Tuesday, October 31, 2006

75% Of The Country Disapproves Of The GOP Congress AND Will Send Them Back?!

One week out from the mid-term elections, I’m more than a little pre-occupied by signs that this election will go much the way of the last three, namely full of chaos, voter suppression, computer “glitches” and out and out fraud.

Ken Blackwell is at it again, making sure that as many Democratic votes as possible will never be counted. Not only is he administering the election in which he is running for Governor, he is also busy applying arbitrary rules for voters that are confusing, unnecessary and designed to disqualify as many votes as possible. Not only do Ohioans have to show photo ID at the polls, they are also required to include their driver’s license number on their absentee ballot in order for it to count. The problem is, there are two numbers on an Ohio license, use the wrong one and your vote is disqualified. Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis have been diligently covering Ohio’s voting problems for years, and they have a great article out today about the mess that has already started in Ohio and that could hand Ohio to just about every Republican candidate on the ballot, possibly even Ken Blackwell regardless of the fact that he is down 30 points in pre-election polls. It wouldn’t be the first (manufactured) political miracle to occur in Ohio.

Brad Friedman at The Brad Blog has also been busy uncovering voter suppression and questionable voting machines. With early voting underway, he is documenting reports of vote flipping on voting machines in Texas and South Florida, and that Diebold machines to be used in San Diego elections next week are currently being stored in the homes of poll workers! Yeah, nothing wrong with that.

Obviously, I have no idea what will happen next Tuesday, but I do know that I don’t have confidence in our elections, the partisans that run them or operatives like Karl Rove that will do anything to win. I’m a little concerned that The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Republicans are encouraged by early voting returns. This White House works off of its own set of facts, by its own rules and does so without apology. They know what is at stake here, and they know how to make sure that they are never held to account for what they have done to this country. I may not have faith in the security of our elections, but I do have faith that cheaters will cheat, liars will lie and wannabe fascists will subvert democracy if it serves their purposes.

Of course it’s possible that all the opinion polls are wrong and that the majority of voters in this country want to stay the course. Congress may have a 16% approval rating (yes, that’s right, 16% of voters approve of the job Congress is currently doing), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that voters don’t want to send them back to Washington DC to continue doing such a stellar job of representing us. This is exactly what Karl Rove and the GOP want us to believe. Are we really stupid enough to fall for it (again)?

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Fool-Proof Plan to Save America From Fascism (At Least for a While)

A guest post by Mark W. Bradley

Pssst. Don’t tell Karl Rove, but I’ve just come up with a fool-proof plan guaranteeing a national Democratic Party sweep in 2008. And the best thing about it is, it works no matter whom the Dems throw up as their presidential candidate: Barack Edwards, Hillary Obama, or John Clinton. Hell, they could run a Howard Zinn-Noam Chomsky ticket, and back it up with senatorial candidates from the Grateful Dead. It just wouldn’t matter!

Interested? Okay, then listen up, because I’m not going to repeat this for you sluggards in the back who’d rather watch reruns of American Idol than learn anything useful. Time is of the essence here, so let’s not waste any more of it sitting around drooling into our tippy-cups. We need to act fast in order to take advantage of the opportunity right in front of our noses. Ready? Here goes.

The first thing you gotta do is to sell your house. That’s right, you heard me, sell your house. You’ll need to do it by next Monday.

“But how can I sell my house in a week?” you ask.

Easy. Just make a sign out of an ordinary flattened-out cardboard box, duct-tape it to an old garden stake, and pound it into the middle of your front lawn. (Don’t forget to mow the lawn first; it makes for better “curb appeal.”) Then, grab a felt-tip pen and write a bunch of numbers on it. Offer to sell today, at say 65% of current market value (or make it 55% - it doesn’t matter). Put an ad in the Pennysaver. Whatever, just sell the damn thing.

“But even if I sell it the first day it’s on the market, how can I get the deal finalized in less than a week?” you inquire incredulously.

The answer is simple. Bribe everybody involved. I’m talking real estate agents, bankers, title company employees, escrow guys, the whole sorry-ass bunch. In my experience, 90% of these assholes are the sort of criminally venal Republicans who’d sell their own grandparents into indentured servitude in Darfur for a 50” plasma-screen TV. So make sure you spread the C-notes liberally and evenly all along the entire crooked Conga line. Trust me, this is no time to be stingy.

Once the deal closes, the bank’s gonna try to sell you on all kinds of bogus “investment opportunities.” Tell them to just piss-off. You want your money in stacks of hundred dollar bills, and you want it now.

“But is it safe for me to carry around hundreds of thousands of dollars in a duffle bag?” you ask.

Of course not. That’s why you and your friends are gonna need to pitch-in and buy a Brink’s truck on E-bay, and make sure that sucker’s got a full tank of diesel. Hallelujah, boys and girls, we’re going to Vegas!

“Why Vegas?” you wonder aloud, to which I answer: Look, how am I supposed to make it through this presentation if you people keep asking all these unnecessary questions? Okay, okay, I’ll answer this one, but that’s it, and I mean it.

