polls.  For an incumbent, that is bad news indeed.

This race is about more than just who will be the next Senator from Connecticut, it’s about what it means to be a Democrat and the voters in this small state seem to recognize the significance of this primary and are sending the message to the National Party that Republican lite isn’t where it’s at.

Despite the fact that Democrats are leading in national polls and most Americans are disgusted with the lockstep Republican led Congress, Democrats have some problems of their own.  First and foremost is their inability to get behind issues with majority support, such as Universal Healthcare, a livable working wage and withdrawing our troops from Iraq.  If Lieberman loses this primary, perhaps the rest of the Democratic delegation will get the message that we want them to start acting like Democrats again, and if they fail to do that, they can and will be replaced.  Cross your fingers for a Lamont win and even better, send a few dollars his way.  He’s even vowed to match any contribution made online so your dollars will make double the impact right now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hellfire, Damnation And Rational Thought

It is difficult for many liberals to honestly discuss the current crisis in the Middle East for fear of being deemed anti-Semitic. This fear leads to an inability to address the issue properly, hell, I’ve fallen victim to this myself in the past. When asked to discuss Zionism and American foreign policy on a local political talk show a few months back, I quickly begged off not wanting to subject myself to live cameras and the potential for being misinterpreted or simply saying the right thing in the wrong way. It is a minefield and no thinking person walks into one of those willingly. But who else, besides liberals, will speak out about the wrong-headedness of Israel’s response to Hezbollah and America’s (not so tacit) approval of their tactics these last few weeks? Silence has its consequences too.

There is an amazing letter circulating that has been signed by some of our most respected liberal thinkers like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, that spells out a rational position (what should be the liberal position) in clear and unflinching terms:

The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner - and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis - there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.

That this "kidnapping" was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources - most particularly that of water - by the Israeli Defence (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land alloted to them by international agreements, during the last seventy years.

Today outrage follows outrage; makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called Justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?

Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.

This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognized for what it is and resisted.

Tariq Ali
John Berger
Noam Chomsky
Eduardo Galeano
Naomi Klein
Harold Pinter
Arundhati Roy
Jose Saramago
Giuliana Sgrena
Howard Zinn

That Israel has become an occupier and aggressive state due to circumstances that have forced them to seek security above all else does not negate the reality that they are an occupational and aggressive force in the region and have become so, largely with the help of the U.S. government, stepped up dramatically under the stewardship of GWB. I am not unsympathetic to the situation Israel finds itself in, but this latest inflammation of violence smacks of collective punishment, message sending and the beginnings of a much bigger conflict, one that is desired by the neo-conservatives that have a death grip on the governments of both the United States and Israel. This is not an “isolated conflict” but rather one that has roots in a philosophy that seeks to reshape the world in a way that is most beneficial to a very select few.

I believe in coincidence only up to a point, and the fact that the very same shady characters that brought us Iran-Contra are manipulating the chessboard again now for their own sick power play, tells me this is chaos by design. Bush hasn’t been silent because he’s too ignorant to know what to do (well, not completely anyway) and Condi hasn’t been kept on ice for so long without reason. We are letting the violence escalate and the tensions boil for a purpose. The neo-cons are hell bent on regime change in Iran and this is their shot.

There is a great article in Rolling Stone this week that spells out the neo-con delusions of ”re-making” the Middle East and their backroom (outside the boundaries of law no doubt) machinations to further that goal. Just as the invasion of Iraq was going to happen regardless of how many lies had to be told or how much intelligence had to be manufactured to make it palatable to an American public, so too is the toppling of the Iranian government, whether they were democratically elected or not. Hamas will tell you, we don’t give a shit about elections, not in the Middle East and not here at home. We only care about the outcome. You either buy into the corporatist agenda or you suffer the bombing until the corporatists take what they want by force. There is no resisting the God of Capitalism and the dollar is the only thing worthy of worship. The Iranians signed their own death warrant when they dared buck the buck with their proposed oil bourse that is set to begin trading oil in Euros instead of dollars in September. America simply can’t allow that to happen, there is a price to pay for such petulance. You will trade in the dollar, we’ll make sure of that, and we’ve got the (nuclear) weapons to back that threat up buster.

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to stop myself from seeing the bigger picture. The last remaining Bush supporters will call me a “conspiracy theorist” and an “America hater” but that doesn’t change the fact that they are willfully ignoring the facts on the ground. I accept that I may be wrong and that there is a slim chance that this cabal of neo-conservative freaks are not purposefully driving our ship of state straight into the resource wars in an effort to control the last remaining easy access, high yield power left on Earth, but at least I will be able to sleep at night knowing I paid attention and was a witness to the madness of the greedy men that destroyed life as we know it. If there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, I’ll hopefully be well rested enough to reach it while the sleepwalking masses wonder what the hell happened. Of course if we’re talking about slim chances, there’s always the possibility that the Fundamentalist Christians are right and they’ll be raptured up while I burn in the fires of hell on Earth, but I’ve even made peace with that. Sitting at the feet of Christ for eternity never held any appeal for me anyway.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

David Sirota At Town Hall Seattle

David Sirota will be at Town Hall tomorrow (Thursday, July 27th) at 7:30pm. He will be discussing (and signing) his book, Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government–And How We Take It Back, so if you haven’t done so already, make plans to go see David. He’s wicked smart and as Al Franken is fond of saying each week when he comes on Al’s show, “a very, very sexy wonk.”

Admission is $5 at the door, a bargain for sure!

Some Traditions Aren’t Worth Preserving

Today the Supreme Court of Washington State handed down their decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and they have decided that our state constitution allows for the continuing discrimination of citizens based on their sexual orientation.  The fact that our constitution is being used as an instrument to deny equal rights is bad enough, but the rational for the decision is even more disturbing, it’s religious nonsense.

If the reason for upholding the statewide ban on gay marriage is to protect children, these five justices have done a grave disservice to our state’s children in the name of protecting them.  The justices signing on to the majority opinion claim that the purpose of marriage is procreation and since same sex couples don’t fulfill that purpose, they are not entitled to marriage rights.  I know that the Bible deems procreation the “purpose” of marriage, but I didn’t know that the state constitution did as well.  If it does, then surely all of the marriages that have not resulted in children will now be annulled.  And while we’re at it, opposite sex couples that choose to marry but also choose not to have children should be excluded from marriage in the future too.  Perhaps the state legislature can write a new law that gives heterosexual couples a timeline to follow.  If you don’t conceive within the first five years, your marriage will be nullified.  Of course, that would also include couples unable to conceive their own child and choose to adopt instead, because we all know that an adopted child is not the “product” of the marriage, therefore the marriage should be voided.  Who cares if it is better for the adopted child to have married parents, this is Washington and we care about God’s intentions.  