You’ll be going to Las Vegas on November 6th to find an international bookie who’ll place a hefty wager for you at one of London’s high-end gambling parlours. You’re betting the entire farm on America’s 2006 elections, and you’re betting it on the Republican Candidate of your choice. Pick some really cheesy, hypocritical, slicker-than-snot, wife-beating sack-o-shit who specializes in regurgitating implausible White House talking-points on Hardball or Meet the Press. Go ahead, pull a name out of the GOP’s realistic-looking fake plastic army helmet.

Just for fun, let’s say you decide to lay your nest egg on the lovely and talented Katherine Harris of Florida (who presumably has no wife to beat, but is an otherwise admirable choice), the witty and urbane Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (who never lays a hand on his wife, but is rumored to beat his dog senseless with a cat-o-nine-tails), or even the charming and dapper Kenneth Blackwell of Ohio (who recently sold off his controversial collection of vintage lawn-jockeys at Sotheby’s for an estimated 2.6 million dollars). Whomever you choose, remember, the odds against them should be nothing less than astronomical - at least thirty to one.

After you’ve placed your bet, just check into the four-star hotel of your choice; gorge yourself on all-you-can-eat lobster; then waddle on over to the Mirage and get sloshed as you watch Siegfried dance with the Tiger That Ate Roy. Relax and enjoy yourself.

Early Wednesday morning, order a big breakfast from room service, then go out and collect your winnings. It should come to about ten or twenty million bucks or so. Put a million of that in your wallet right away. You’ve earned it.

Now, bundle up the rest of the money, throw it in the back of your new bullet-proof titanium Humvee, and head on out to Midtown Manhattan. We can all meet in front of Fox News Headquarters late Sunday afternoon. Don’t forget to bring some beer, brats and cheese, cause we’re planning a gigantic armored-car tailgate party in the middle of Times Square.

First thing Monday morning, we open negotiations with Rupert Murdoch to buy the Fox News Division. When he asks to see the money, we’ll just point out the window at the Brink’s convoy surrounding Rockefeller Plaza. I figure he’ll get the point.

Once we have controlling interest in Fox News, we’ll need to be careful not to make any drastic changes, at least not at first. Everyone will keep his or her job, and folks like Sean Hannity, Fred Barnes and Bill O’Reilly will get substantial raises to stay on under the new corporate management. Regrettably, Roger Ailes will be squeezed out (of the window of his office overlooking Times Square, that is), but don’t worry, he’ll be offered a golden parachute prior to his departure (meaning, of course, a parachute made out of 24-karat gold, which we sincerely hope will help him achieve terminal velocity within the first seven stories of his spectacular fall).

As for programming, the initial format modifications will need to be subtle, but noticeable. For example, all the Fox News anchors will continue to dress as normal, except that all the men will be wearing Mr. Potato-head hats, and the women will all have huge lavender bows in their hair like Daisy Duck.

Or perhaps we might decide, on ten Wednesday nights in a row, to interrupt “The O’Reilly Factor” with an “Emergency Broadcast System” alert warning of new and terrifying biblical plagues, you know, swarms of giant, pet-devouring locusts the first week, highly contagious and permanently disfiguring facial boils the second, armies of HIV-positive flying vampire-frogs the third, stuff like that. Following these alerts, rather than return to the “Factor”, it might be nice to take Fox News viewers directly to a Nigerian cricket match dubbed in French, an Inuit whale-butchering demonstration live from Greenland, or an amateur musical theater production of The Best of Chinese Opera. That should give “Battle-axe Barb” something worthwhile to waste her beautiful mind on…

But the coup de grace we hope will crush Fox News’s credibility once-and-for-all will revolve around an insidious plan to have its commentators tell the truth on the air every third day or so for about an hour. Just imagine the effect that’ll have on the fragile consciousness of the average Fox News viewer. It’ll be like pouring sugar into a gas tank…

After six months of such creative high jinks, the Bush Administration will have no alternative but to buy back Fox News from us at a vastly inflated price. Then, after loading up our fleet of armored cars with gold bullion at Fort Knox, we’ll head across the river to Ohio to meet with Congressman Bob Ney and the good folks at Diebold…

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

Friday, October 27, 2006

Getting Used To The New America

Boy, have things changed in this country over the last six years.  Thanks to privately owned electronic voting machines and HAVA, free, fair and verifiable elections are no longer the method for choosing our leaders.  Thanks to the Patriot Act and secret NSA domestic spying programs, we no longer have the right to privacy in our homes, papers and communications.  Thanks to the Terrorist Detainee bill, we no longer have the privilege and protection of habeas corpus, meaning we can be imprisoned indefinitely without the right to contest the legitimacy of the charges against us.  Thanks to that same bill, we now condone torture.  Thanks to the Bush doctrine, we are an aggressor nation with a first strike policy.  And thanks to media consolidation, there is no longer any meaningful freedom of the press, only the freedom to propagandize for profit.  We’ve come a long way Baby!