Is this really the road we want to go down?  Even though it seems ridiculous to follow the convoluted logic these justices use to justify excluding gay couples from obtaining marriage rights, doing so may be the only way that religious people, judges included, will ever see the consequences of pushing their narrow beliefs on the rest of us.  Until it comes back to bite them on their own ass, they simply won’t give a shit.

The same is true of stem cell research.  If the use of embryos in stem cell research is “murder” as the President suggests, then every single fertilized egg should be implanted in the woman choosing to undergo in vitro fertilization.  No more fertilizing a bunch of eggs and hoping one of them takes, you get one shot each time no matter what the cost.  I mean really, if God wanted you to have children, he’d have made you fertile right?  This is the lunacy that the religious masses, with their freedom to worship (and believe) however they choose, are unleashing on our country.  I think they should try to live up to their own religious ideals before attempting to force the rest of us to comply with what they can’t seem to live up to themselves.  Given that 80% or so of this country is Christian, I’m guessing that most of the fertilized embryos sitting in freezers right now belong to Christian couples.  How about we pass a law forcing them to implant, carry and care for all these hundreds of thousands of “lives” they have willfully abandoned?  Is that any less crazy than restricting science because it’s against “God’s law”?

I’m disappointed with the Washington Supreme Court decision, obviously, but the ball is back in the legislature’s court now and perhaps that is where this is best decided anyway.  There was a time when the courts in this country made bold decisions and helped move us forward toward a more perfect union by striking down laws that were inherently discriminatory, but that time has passed.  If equality is to be achieved, we are going to have to pressure our elected representatives to the point that they have no other option but to act boldly and expand rights rather than restrict them.  We on the left must be the counter to the noise of the Religious Right and make clear that discrimination is not a tradition we care to honor, no matter how rooted in our history it is.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Godless West

USA Today has a great map up where you can track the religious affiliation of Americans by state (hat tip to Michael for sending me the link).  It’s interesting to see the geographical differences, Lutherans in the North, Baptists in the South, Catholics in the Northeast and a bunch of non-religious folks out West.  What I found most interesting though is that no-religion places in the top three in just about every state while Evangelicals, if they rank at all, top out at 2%.  How is it that such a small minority has so much influence on our government?

No-religion tops the list in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho (I know, that one surprised me too) and came in a close second in, California, Montana and Nevada.  Out west it seems that God is losing ground, most notably in Washington state, perhaps that’s why I feel so at home out here.  No-religion also came in second in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina (tied for second actually) and New Jersey, and ranks third in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Delaware and Maryland.  The least amount of people that consider themselves non-religious are found in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.  Shocking, I know.

I guess none of this is really surprising but it does put the marginalization of non-believers into perspective.  Sure, we only make up 10% of the population of this country, but unless you lump all the religions together, Christians and Evangelicals combined make up even less of the population according to this map.  No wonder the Religious Right is constantly trying to pull Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists under their “Christian” umbrella, it boosts their numbers significantly.

So what do I take away from looking at this map?  That the Religious Right is in trouble.  I mean really, Ralph Reed, the face of the Christian Coalition, couldn’t even win a Republican Primary race in Georgia last week!  And while The Rapturites get a lot of play from traditional media, the truth is that they are far less politically significant than those of us that don’t subscribe to any religion at all.  The power of the Religious Right is nothing but hype purchased with large sums of money that was raised from delusional theocrats, but now that their money is running out, even the ill-gotten-Abramoff-tainted-swindled-from-Native-American-tribe money, their ability to purchase political influence will dwindle as well.  Thank goodness for that.  

Now if we can just get rid of the product of their bloated influence, the idiot in the White House, America can start to re-build its reputation as a nation of thinking people.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but I’m trying to believe it’s still possible.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Marginalizing Principles

I wandered over to The Smirking Chimp this morning and read Burton H. Wolfe discussing knee-jerk ‘liberals’ and fanatic ‘progressives’. Reading this sort of analysis of the left makes me crazy. It’s one thing for conservatives to continue their decades long campaign of smearing liberalism, but when liberals join in, using the same tactics and language no less, it frustrates the hell out of me. While I recognize that the point Wolfe is trying to make is a valid one, I hate to see liberals focus on such a small problem when there are so many big ones left unsoved. Democrats should be trying to figure out how to bring liberals into the fold, not how to discredit us further. Excising liberals from the Party has proven to be a big mistake, I mean really, the DLC experiment has failed as completely as the Bush agenda. Perhaps it’s time to listen to the liberal point of view rather than trying to marginalize it the way the Republicans have for so long.

Yes, in order to build a strong Democratic Party and to successfully push a liberal/progressive agenda, it is necessary to focus on the long-term goals we share rather than on the single issues we each hold dear. The Republican Party has had great success because they have been able to get unified support from constituencies that have little in common with one another. But, just because liberals aren’t as compliant as conservatives, doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to compromise.

The Republican Party has done a great job in linking together its very different constituencies and enforcing lockstep support for their agenda by all of their separate groups. The religious right supports the financial agenda of the corporatists and the corporatists support the regressive social policies of the religious right. Bigotry and fear of “otherness” is not good for corporate America, but they support the pet issues of the religious right anyway. Creating more poverty through economic policies that favor corporations over people doesn’t square with Christian teachings, but the religious right supports them anyway. This may prove the Republican Party politically astute, but it does nothing to create a more perfect union. In fact it is tearing us apart and driving our country into the ground.

Social and economic justice for all is at the core of liberalism and discussion, debate and a thriving marketplace of ideas is how we decide the best way to create that justice. This makes it far more difficult to institute lockstep support for anything. Sure, we should make more of an effort to focus on our common goals and we should be willing to put our pet issues aside, but asking us to support policies that solve one problem while doing harm somewhere else, is not compromise, it’s silly. That doesn’t make us “knee-jerk” liberals, it just means we understand the connectivity of life, that what we do in one area will create ripples that affect everything else.

Compromise is good, but liberals should not be expected to compromise right out of the gate. There is a process for reaching consensus and there is a time for compromise in order to do the most good for the most people. Liberals understand this, we’re just tired of being expected to compromise before the appropriate time. We get to come to the table like everyone else, present our case and attempt to persuade people to our side. Our ideas are not “outside the mainstream” as the conservative noise machine has claimed for all these years and by picking up on their meme, Democrats do a greater disservice to the Party than liberals ever could.

Instead of calling us “knee-jerk” liberals, why not ask where the need to instantaneously react to policy affronts comes from? Could it be that liberals have been on the defensive for decades, fighting off attacks that we are myopic, rigid America haters? And how about questioning why we don’t hear the term “knee-jerk” conservative bandied about all the time? It’s certainly more wide spread and does far more damage to the political conversation, not to mention the country and the world.

Of course there are fanatics of every stripe, but I would venture to guess that there are far fewer liberal fanatics than just about any other group. Liberalism is a way of looking at the world that colors our opinions on a myriad of issues. We want justice, we want freedom, we want progress and while we understand that compromise is necessary for good governance, we also know that compromise is a two way street. We are willing to debate the methods of implementing policies that will further the larger goals, but don’t ask us to abandon the fundamentals. Justice, freedom and progress are imperatives. We can negotiate (through compromise) how best to achieve those things, but that they are necessary is not up for debate. That doesn’t make us rigid or fanatical, it makes us principled. Last time I checked, that was a good thing.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I’m Not Ready To Settle, I Still Want It All

I was invited to join a blogger meet-up with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico last week and I have to say, he’ll make an impressive Presidential candidate should he choose to run in ’08.  I can’t say that I’m a supporter, but I did like what he had to say about immigration, the minimum wage and energy policy, particularly how it relates to foreign policy and national security.  I have always felt that if our economy were not based on access to cheap oil as it is now, our foreign policy, even under the Bush administration, would look much different.  I was happy to hear Bill Richardson acknowledge the importance of renewable energy and even more thrilled to hear him describe climate change as a security issue.

He did say he supports an Apollo like project for renewable energy and that he thinks subsidies for nuclear power should be scrapped.  Funding the science and discovery of new technologies is where we should be focusing our attention, it’s the right thing to do for the planet, for the stability of our country and because it will support new industries that will help grow our economy and provide more jobs.  The Governor talked a bit about how he’s done just that in his own state with great success.

When asked by David Goldstein of Horse’s Ass if he considered himself a DLC Democrat, the Governor gave a typical politicians response, “No, but I am going to their convention.”  I guess I can’t blame him for trying to cover all the bases, but I just can’t get behind another moderate as long as there’s still an option of choosing a real progressive (go ahead and read that as Russ Feingold).

Of all the candidates that the pundits are espousing as “frontrunners” for the Democrats in ‘08, I’d have to say that Bill Richardson is one of my top choices, but I’m still holding out for the real liberals to make a splash.  As good as Governor Richardson is on renewable energy, a real liberal (like Russ Feingold) is guaranteed to be better.  I’m still not willing to give up on the idea that what this country needs now, more than ever, is some good old-fashioned liberal policy to get us back on the right track.  Richardson would be fine, but we could get someone great.  

Like my friend Will from Pike Place Politics said as we were leaving the meeting, “I haven’t been pinned yet.”  And neither have I, there’s still plenty of time to play the field.  It’s way to early to settle, I’ll save that for much later.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Got Carried Away By My New Biodieselmobile

I meant to blog today, but early this morning we were informed that our new (well used, but new to us) diesel engine truck (well, SUV but I hate admitting that part) had finally made it to Seattle (well, Tacoma, but close enough) so we had to go get it right away. Not because they said we had to, but because we just couldn’t wait to fill it up with bio-fuel and bench (once and for all) our gas guzzling mini-van.

So I spent the day dealing with all that comes with taking possession of a new car, insurance, registration, fueling it up and most importantly, putting new bumper stickers on. We decided against covering the entire backside with liberal slogans and instead settled on a few good ones. “Biodiesel, No War Required” being my favorite. That is until I get a replacement for my all time favorite sticker now adorning the minivan, “dubya dubya dubya dot liar dot con.” I still get compliments on that one, even from Republicans.

So, thanks to Al Gore and his “little movie” An Inconvenient Truth, I now have compact florescent light-bulbs everywhere, I am constantly screeching “turn that off” at my kids, I walk more than I used to, my front door is, thanks to the new weather stripping, virtually vacuum sealed and nearly impossible to open, and now I have a car that smells like burnt popcorn when I start it up. Minor inconveniences all and surely only the start of what I can do to reduce my carbon footprint but jeez, as much as I hope we survive long enough to see a sequel, I hope it doesn’t come out until after I’ve made it through the first list of things to do. I’m thinking that should be sometime around next July.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Gem In The Garbage Dump

Everyone knows that when the White House wants to bury a story, they release the details on a Friday afternoon in the middle of summer.  Last Friday, on a beautiful summer day, the Education Department released the results of a study that found that public schools outperformed private and charter schools in both reading and math.  These findings are not surprising in the least for those of us who have kids in public school, but don’t expect the Bush administration to be touting these statistics anytime soon.  With any other administration in power, this would be considered good news to be released with much fanfare on a Monday morning.  “Isn’t this great?  Our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and our public schools are working!”

There has been a perception for a long time that private schools are better than public schools and the Bush administration has done everything they can to foster this myth by instituting policies to ensure that public schools fail and that when they do, the money can be diverted away from public education and into the private sector.  But this study highlights the failed reasoning in giving preference to private schools over public schools.  Our schools are outperforming private schools despite being disgracefully under-funded and over-taxed with new testing requirements.   Private schools are not the answer to failing public schools, what we need to do is fund our public schools fully and properly.  Education is the great equalizer and making sure that public funds are dispersed equally throughout our public education system will help ensure that all kids are given the opportunity to succeed.  You can throw money at a problem if you have really good aim.

This is not the first study that has found that public education works.  In January of this year, a study out of the University of Illinois came up with much the same findings.  The most interesting part of both studies is that when they break down private schools by type, Lutheran schools performed best and Conservative Christian schools faired worst.  In fact in Conservative Christian schools, the kids scored a year behind their public school counterparts in math.  Not surprising really, but it did provide me with a good chuckle.   Considering that math is the language of science and Conservative Christians have a very difficult time resolving the conflicts between their religious beliefs and science, it makes perfect sense that they would lag behind those children receiving a secular education.  Teaching creationism makes for an easy exam, but does little to help kids understand the physical world in which we live.

The startling thing is that Conservative Christian schools are the fastest growing type of private school in the country.  The last thing we need is more of the worst performing type of schools.  If the Bush administration gave any weight to statistical analysis that doesn’t support their agenda, the idea of giving public money to private schools that are failing at teaching kids the basics would finally be put to rest.  Unfortunately they don’t and it won’t.  This may be a setback for the voucher and charter school movement, but they will not give up on destroying our public schools, even if the result is an inferior education for our nation’s children.