That last one, the failure of a free press, has been the grease that has facilitated our slide away from democratic principles, but it’s not too late for them to redeem themselves.  This morning, MSNBC played a videotape of someone being waterboarded.  That is a great thing and a small step in the right direction.  Not great that we, as a country, endorse a policy of using waterboarding as an acceptable method of interrogation, but that a cable news channel is showing their viewers what that really means.  When you hear the President and the Vice President extol the virtues of waterboarding, you can almost imagine that it’s some kind of water sport, fun for all involved, rather than what it is, a form of torture that simulates drowning and can cause serious long lasting physical and psychological damage and can even result in death.  The only problem with the MSNBC tutorial was that there was no sound (here is a YouTube video of waterboarding with sound).  Mainstream media has no problem playing audio tapes of 911 calls made by victims of violent crime that put on display, in gruesome detail, the terror they experience, so why not use the very effective audio that would truly convey the horror of what we are, as a country, doing without apology?

The same is true of the Iraq occupation.  Americans need to see what we are supporting, with our tax dollars, with our children and with our vote that allows it to continue.  We need to see what an Iraqi town or city looks like once we have sent our troops in to “clear the area” of insurgents.  Show us the devastation, the blood, the dead children and screaming mothers.  Show us our wounded soldiers and the dead look in the eyes of the ones forced to perpetrate such crimes against humanity in this rich man’s war.  Show us the angry protests of the Iraqi people that want more than anything for us to get the hell out of their country while there’s still a few buildings left standing.  Show us that this conflict is real, and that “victory” will come at a very high price.  Show us the truth, the ugly and unvarnished truth.  That is supposed to be your job after all.

The occupation of Iraq and the so-called “war on terror” are not policies that we the people can detach ourselves from.  We are responsible and accountable for what our government does in our name, and the press is responsible for giving us the details of what that means.  A free press should connect the people with their government and should create a sense of ownership, encourage participation and make sure that the people are informed enough to feel engaged and determine whether or not we are prepared to “stay the course.”  The American press has fallen down on the job and they have made a lot of money doing it.  The only way that we will get what we need from them is if we make it clear that there is a profit to be made.  Appealing to their sense of duty as the only private enterprise to be included in our constitution has proven ineffective.  That they are a critical element in a thriving democracy, sadly, seems irrelevant to them.  But as Keith Olbermann is proving on a daily basis, there is money to be made in speaking the truth.  

We live in a new America and it’s time for mainstream media to reflect back at us, just what we have become.  If we don’t like what we see, we can be moved to change it, but if we are kept in the dark, never allowed to see the truth and never encouraged to take ownership of the society we are creating, then we will continue to deteriorate as a nation.  I honestly believe that if average Americans were given even a glimpse of the new America, they would reject it outright.  Then, together, we could move forward.  We will never be what we were, but from where we sit now, we can either choose to be better or worse.  In order to choose better, we must demand better from our press, otherwise, we choose to be worse by default.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is It Denial Or Plausible Deniability?

According to President Bush, we are winning in Iraq and the GOP will win at the polls.  Black is white, up is down and we should be prepared for mainstream media to accept Karl Rove’s secret polls as the gospel while they reject the validity of their own.  This bizarro world is exhausting for those of us that reside in the reality based world, but it must feel more like a carnival ride to the suckers that buy this GOP ticket to ride and prefer to be shaken, not stirred.  I have a hard time believing that the rank and file Republican voters will stay on the ride willingly while they’re tossing their cookies all over themselves, but if they don’t, there’s got to be a way to shut the thing down.  Can’t we just say it’s for scheduled maintenance?  Where’s the fucking off switch?

I’m torn about this election and what to make of it.  I want to believe that the voters have had enough of this corrupt Congress and are as disgusted as I am with the slimy tactics they are employing in a desperate attempt to pull this thing out.  I want to have faith that the system works, but there’s just too much evidence to the contrary and my gut tells me that all this positive talk about the Republicans maintaining control of Congress is nothing more than preparation for their “unbelievable” last minute surges at the polls and plausible deniability that the fix was in.  I’m afraid that the best possible outcome is mass chaos at the polls, with malfunctioning machines, long lines and millions of voters turned away due to scrubbed voter rolls and insufficient identification.  And the worst part is, there will be no way to sort it all out without a paper trail.  

We’ve had an election decided by the Supreme Court, an election decided in a building in Ohio that was locked down by Homeland Security while the last remaining votes were tallied in secret, so I guess an election decided by the old schoolyard slogan, “possession is 9/10ths of the law” seems about par for the coarse!  I want so much to be wrong.  I want the public to exert their will and I want their will to be honored, but in this ruthless political climate and with so much of our system corrupted, I’m just not convinced it will work out that way.  I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does, but emotionally prepared if it doesn’t.  I was caught off guard last time around and the fallout was ugly.  I have already mourned the loss of what I thought America was, now my only concern is salvaging what’s left and attempting to rebuild out of the rubble.