One of the best aspects of American society is that we educate all of our children.  The fact that public schools would score better than conservative Christian private schools in math shouldn’t be surprising at all considering that the agenda is totally different.  Public schools educate all students in the basics, preparing them to become productive working members of society, whereas Conservative Christian schools prepare their students to be good Christians.  Not the same thing at all.

I honestly believe that the purpose of No Child Left Behind, Charter schools and vouchers to private schools are all designed to destroy public education.  What better way to ensure that there’s a permanent ruling class than to make education dependent on the amount of money one can shell out to buy one?  And not only does the religious right want the masses to be left with an inferior education, they want to make sure that the education we are able to access for our children is a religious one.  If all kids were forced into Conservative Christian private schools, paid for with taxpayer dollars, just imagine how ill equipped we’d be to analyze the behavior of our government, much less engage with our representatives in the way that is necessary for a strong and vibrant democracy.  Good for the ruling class, not so much for the rest of us.

One would think that on the heels of this new government study, now would be the perfect time to give more money to public education.  It isn’t “throwing money at a problem” to fund what is proven to work best.  I seem to remember hearing Republicans talking a lot about accountability and focusing on programs that work rather than funding what obviously doesn’t.  If Republicans really believed their own rhetoric, we’d never have to hear about charter schools or vouchers ever again.  But if Republicans believed their own rhetoric, they wouldn’t be Republicans now would they?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ridicule Him Into Oblivion

Cenk Unger today at The Huffington Post says what I was saying to anyone who would listen during the ’04 election. The answer to countering Bush’s authority is not convincing half the country that he’s evil and not a good leader, but rather ridiculing him to the point that he becomes the butt of the joke. No one willingly gives power to the butt of the joke. As Cenk points out, it’s not as if we don’t already know in our guts that he’s an imbecile, it’s just that not enough people have found a way to deal with just how scary that truth is.

In every other job he’s had, Bush has been a complete failure and in any other job right now, he’d be the same. I wouldn’t hire a loser like Bush to wash my car, unless it was for charity. No one would trust him to do anything important, yet we continue to allow him to be President. It really makes no sense, unless as a country, we are less inclined than Bush to admit we’ve made a mistake.

There’s no getting around it, Bush is the cheesy letch that fondles you on the dance-floor even though you just met. He’s the drunk in the local watering hole that has an opinion of everything but knows nothing. He is the frat boy that skips classes and tries to convince you to do the same, because he’s got a job at his daddy’s company waiting for him, no matter how ill-equipped he is for any position, even in the mailroom. Anyone who thought they wanted to have a beer with Bush clearly is a glutton for punishment.

A few of the whoppers caught on tape this week, Bush talking to world leaders with his mouth full, learning for the first time that Russia is big and so is China, and giving the Chancellor of Germany an unsolicited back rub during a G8 meeting are not embarrassing to Bush, he’d have to understand that his behavior falls outside the lines of acceptable behavior to be embarrassed, but are rather humiliating to Americans who must accept that he is the face of our nation.

I was outraged when Bush insulted the people of India by not visiting the Taj Mahal while he was there in March, but watching his childish behavior during the G8 Summit, I’ve passed outrage and now I just want to crawl in a hole and wait for this nightmare to be over. I certainly don’t want to visit any foreign country for a while because, really, what does it say about us that we’ve elected this sack of rocks not once, but twice?! The only upside is that most of the rest of the world understands that our last several elections were fraudulent, we’re the only ones still hanging on to the false hope that we have free and fair elections in America.

The media were all over President Ford and ran his falls, trips and gaffs all the time on the evening news, and although this president has been given a pass for the past six years, the fact that we’re seeing some of his bad behavior getting wider coverage may be a sign that traditional media may almost be ready to join The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and the blogisphere in ridiculing this President. Neutering him by making him the butt of the joke might work. It would have worked better as a political strategy during the ’04 election, but it may still do some good now, or at least it will shut down his last remaining supporters. It’s one thing to defend the asshole bully that swaggers around acting tough on your behalf, but it’s quite another to buddy up to the loser that repels women, runs one business after another into the ground (taking your investment money with him), proves himself a rube and an idiot when in the company of his colleagues, yet still swaggers around with his chest puffed up like a little boy pretending to be a cowboy. It would be mildly irritating if he was a child, but it’s downright unacceptable as the leader of the free world. Ridicule him into oblivion, it’s as good a strategy as any other at this point.

Monday, July 17, 2006

World War III: Good For The GOP, Bad For Everyone Else

I was reading Josh Marshall over at TPM Café yesterday, and he ruminates about the startling silence of the Bush administration during this time of escalating violence in the Middle East as Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon hurl rockets at one another. Marshall thinks it is foreign policy fatigue that is the cause of the silence, but I think it’s far worse than that. I don’t think the Bush administration is at a loss as to what to do about the crisis, I think it plays right into their hands.

Although an unscripted moment between George Bush and Tony Blair that was caught by cameras and an open mic at the G8 Summit does seem to show Bush is simply out of his league when it comes to dealing with a crisis of this magnitude. Watch the video and you will see Bush chewing his food with his mouth open and between slurping sounds telling Tony Blair, “what [the United Nations] need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.” Tony Blair’s response betrays a sort of frustration with the simplicity of Bush’s worldview and his lack of understanding of the complexities involved in finding a diplomatic solution to this crisis in the Middle East. Perhaps Josh Marshall is right as far as Bush is concerned, but Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Bolton and the rest of the neo-cons still in government, have ideological reasons for letting this problem fester. War, especially a large scale war in the region, is exactly what they’ve said is needed in order to get control of the oil supplies in the region and to build up the military here at home.

I have little doubt that this situation will escalate further and will eventually draw in Iran and Syria. Perhaps the Bush administration is hoping that Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, but it might also be the perfect opportunity for the Bush administration to do it themselves. They’ve wanted to cripple Iran for a long time, why would they pass up the chance to do it now? Of course it would be a stupid move and disastrous for America if we did allow the violence to escalate into World War III, but as Newt Gingrich pointed out this weekend, it would be great for the Republicans in the mid-term elections. Gotta love those Republicans, always looking on the bright side, or rather looking out for the bright spot for themselves.

And just imagine all the new war money that will pour into the bank accounts of the contractors that have probably stolen as much as they can while using Iraq as a shield, time for a new war. World War III will give them new cover, new no-bid contracts for new munitions, new fighter jets and maybe even some new nuclear warheads. But the cherry on top will be a new lease on life for the Republicans who will be able to use fear once again to keep their hold on power. Never mind that it was their ridiculous neo-con fantasies that brought us to this point, they will still be able to sell their “tough on terrorism” crap to the American public if they convince us that this is the big one. All they have to say is, “Do you really want wimpy liberals who aid and abet the enemy in charge during a war that could likely threaten the homeland?” Hey, it worked like a charm when we were only talking about rogue terrorists, it will work even better if we’re talking about a World War and nuclear warheads pointed at our cities.

Everything feels so precarious right now. Either the Bush administration doesn’t know what to do to help resolve, or at least mitigate, the situation in the Middle East, or they simply don’t care to stop what could end up being good for them anyway. I hate to be so cynical about my own government, but this administration has given me no reason not to believe the worst. The only thing I struggle with is whether they are evil or inept. Unfortunately, I think it’s a mixture of the two, not a combination that bodes well for this country, or the world.

Friday, July 14, 2006

One Of These Days These Boots Are Gonna Walk All Over You

Sometimes I think I give the Bush administration far too much credit. When it comes to political strategizing, the Republicans have been wiping the floor with the Democrats for so long that it’s hard not to give them their props for a job well done. But when it comes to governing, I often make the mistake of assuming their political acumen is applicable to their domestic and foreign policy decisions. I don’t agree with the chess moves they’ve made, but I tend to think that they’re getting the outcome they want, even if it’s bad for the country, more often than not, it’s good for them and their friends. No bunch of idiots could be that lucky so many times. But now I’m having second thoughts and think the entire leadership of the Bush administration is just downright stupid.

It’s been clear from their first week in power that they were in over their heads and they have proved the point every single day since. But with shit blowing up in the Middle East right now and Israel thinking that they can follow Bushy’s lead and invade whatever country they want and expect any better outcome than we’ve had in Iraq, I think this fake President of ours may end up destroying more than just our country in his mad quest for world domination. Just like the kid that plays with matches and then cries himself silly as he watches his entire neighborhood go down in flames, Bush seems totally unaware that what’s happening in the Middle East is all his doing. What a fucking schmuck.

The entire administration is running around with buckets of water trying to put the massive ten-story high flames out while simultaneously hurling blame around hoping it will stick to anyone other than themselves. Steve Clemons over at The Washington Note is blogging about rumors that even Condi is being treated like the petulant little sidekick she is by the Israelis. I guess Condi’s dominatrix boots don’t scare ol’ Ehud Olmert as much as they do Georgie boy. Or maybe Olmert just hasn’t had the opportunity to see the walkin’ those boots can do. Start walkin’ Condi, make Nancy Sinatra proud girl.

And I can’t help but think about Bush’s own words and the “roadmap to peace” crap he loves to throw out. If this is the roadmap to peace in the Middle East, I suddenly understand why all the treasure maps in movies are always singed around the edges. That’s just what happens when you have pirates leading the way. Which also reminds me of my favorite School House Rock(ish) political satire bit where they sing “pirates and emperors, they’re really the same thing.” Ain’t that the truth? Emperors just steal bigger and this one learned at his daddy’s knee, hell that whole family is prodigious in that regard.

So what now? It’s all just so awful, the bombs, the dead civilians, the ruined lives, the tensions in an already tense region on the verge of boiling over and our presence still uncomfortably heavy in Iraq as we tether ourselves to the only country more hated in the region than our own. We thinking people aren’t surprised that we find ourselves here, in a made up “clash of civilizations” that these geniuses in the White House did everything in their power to spark and nourish, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

I think I have chosen to believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolten, Perle, Condi and the rest of the neo-con assholes are evil, because the only other possibility is that they are just plain dumb, and that’s so much more frightening. Evil but smart implies that they have some control over the situation they’ve created, whereas downright dense means we’re walking this tightrope without a net while shit burns down below. I’ll give them some credit and assume that they had evil intent but are just too stupid to control what they’ve set in motion. On the rest of the credit, I’m calling in the chip. I just hope their mommies and daddies have the gold to back up their junior underachievers grandiose plans that have come crashing down to the ground. Even if they do, it won’t do us much good now and our future may depend solely on Condi’s boots. I just hope she’s as tough as she looks.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Voting Rights Are So 1960s

Sometimes I just can’t believe how shameless the GOP is.  That they continue to back a disastrous war that is making their friends rich while killing Iraqi civilians, sending our young soldiers to die and draining our treasury is no surprise.  That they lie to their constituents about the dangers of terrorism and the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda is to be expected.  That they push bad fiscal policy that hurts workers and bankrupts our social programs is par for the course.  And stalling the re-authorization of the Voting Right Act should be shocking, but again, it’s business as usual for the Republican Party.  How silly to think they could have learned anything since the 1960s.

The Republican Party is played out.  They have failed on such a grand scale, if this was any other country, their Party would be done for good.  They have proved that they have no new ideas and their old bag of tricks, including trickle down economics, imperial wars, deregulation and the upward redistribution of wealth, have had the same effect they always did, the rich get richer and the poor, working and middle class get screwed.  At least Republicans are still predictable.

It’s easy for Republican voters to have disdain for government when it works properly.  If the welfare system is working, they can complain about the single mother who keeps having kids just so she can stay on welfare while he “busts his butt every day” working a job that barely pays the bills.  If Social Security is strong and functioning they can complain about the taxes coming out of their checks to pay for those “damn seniors living it up in Florida.”  When the EPA is doing its job, workers can rail against the spotted owl and when the Labor Department is actually protecting workers, they can whine about all the hoops they have to jump through just to keep the doors of their businesses open.  But when Republican leadership in this country has made sure that government doesn’t function, even conservatives kind of miss it.  The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a disgrace that even embarrassed your average Republican voter.  Government is necessary and everyone wants good government when there’s a disaster.

So what about voting?  If the mid-term elections were held today, there would be a major shift in DC, but unfortunately, we are still four months away from election day, plenty of time to scrub voters from the rolls, manipulate public opinion with their massive propaganda machine (network and cable news), create a few more “terrorist” incidents to get the American people good and scared before they walk into the polling booth and while their at it, why not mess with the Voting Rights Act?  Republicans never wanted black people to vote in the first place.  As shameless as they are, I wouldn’t put it past them to scrap the whole thing now that they’ve got the chance.  It’s a hell of a lot easier than spending all that time and money manipulating, intimidating and disenfranchising all the voters that, as Wolf Blitzer said after Hurricane Katrina, are “so poor and so black.”  If the GOP did decide to scrap The Voting Rights Act, I have no doubt that CNN (and MSNBC, The Washington Post, Fox News and all the rest) would back them up.  Shameless bastards.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Private Dancers

Politically speaking, it seems ridiculous for the Bush administration to bring up their privatization scheme for Social Security again before the mid-term elections. The last push the administration made for shifting the federal retirement program funds into private hands failed miserably simply because the American people don’t want this popular program to be messed with. So why bring it up again now?