One thing I know for sure is that now is the time to engage.  I want these thugs to have to expose themselves, to rip off the mask that is hiding the ugly truth.  I want this election to be so one sided that it will strain even the most dogged Bush supporter’s conscience to defend their miraculous win.  On the surface, this election is about winning, but it’s also about cracking the veneer.  If the Democrats take over, it means digging beneath the surface and ferreting out the rot.  And if the GOP holds on, it means we the people will have to do it for them.  Either way, this election is just the beginning.  Vote, and then be prepared to back it up with action.  We’ve got a long, long, long road ahead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I’m Not Above Begging For A Good (And Winnable) Cause

Now that we are in the home stretch of this campaign to take back Congress from the corrupt Republicans and restore at least a little oversight over this reckless administration, it is critical that we do everything we can.

I am a lowly blogger and my budget is pretty tight, but I have just contributed $50 to the Peter Goldmark campaign and another $50 to Darcy Burner.  This is not the first contribution I’ve made to the campaigns, but it will likely be my last chance and I beg of you to take the opportunity as well.  Please, please, please, put my $100 to shame and help both these great candidates fight off the onslaught of money now pouring in from the GOP.  These were once considered safe seats for the Republicans, but now that GOP candidates have been tanking in the polls all across the country, they are making their stand in places like Washington’s 5th and 8th districts.

Give until it hurts, at this point, every penny and every second counts.  

Also consider volunteering for a campaign near you, whether it’s an issue, a candidate or any get out the vote effort!  The Republican base appears to be disillusioned, uninspired and perhaps even unmotivated to vote, so let’s get our side out and start the long process of rebuilding our country.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Ballad of Said and Nancy, or: "Americans Against America"

A guest post by Mark W. Bradley

Speaking as someone who’s devoted his entire life to the reckless dismantling of our country’s defenses (and who tirelessly seeks to strengthen the hand of our merciless terrorist adversaries), I must tell you that posing as a “Civil Libertarian Defender of the Constitution” has proven to be the most effective and ingenious cover I’ve ever found for concealing my many and varied subversive activities. Let me explain.

In 1998, I joined a group called the “AAA.” No, I’m not talking about the folks who offer roadside service and package discounts for Disney World, but rather a left-wing organization know as “Americans Against America.” Our membership is made up mostly of people who pose as loyal Americans, and who act as if they really cared about the erosion of our Constitutional Rights, but whose abiding loyalty is to ancient foreign governments that have long-since ceased to exist.

I myself am a 12th generation Scottish-American, the descendant of undocumented aliens who snuck into America through the port of Baltimore in the early 1700’s. Like most illegal immigrants, they refused to speak English (or at least anything recognizable as English); they multiplied like jackrabbits; they lowered the prevailing wage; and as soon as they found their way into the hills of Appalachia they formed gun-wielding gangs that threatened the peace and stability of the countryside. But how could it be otherwise? How can you expect people with names like Wallace, Gillespie, Ingram, Robertson, and Buchanan to fit into a civilized society? It’s just not possible.

The tragic fact is that my Scottish ancestors were never able to successfully assimilate into American culture, choosing instead to stubbornly cling to their separate and distinct ethnic identity. After 300 years of willfully clustering together in Scottish-only neighborhoods, is it really that surprising that my family’s true allegiance has never been to the United States at all, but rather to the 18th Century Stuart Monarchy in exile?

Alas, my story is hardly unique. The ever-expanding membership of “Americans Against America” now includes 10th generation Cajun-Americans who owe their fealty to the Bourbon Kings of France, 7th generation Turkish-Americans who seek to restore the once mighty Ottoman Empire, and even 5th generation Prussian-Americans who like to eat pickled-herring, wear spiked-helmets, and sit around singing martial songs about the “Good Old Days” under Kaiser Wilhelm II. We’re a diverse lot, and frankly the only thing we have in common is our irrational and relentless animosity toward the land of our birth. If short, we hate ourselves for our freedom.

One of our more outspoken members is an Egyptian-American stockbroker named Said, whose family fled Egypt during the Roman Occupation of 30 B.C., but who, to this day, remains steadfastly loyal to the Ptolemaic Kings. In order to show his solidarity with the deposed rulers of his ancestral home, Said often shows up for work as a receptionist at Smith-Barney wearing only a white linen skirt, a 30” diameter solid-gold collar, and a very realistic looking jackal-head mask. He works out regularly and weighs in at a rock-hard 270, so it’s a safe bet his co-workers at the brokerage firm aren’t inclined to ridicule his unconventional choice of attire.

One day last week, Said, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Osama bin Laden, and I arranged to have a quiet lunch together at an Olive Garden Restaurant just outside the Washington Beltway in Maryland. I arrived sporting a plaid kilt, tamoshanter, and sporran, while Said chose an iridescent feathered cloak crowned with an impressive ceremonial mask - a peregrine falcon carrying a two-headed cobra in its beak. Osama (for obvious reasons) came incognito. In an effort to avoid drawing attention to himself and his unusually large stature, he wore an eclectic Halloween costume that could best be described as “Hasidic Wookiee.” As for his dialysis machine, it was cleverly disguised as an early cubist rendition of R2D2 on a rubber leash. Needless to say, our little gathering was discreet enough to escape the notice of most of the restaurant’s patrons, although at one point I did overhear an elderly woman say to her husband, “No, I’m sure of it, that tall, furry guy wearing the black hat and pulling the slot-machine-on-wheels is definitely Jack Abramoff.”