The only things that have changed since the last SS privatization push are, President Bush’s poll numbers have slid even further, most Americans say they would prefer Democrats to run the Congress and the Republican Medicare prescription drug program has been rolled out and has proved a disaster for seniors all across the country. Not exactly the kind of political capital necessary for a dramatic overhaul of one of the most popular government programs ever created. Privatizing Social Security was a loser last year and it will be a loser for Republicans again this year, which makes me think that actually getting the scheme instituted is not the real reason the White House is bringing it up again.

One of the major complaints the American people have right now is the lack of oversight of this executive branch by Congress. Republicans running for re-election are trying to assert their independence and show that they are willing to stand up to the Bush administration. What could be better than a bunch of Republican House and Senate members standing on the steps of the Capitol, shoulder to shoulder like Vegas showgirls, vowing to protect Social Security? They can put on a show about how concerned they are for our seniors and for the health of the program, acknowledging the solvency problem but standing firm by shouting in unison, “this plan goes too far and our first priority is protecting this program for our seniors today and for generations of seniors to come.” If I was Karl Rove, this is exactly the kind of photo-op that I would set up.

At this point, the Republicans are only interested in holding on to their majority. They have no interest in governing, why would they, they don’t believe that government works anyway. But beyond the normal Republican cynicism that pushes to end regulation of industry, roll back social progress and put public funds into the hands of private wealth collectors, I get the sense that now they have abandoned even those objectives in favor of doing nothing substantive and focusing solely on hollow political posturing. The Republican led Congress can’t fix Social Security, or the deficit, or the loss of jobs, or the stagnant wages for workers, or the hemorrhaging of money into the sink hole of this disastrous war, but they can pretend to care about protecting the American people and continue to put a happy face on the war they started and the economy they have reshaped to favor the wealthy while punishing the rest of us.

All of the polls suggest a level of dissatisfaction with the direction of the country that spells trouble for the Republicans in November. This administration has ignored the will of the people, thwarted our laws and squandered our money and they did it all with the invaluable help of Republicans in Congress. As ill informed as many Americans are, we can still feel in our guts that things aren’t going well and the voters are ready to hand the reigns over to the Democrats if for no other reason than to slow down the Bush administration’s attempts to drive our country into the ground. I just wish I had faith that a clean election is possible in November.

With so much to lose, I just can’t imagine that a White House with Karl Rove at the political helm won’t do anything and everything to ensure their rubber stamp Congress stays intact. I don’t know if I can take another round of post election hand wringing by Democrats trying to figure out where they went wrong. At some point, the most obvious answer has to be, at least, given a cursory look. I hope it doesn’t come down to that, but I for one am prepared much better for it this time around.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thank You, I Wouldn’t Be This Relaxed Without You

I want to thank all of the great guest bloggers that pitched in and helped in my absence. Betty Cracker is a woman after my own heart, she writes like a dream and I love the way she thinks, it’s why I read her blog and why I was so honored to have her words grace the pages of mine.

Fellow American J did a nice job of widening the scope, looking on the bright side for a change and drawing attention to some great voices from around the world. It’s easy to lose perspective when you live in America.

Will’s post on the Nazi rally sparked an interesting discussion about whether the skinhead youth are the “Nazis” we should be concerned with. I especially like the title of his post “Please, Folks, Make Fun Of The Nazis.” Ridicule is exactly what fascists of all stripes deserve, including the ones in the White House.

My dad’s story of the zoo had me rolling, but it was also nice to see his real voice come through in his last post about holidays. His satire is great but even his “straight” posts are funny as hell.

And my husband, Man of American Dissent, cut his teeth on blogging and I think he may be hooked. Although while we were on vacation, he was sitting on our friend’s deck finishing up his post and asked if I could take the kids swimming “because I just have to get this done.” The tables had turned, but since he always comes through for me, I packed up the kids and took them to the lake. It’s hard to say who had more fun.

It was interesting being away. I ended up taking a trip with my family to California, lots of swimming, a little skiing, perhaps a bit too much beer and sunshine but no news whatsoever. I turned off televisions, skipped talk radio, passed on newspapers and didn’t have Internet access for the entire last week. It was strange, but also kind of nice in a quiet sort of way.

We drove home yesterday and when we couldn’t take listening to another country song (which is all you can get through large swaths of Northern California and Oregon) my husband and I decided to turn on the Portland Air America station and listen to Randi Rhodes. It was nice to hear her voice but I half expected to not understand what she was talking about, yet sadly it seems that not much has changed. The scandals keep coming, Republicans are still less popular than a herpes outbreak and the Bush administration is busy peddling their special brand of fear coupled with the assurance that only they know how to protect us. I guess I’d have to be away for longer than two weeks for any of that to change.

I think I’ll take the day to catch up on what’s happening in the world and start fresh tomorrow. I’m so uninformed at the moment that I could easily be mistaken for your average Bush voter. Thanks again to my guest bloggers. They did such a fantastic job, I feel like I’ll have to work extra hard now to live up to the new standard they’ve set.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Off to the salon to have my netroots done

Guest post by Betty Cracker

The vacationing Liberal Girl made a great suggestion awhile back for those of us who are in Red State hell without a snow flake’s chance of voting for a candidate who actually represents our views – she urged us to support candidates in other districts who do.

I took that suggestion to heart and made modest contributions to two candidates who cannot directly represent me because they are in distant states, but whose presence in congress might actually advance some of the causes I hold dear, including getting the heck out of Viet-raq. It was the first time I ever contributed money to the campaign of someone for whom I cannot vote. But it wasn’t my first foray into online political activity.

Anyway, according to some, online political activism makes me, and others who engage in it more robustly, enemies of democracy or at least of the Democratic Party. Read this screed by Jonathan Chait of the New Republic for a sample flavor of the criticism. Here’s a snippet:

"Doesn't this [Lieberman’s petulant decision to run as an independent if he loses the Dem primary] suggest that the whole Lamont crusade has sort of backfired? Although I'm no Karl Rove, it seems to me that turning a rock-solid Democratic seat into a potential Republican pickup represents something less than a political masterstroke.