Representative Pelosi arrived fashionably late to the luncheon, having come directly from her favorite hair-salon, the “Cut and Run.” She told us that earlier in the morning she’d met with a team of ACLU lawyers, and that she and they were doing everything in their sinister power to advance the evil plans of America’s suspected terrorist enemies by limiting the number of times those guilty suspects could be water-boarded in an eight hour period. Initially, she said, the attorneys could not agree about what constituted a “reasonable interval” between water-boardings, but eventually they had arrived at a consensus that anything over fourteen water-boardings a day was pretty much pushing the envelope.

Just about the time we were finishing up our Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, who should happen to stroll by our table but U.N. ambassador John Bolton! He was trying hard to avoid our gaze.

“John! John! Over here!” shouted Nancy to the ambassador, whose strenuous efforts to ignore us had clearly been in vain.

“Ah yes, Nancy, of course. Sorry I didn’t recognize you just now. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.”

“Yes, I can imagine. Have you got a minute? I’d like to introduce you to a few of my friends…”

“Well, actually, I’m in a bit of a hurry…,” Bolton pleaded.

“It’ll just take a minute,” implored the congresswoman.

Having thus cornered the ambassador, Pelosi introduced each of us to him with considerable fanfare. Bolton seemed particularly ill-at-ease at the prospect of shaking hands with Osama bin Laden. His demeanor hardened considerably as he stuffed his right hand into his coat pocket.

“Congresswoman Pelosi,” he intoned brusquely, “I’m afraid you’ll have to inform Mr. Bin Laden that any direct communication between his terrorist organization and our government is impossible at this time. As you are no doubt aware, the president has made clear on numerous occasions his firm conviction that negotiating with our enemies is, in all cases, strictly contrary to American interests. Therefore, I would ask you to convey to Mr. Bin Laden our government’s unshakable commitment to “smoke him out” at the earliest available opportunity. Tell him we are currently hot on his trail, and once we determine his whereabouts, we intend to deal with him swiftly and decisively.”

At that point, Nancy turned to Osama bin Laden, who had somehow managed to preserve a modicum of dignity throughout the course of this awkward encounter, even in his Rabbi Chewbacca outfit.

“Ambassador Bolton tells me our government has nothing to say to you, Mr. Bin Laden. Do you have anything you would like for me to relay to the ambassador on your behalf?” asked Pelosi.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” replied Osama. “Tell the ambassador we wish his party well in the upcoming elections. Nothing is guaranteed to advance the cause of Al Qaeda like another two years of Republican control of the Congress. It’s like a life-giving tonic. In fact, if another terrorist incident in the next couple of weeks would help move things in that direction, please tell the ambassador to contact us through the usual channels. I’m sure we could cook up a little post-Ramadan surprise to scare the bejesus out of your average NASCAR mom….”

As Bolton hastily bolted from the room, he was sweating profusely. His cell-phone was pressed firmly against his ear, and he appeared to be howling into the mouthpiece like a badger with his tail on fire.

A scant fifteen minutes later, a team of heavily-armed federal agents arrived at the Olive Garden Restaurant, handcuffed the falcon-headed Said, and roughly manhandled him into an unmarked blue sedan waiting in the parking lot. The screech of tires was heard as the car sped off into the distance. Osama bin Laden seemed to express genuine regret over the incident.

“Sorry about your friend, Nancy. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a pain in the ass it is dealing with all these tempermental jerk-offs,” he complained. “Fortunately, the vice-president and I have no trouble at all working together, probably because we’re both Sicilian at heart. ‘Strictly business, nothing personal,’ is our motto. Why can’t we all just act like professionals here?”

As for the unfortunate Said, since his abduction from the Olive Garden by the Department of Homeland Security, we’ve received no official word of his status. However, we have heard through back-channel sources that he was recently transferred to a Bulgarian detention facility aboard Rupert Murdoch’s 727 Fox News Jet. All I can say is, I hope Said learns to enjoy the brief intervals in between his water-boardings…

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bargain Basement Prices On The Fourth Estate

The media consolidation that has occurred over the six years of the Bush administration has been devastating to our democracy while simultaneously acting as the buoy that keeps this administration afloat. With a truly independent news media, this President could never have survived this long. Bush has acted irresponsibly (immorally, illegally) in pushing his first strike policy that has resulted in our military being bogged down in Iraq. He has run up a debt that would make Reagan blush and he has failed to implement even the most basic security measures that would help protect the homeland while allowing North Korea (and soon Iran) to join the nuclear arms race. He has amassed unprecedented extra-constitutional executive power while defying our constitution by spying on American citizens. He signed into law the repeal of habeas corpus and the withdrawal of the Geneva Conventions all with barely a word from the Fourth Estate. If there was any doubt left that independent reporting is dead in traditional media, surely that can be safely put to rest now.

This abdication of their traditional role as watchdog can be seen nationally when The New York Times all but apologizes to the Bush administration for exposing their surveillance of banking transactions, and we can see it locally as newspapers across the country, despite the public’s disgust with this corrupt Republican Congress, endorse Republican candidates in their area. What we are seeing here in Washington State is a perfect example of what’s happening around the country, our newspapers are out of touch with the citizens they serve and are making endorsements based on personal gain rather than what’s in the best interest of the public.