The whole anti-Lieberman blog campaign has a self-fulfilling quality: They charge that Lieberman isn't a Democrat, they drive him from the party, and they declare themselves to be correct. The more ex-Democrats they create, the more sure of their own virtue they become."

Of course, what Chait fails to acknowledge is that Lieberman wasn’t driven from the party; he voluntarily left it by marching in lockstep with Bush on just about every single issue important to his constituents. It’s not a rock-solid Democratic seat if it’s occupied by a Republican disguised as a Democrat; Lamont’s candidacy therefore represents the only hope that a Democratic seat can be gained in Connecticut.

Others have tackled this aspect of it in much more detail than I can attempt here; I recommend the indispensable FireDogLake for those wishing to learn more. But what I find most fascinating about this is the reflexive fear and loathing on display from establishment journalists and politicians. They’ve been sniveling and wetting their beds in consternation about the netroots ever since Howard Dean made a splash in the 2004 primaries, and as far as I can determine, the main reason is fear: They are afraid (rightly) that they are losing control of the political apparatus.

I say establishment journos and politicos are right to fear the netroots because it represents an alternative to the innane political narratives they formerly served up to a captive audience. That’s the real danger for them – that they’ll lose their exclusive king-making privileges. But they can’t forthrightly recognize this real threat to their authority and debate it on its own merits (i.e., you should shut up and listen to us because we know best) because it would expose their rather unattractive elitist thinking.

So instead, they’re attempting to shape the narrative about the netroots, painting us as an unwashed horde of wild-eyed kooks who will destroy democracy as we know it and deliver a perpetual Republican majority. What a crock that is. The fact is, the netroots are as diverse as any other political movement. I notice the establishment hacks employed in journalism and politics didn’t have any trouble cynically kissing the butts of fundamentalist Christians when they emerged as a political force to be reckoned with – adopting FOX News-style formats and falling all over themselves to profess their faith and organize prayer breakfast. So their cries of alarm now ring hollow.

No, it’s all about control. Long live the netroots! In this corporatocracy, the netroots' many kooks and genuinely thoughtful analysis and activism alike may represent the last hope for individuals to make a difference. And what could be more democratic than that?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

All Around The World

Guest Post By Fellow American J

In addition to being a truly wonderful song by Paul Simon, All Around The World reminds me that it's a huge place with a lot of ideas, hearts, truths.

Reading what other bloggers write is what inspired me in the first place. So, this little guest piece for my gracious hostess will share with anyone reading the Illumination of All Around The World.

I hope you enjoy.

From Baghdad

From Iran

'Nuther Jersey Girl


California (WARNING - contains explicit language....but since he's pissed, that's to be expected)



I would love to find some from Europe and Asia just to round things out, so to speak.

I Need a Holiday from Holidays

A guest post by Mark W. Bradley

Under considerable duress (including the enthusiastic exhortations of my wife and three of my grandchildren), I agreed to take part (in a purely passive manner, I assure you) in our yearly neighborhood commemoration of the signing of that antiquated and largely unread (at least in America) document known as the Declaration of Independence. The attendant fireworks display, replete with bombastic martial music courtesy of John Philip Souza, Irving Berlin and Lee Greenwood, went on only slightly longer than the British bombardment of Fort McHenry itself.

Now nothing brings out the inner curmudgeon in me (as opposed to the “outer” curmudgeon, which is on display for friends and family to behold any hour of the day or night in my presence) as predictably as a holiday. Don’t get me wrong; I love the three day weekends that holidays provide -- it’s just the actual “celebration” of those holidays I abhor. Most American holidays, after all, fall into two categories: the “religious” (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah) and the “patriotic” (Independence Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day). Being an anti-jingoistic atheist, I get about as much enjoyment from these annual celebrations as a vampire gets from the summer solstice.

But such need not be the case. If American religious holidays included any that were non-Judeo-Christian in origin (Osiris’s birthday, say, or “Lao Tzu Enlightenment Day”), I might be more inclined to partake of the festivities with a certain equanimity. Better yet, I’d love to see a few scientific holidays included on the calendar, such as October 28 (Jonas Salk’s Birthday), June 15 (“Benjamin Franklin Kite Flying Day”), and, of course, the most plausible rationale of all for setting fire to unreasonably large caches of dangerous pyrotechnic devices -- “The Big Bangorama” (although nailing down the date of an event predating the geocentric concepts of “day” and “year” by a few billion years might tend to be a bit problematic).

Similarly, we could use holidays to memorialize really pivotal events in American history. For example, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 (in which corporate greed cost the lives of 146 mostly immigrant young women) took place on March 25, so we could call that day “Unfettered Capitalism Day.” October 11, on the other hand, could be designated as “Pre-Columbia Day”, an occasion for us all to dress up as Native Americans, go down to the nearest seashore, and wait for the smallpox virus to arrive.

We might even decide to set aside 9-11 as a national holiday, since that date commemorates two of the most unconscionable terrorist incidents in American history: the “Twin Towers Disaster” of 2001, and Utah’s “Mountain Meadows Massacre” of 1857. I guess that one could be called “Brigham bin Laden Day”, or maybe just “Fundamentafest.”

In any event, until we come up with some holidays that don’t force-feed the overweight psychotic juggernaut of American (and Christian) exceptionalism, I think I’m going to scrub my calendar clean of everything except Mother’s Day, Arbor Day, and the Opening Day of Baseball.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Please, Folks, Make Fun of the Nazis

What do call twelve guys getting together on the Capitol steps to lash out at Jews, minorities and immigrants? A Nazi 'Party'. Get it? Party? Nevermind:

Hundreds of demonstrators sang, danced and traded insults Monday with a small group of neo-Nazis who gathered on the Capitol steps in the third such rally this year in this liberal college town.

About 12 members of the National Socialist Movement stood in a row outside the Capitol, wearing their signature brown shirts, red swastika armbands and black boots.

They held aloft two swastika flags and railed against gays, Jews, non-whites and communists over a public address system.

The group, which is based in Minneapolis and claims chapters around the country, said it hoped to draw attention and find new recruits with the rally.

"We're going to come with more storm troopers every year, and every month we're going to double in size," Seattle-area neo-Nazi Justin Boyer told the crowd.

Similar National Socialist Movement demonstrations have turned violent elsewhere in the country, but the State Patrol reported no arrests or incidents during the rally and protests, which lasted about two hours.