Sure, newspapers are businesses like any other and their main objective is to make money, but when they callously and blatantly attempt to manipulate the public into voting against their own interest, and in favor of what’s best for the paper and its owners, it’s time we reject their propaganda and refuse to pay even a quarter for the privilege. While there is a lot of talk about online independent news sources and blogs eating into the market share of newspapers, alternative sources of news are not doing nearly the damage to traditional media as it is doing to itself. Supporting the status quo is one thing, but by going full tilt against public sentiment and common sense, American newspapers are dropping the veil and exposing their willingness to act as the last line of defense for this corrupt Republican Party. We can see that our newspapers are being used to plug up the holes of this sinking ship, and that damage will linger long after this administration is gone.

For their part, The Seattle Times has endorsed Dave Reichert and their public reasons for doing so are so laughable as to barely hide their true motivations. At a time when the American people are fed up with this do-nothing Congress, the Times endorses Dave “I’ll vote how you want me to, Mr. Bush” Reichert and has the audacity to claim it’s because Reichert is an “independent” voice in the Congress. Are you kidding me? Reichert explained to his base that he only voted against the Right’s pet bills because he was asked to do so by the White House and Congressional leaders as a result of calculations made about the swing nature of his district. The Seattle Times, in endorsing Reichert, has proved (yet again) that they are not fit to line a birdcage let alone inform the public.

One could argue that the Seattle Times is more comfortable endorsing an incumbent unless that incumbent has done something fundamentally wrong, but then how do you explain their endorsement of Mike McGavick? Surely, if the Times were just supporting the status quo, they would have endorsed Maria Cantwell as well, but they didn’t. Instead, the Times has exposed itself as the biased rag it is, interested primarily in abolishing the Estate Tax and paving the way for further media consolidation.

I’d like to think that newspaper endorsements of candidates don’t carry the weight they once did, but there is still a segment of the population that relies on newspapers for information. The problem is that newspapers are no longer unbiased sources and their role as watchdogs of democracy has been completely abandoned. For a liberal city like Seattle, The Times is an embarrassment. I only hope that they become as irrelevant as they are determined to make themselves, as quickly as is humanly possible. When I first moved to Seattle twelve years ago, it took only a day to figure out that the Post-Intelligencer was the better paper. But since the Times often has more pages of print, I have been using it as packing material, cushioning my holiday gifts as I pack up boxes to send around the country. This year, I’ll invest in some bubble wrap instead.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Few Great Things Written Or Said This Week

Geov Parrish shares with us his personal experience surrounding the death of independent news in Seattle as a result of the moral collapse of the Seattle Weekly. This has local significance, but it has national implications as well since this is only one of many such stories around the country where media consolidation is destroying our ability to exercise our right to know.

Keith Olbermann takes it to the President directly on his show Countdown. Olbermann does a great job zeroing in on the tragedy that is the death of habeas corpus at the hands of this president and what that really means to America. Have we no shame?

Lynn Allen at Evergreen politics calls for action in trying to persuade political candidates with excess money on hand to spread the wealth, specifically Norm Dicks. If enough citizens call his office and request that he donate 30% of his campaign cash to local candidates who could use the money more (like Darcy Burner and Peter Goldmark), we could seriously help in the effort to take back Congress.

And just for fun, check out Horse’s Ass where David Goldstein puts on display Dave Reichert’s own words that torpedo the myth of his “independent” streak. It seems Reichert only bucks the Bush administration when asked to do so by the White House or Congressional leadership. Why would they do that? Because retaining Reichert’s seat means allowing him (or forcing him to vote against his conscience which apparently he has no problem doing) to be “independent” as that is what appeals in his district. Vote for Darcy Burner, Reichert is a tool (of the Bush administration).

Friday, October 20, 2006

When Are We To Believe Our Own Eyes And Ears?

Politics in America have become so two dimensional that we are often asked to ignore our ability to see depth. We are given pre-digested information that is then presented to us as if it has only two sides, the left side and the right side that is increasingly being presented as the right side and the wrong side. Never are we to receive facts or an actual unbiased account of events that we can then use to form our own opinion. Never are we to use our knowledge, common sense and experience to determine for ourselves what any event or piece of information may mean. The way our system currently works, that simply doesn’t matter, all we really need to know is who said what, where on the political spectrum that person falls and which sound bite fits best into our already entrenched world view. How sad that we are viewed as imbeciles by our political representatives (and their media handmaidens) who have clearly forgotten that they work for us, not the other way around.

When did political debate die in this country? Was it when television was introduced as a new medium through which a candidate could get their message out? Was it when political consultants took over and turned politics into a spectator sport? Or was it when marketing became an essential part of campaigning? We get our news from a flat screen, a flat paper and cardboard cutouts of politicians that do everything in their power to hide their own humanity. The world may be round, but America is flat. Flat broke, flat wrong, and flatlining.

This week marks my one-year blogging anniversary and I have been reflecting on what has transpired over this last year and how I have reacted to it all. I started this blog for very personal reasons, first and foremost among them was to provide myself a valve through which I could let out the steam that was building up as I watched our country dissolve before my very eyes. I don’t know that I thought I could make a difference so much as keep myself sane by publicly working out my frustrations and fears, but what I got in return was a restoration of hope. I am still angry but less afraid.

I wish I could say that I feel optimistic, that we are on the cusp of big changes that will put us on the right track, but I am still unconvinced of that. I am putting a lot of energy these days into being okay with the political landscape remaining much the same, but after blogging for a year, I now have hope that the people of this country might just be ready to assume the power that we’ve had all along. We are the engine that drives this country and we are not as powerless as the politicians, political consultants, big business and the advertising executives have sunk a lot of money into convincing us we are. We have most certainly become compliant, but there is no reason we have to stay that way.

What would happen if we all started engaging with one another sans the rhetoric and useless partisan chatter? What if we made it our goal to have a conversation with someone for the purpose of learning something rather than convincing them of anything? This is a large country with a diverse population and none of us has all the answers and none of us are disposable. I am the first to admit that my frustration with this administration and this Republican Congress often leads me to feel hostile towards the ordinary Americans that gave them the power to destroy so much of what I love about this country, but when I do that, I am playing their game. And that, my friends, is a losing proposition since the rules were written (and are continually re-written) by them and for them alone.

I cannot say that I won’t lose my shit in the future (perhaps the very near future) and rail against the idiocy and compliance of the voting population in this country, but I will try to remember that they have something to teach me if they were to speak and I were to listen. I’m not talking about the regurgitated Limbaugh talking points or the gospel according to Bush, but if they were to speak truthfully about their lives, their fears and their hopes for this country, there would at least be the possibility of finding common ground. I don’t have to agree to understand and an honest conversation would allow us to cut out the cardboard middlemen relentlessly driving wedges between us. We know that serves their purposes, but what about us?

They want to keep their cushy $180k a year jobs where they only have to work, at most, 150 days a year (although this Congress worked only 72) and enjoy great medical benefits as well as a stellar retirement package (not to mention the opportunity to lobby their former colleagues on behalf of private industry once they leave office for a paycheck with an extra zero attached). That is one hell of an ulterior motive for what comes out of their mouths. When you’re getting screwed, it’s a good idea to turn your attention to who is screwing you, rather than who they are pointing their finger at.

No one is disposable in this system of ours and we need each other to take this country back from the elites that run it now. That doesn’t mean compromising our principles in order to form an alliance, nor does it mean we should allow anyone to claim their own set of facts. Truth matters, facts matter, and what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears matters. What might save our country is infusing a little self-esteem into the population at large. Trust your gut, trust your own eyes and ears and trust that the cardboard men don’t know better than you. The world isn’t flat and we can’t afford to be either. It’s time for some depth in the political debate. We shouldn’t settle for less.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

John McCain Isn’t A Maverick, He’s Stark Raving Mad

John McCain said he would commit suicide if the Democrats take over the Senate.  Should we consider that a campaign promise Senator?  I hate to be mean, but really, he opened the door and after watching John McCain suck up to the Talibangelicals over the last couple of years, he has shown us that he is as big a threat to this country as GWB has proven to be.  McCain is a neo-con that would continue the policies of the Bush administration if given the chance, the problem for McCain is that there aren’t enough people in this country that want to stay on this track and it’s looking more and more like he may have sucked up to the wrong crowd.

The interesting thing is that the Talibangelicals are being marginalized, not only by mainstream Americans that are much more concerned right now with economic issues and the war in Iraq than either gay marriage or abortion, but they are being marginalized by Evangelicals that are tired of claiming these political hacks in religious clothing as their own.  I understand that many Evangelicals find homosexuality and abortion abominations, but many are beginning to make clear (and loudly) to this administration that turning a blind eye to genocide, a pre-emptive war based on lies that has kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroying the planet for cold hard cash and economic policies that benefit only the richest amongst us, are considered abominations too.  And they’re starting to speak up.  I can only hope that their collective voices can drown out the noise machine of the hypocritical theocratic right.

While the country is reeling from the news that North Korea has joined the nuclear club, McCain tells us that we should rally behind the President.  What?  We have just learned that the nuclear device detonated by North Korea was plutonium based.  That means that the North Korean nuclear program is utilizing the materials that they had on hand, the materials acquired under the first President Bush, locked up by the Clinton administration and let loose by Bush Jr.  By disengaging from diplomatic talks with North Korea, George W. Bush virtually invited them to kick out international inspectors (that Clinton had put in place) and start developing nuclear weapons.  And John McCain has the audacity to tell us we should “probably support the president.”  Well John, you can go ahead and support the president, but you may quickly become a fan club of one.  A recent poll shows that even Bush’s hardcore base is leaving his side.  In less than a year Bush’s approval amongst white Evangelicals has dropped from 72% to 57%.  That has to have Rove soiling his shorts, but hey, at least they’ve still got the “maverick” McCain on their side.