It brings to mind the quote by Edmund Burke:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So the next time the these idiots come to town, do what you can to show them how we feel.

Will of the PikePlacePolitics

Monday, July 03, 2006

Just say no to totalitarianism

Guest post by Betty Cracker

As George Orwell foretold, aspiring totalitarians need endless war to justify their hold on power. In Orwell's prescient novel, 1984, Big Brother relentlessly promotes this motto: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Bush, somewhat more subtle, enjoins us to wage war to spread democracy since "democracies don’t attack their neighbors" (while simultaneously proving that premise false). He asks us to surrender liberties for the sake of freedom. He excoriates the New York Times for reporting on domestic surveillance and snooping on bank records because, after all, ignorance (ours) gives us strength to fight the terrorists.

We have to trust Big Brother, you see, because we’re in mortal peril from Islamofascists every second of our lives, and only Big Brother can protect us. And if you don’t have anything to hide, why would you worry about Big Brother listening in on your phone calls, perusing your banking transactions and reading your emails?

Flip that coin over, remove the subtlety and add an even bigger heaping helping of godbaggery, and you have bin Laden. Another pious aspiring totalitarian who claims the mantle of freedom fighter, bin Laden enabled and participated in the Talibanization of Afghanistan and called the sterile, oppressive result an ideal society. With bin Laden’s avid encouragement and approval, the rulers of this ideal society replaced women with furtive lumps of cloth, outlawed music and beardlessness and the belief in anything other than a fanatical interpretation of Islam.

Big Brother bin Laden tells the Islamic world that they have to trust him because they’re in mortal peril from the forces of godlessness and Crusaders. He tells them that war is peace (god grants martyrs eternal serenity – and virgins to boot!), freedom is slavery (to a medieval ideology), and ignorance is strength (girls don’t need to know how to read; it might make them get uppity with their husbands with disastrous consequences for society).

Bush and bin Laden need each other, just as surely as Orwell’s Oceania and Eurasia/Eastasia needed each other. It’s no coincidence that bin Laden pipes up when Bush’s hold on power is imperiled. It’s no coincidence that Bush & Co. inflate the credentials of bin Laden’s minor representatives in whichever theater of war we’re currently engaged (see Zubaydah and Zarqawi). Bin Laden’s latest missives seemed designed to bolster the Bushrovian "cut and run" meme, and Bush’s words and deeds vis-a-vis the War on Terra give the imprimatur of truth to bin Laden’s lies.

So given the success of the aspirants to totalitarianism to date, are we doomed, like Orwell's luckless characters, to endless war with shifting alliances and enemies? Perhaps not. Bush and bin Laden are both tanking in the polls. There seems to be an unprecedented air of introspection in the Muslim world – a new willingness to see that despite the very real wrongs they suffered at the hands of colonizers, there are problems in their own societies that are holding them back. There appears to be a dawning realization in the US that the atrocities committed against innocent civilians on 9/11 don’t justify open-ended conflict and unchecked executive power.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. How fitting it would be if this Fourth of July heralded a new rejection of tyranny for freedom. How magnificent it would be if both sides in the trumped up Clash of Civilizations rejected the Orwellian machinations of the power grabbers and said enough is enough. How appropriate if Americans reconnected with the true tenets of liberty we once espoused and aspired again to be a beacon of freedom to banish totalitarian darkness. Just say no to totalitarianism. It's the patriotic thing to do.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Better Living Through Chemistry

Guest post by Man of American Dissent

After having seen the film "An Inconvenient Truth", I came to the conclusion that I really needed to get some perspective on the issues at hand, especially with regard to fossil fuels. Lucky for me I found my salvation on TV with a 30 second spot produced by America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry (API) which directs the viewer to their *cough* facts *cough* on fuel website.

What a lot of foresight and planning these folks have done! Their website offers all the information about energy that one could ever possibly hope for. Consider the following slide from a link I stumbled upon at their site. They sound like they must be part of the reality based community.

I got to thinking about what they were saying.

Fertilization Effect. It must be good. We all want to live in a rich and fertile environment, right? Or is it remotely possibly that they are full of shit?

Moderately warmer and Moderately wetter. All things are good in moderation, no? I guess I’ll have to get the book to find out exactly what they mean.

Reduced diurnal cycle. I suppose that artificially modifying the daily cycle of temperature increase and decrease could be beneficial. Here’s to the efficiency of modernization!

Greater Wealth. Hmm…I just can’t seem to figure out how this one works. The more energy prices go up the less $$$ I seem to have in my poor-tfolio. I guess I shouldn’t pay much attention to that though.

Enough about that stuff. “Facts” on fuel has a full report on energy. They almost talk a good game in some spots, with statements like they’re “investing in alternatives” and “…there is substantial activity in end-use and non-hydrocarbon techonologies. These applications will play a growing and important role in the future, an energy cornucopia that promises a new chapter in the history of the energy industry”. I must however confess that I’m looking to buy some lovely riverfront property in Brooklyn. Can you guys help me out here?

One of the most striking elements of the report is in the forecast of US energy demand with data from 2004 and projections for 2030 factoring in 34% growth. There’s a nice pie chart and it breaks down as follows:

__________2004____2030 Outlook_____________


I guess we know what the results of Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings are. It would probably make sense to just go ahead and drop the frivolous lawsuits around that. Based on these numbers, if we’re only going to see a 1% increase in the use of renewable energy combined with a reduction in our output of Greenhouse gases, serious trouble is ahead. This video really highlights what these guys are thinking.

Carbon Dioxide is certainly an important part of the cycle of life, but it's obvious that the Petroleum Industry has no intention of changing the status quo. Excessive greenhouse gas emissions are just fine, natural gas and synthetic gas are what's on tap to provide our energy. Just more of the same. They get rich while the rest of us choke on it. The CATO institute says it nicely in their Renewable Energy Not Cheap, Not “Green” report alternative energy sources, wind in this passage are "competing against improving technologies and the increasing abundance of natural resources". Increasing abundance of natural resources? How’s that even possible with depletable energy sources? has a "Functional Theory" that should put any of those concerns to rest.

In his film, Al Gore says that we are about to enter an age of consequences. What will our response be? We are up against a powerful and well organized establishment that is (obviously) not about to let the way they do business be changed in any way. We need to take every action we can, no matter how small. Recently my wife and I bought a new (to us) car that we will be running on B100 Biodiesel. I bicycle to and from work every day. We've switched every lightbulb we can to compact flourescents and our appliances are energy efficient. We're teaching our children to be responsible with the energy that they use. If we all put a drop into the bucket it will get full.