What we need in this country is a sharp turn in another direction.  We can no longer ignore the science of global warming, suffer a Congress that abdicates its responsibilities to serve the people and provide oversight of the Executive branch and we cannot continue with a foreign policy that only serves to fan the flames of anti-Americanism around the world.  We have seen what the Republican Party has to offer, an obscene national debt, a growing trade deficit, our young men and women in the military used as pawns in a psychotic make believe geopolitical chess game, and corruption on a scale we have never seen before.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these guys have got to go.  

The GOP is hoping to localize this election, to get voters to view their Congressperson as an individual rather than part of a group.  At this point, that is impossible.  Any candidate with an (R) after their name has to go, it really is that simple.  There is no way to vote for a Republican, any Republican, in this election without causing harm to the rest of the country because the political math has been done.  Each and every Republican that returns to Congress, will be squeezed, manipulated, and probably even blackmailed into protecting this administration.  Staying the course isn’t working in Iraq, and it most certainly won’t work here.  Throw the bums out!  It’s long overdue and it just might rid this country of the scourge of John McCain.  His political death will suffice.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Preparing For The Stolen Mid-Term Elections

Earnest Partridge (of The Crisis Papers and The Online Gadfly) has today explained beautifully why it is so important for those of us that doubt the integrity of our elections, to vote on Election Day:

Given the likelihood of another rigged election, does this mean that those of us who desire a Democratic victory - apparently a sizeable majority of likely voters - should simply give up, accept the inevitable, and stay at home?

By no means. We should redouble our efforts. For even if the GOP retains control of Congress through still more of the same electronic vote fraud combined with their familiar vote-suppression schemes, this could be the election that finally exposes and puts an end to the paperless, non-verifiable e-vote scam. If the election precincts are flooded with crowds of angry citizens demanding the ouster of the Republican majority in Congress, the GOP just might be made to pay an exorbitant price for one more rigged election.

I have gone back and forth on this many times, wondering if participating in what I am convinced are unsound elections, that can be (and have been) manipulated by GOP operatives, is if fact lending legitimacy to illegitimate elections. I have seen no indication that my vote, here in Seattle, has been nullified through manipulation of votes on privately owned machines, but when the political calculations are made and even one race in Ohio can be altered in order to maintain a national hold on power, does my vote really matter anyway? The answer of course is no, but that means that the only option is to expose the vulnerabilities in our voting systems AND to help bring light to the crime of vote rigging that has already taken place and that will likely occur again. That means showing up at the polls, casting a vote and watching carefully, not only my own local results, but those around the country as well. But most importantly, it means being willing to question official results that smell fishy and loudly demanding verification and accountability from election officials that are supposed to work for us, the American people.

This is no time to sit on the sidelines, regardless of how corrupt the system may be. Without the vote, we no longer have a democratic republic. Half of us in this country already understand that we have passed that point, but in order to get the other half to join us, we need traditional media to cover the story. That will only happen if they are shamed into doing so, by election results that defy logic coupled with ordinary people demanding an explanation. We have had the former before (several times), we must be willing to provide the latter if we ever hope to get our country back.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who’s Your Daddy?

The GOP is dumping barrels full of cash into Congressional races around the country with the intent of carpet-bombing the electorate between now and Election Day with negative ads filled with distortions, fabrications and outright lies. That is what they do, we shouldn’t be surprised, and although I don’t think their efforts will win them any votes at this point, I do think there is a very real danger (and the point of the ads) that they could be successful in turning off voters from politics altogether and convince them to just stay home. However disgusted we may be with the whole lot of them in DC, we must remember that doing nothing (meaning not voting or voting for a Republican) this November will surely be the death knell of our democracy. We cannot take another two years of a do-nothing Congress that happily rolls over, allowing the Executive Branch to amass powers not granted by our Constitution.

For all of you conservatives and moderates out there that are prone to believing the GOP smear merchants, let me assure you that those of us on the left are confident that the Democrats will not be radical once in control of Congress (much to our chagrin). They have given no indication that they will impeach this President. In fact, they have gone out of their way to state clearly that they will not (however appropriate that remedy may be). They also won’t be able to change this President’s course in Iraq, only public pressure has even the slightest chance at doing that, but they will be able to hold this administration accountable for the mistakes they make, for the money they waste (steal) and they may even begin to challenge the extra-constitutional usurpations of power that this President is prone to. It’s what the Republican led Congress should have been doing all along, but what they are so clearly incapable of.

You don’t have to think that Democrats are the answer to vote for them this November, you just have to love this country enough to want to save it. Absolute power has corrupted the GOP absolutely! The only answer is to strip them of as much power as possible and restore some semblance of checks and balances to our government. The pendulum has swung as far to the right as we can allow it to go and still call this country a democratic republic. We have reached the point where just on the other side of this election, if the GOP manages to hold onto power, is fascism. That is not an overstatement, just look at the groundwork they’ve laid over the last six years! The infrastructure is there, just read the Patriot Act (although most of our representatives didn’t) and the new Torture Bill signed by the President. All they need now is a reason to use it.

We must stop begging for authoritarian rule out of a disproportionate (irrational) fear of terrorism. There was a time when part of our national psyche was the idea of the rugged individual, what has happened to that? The GOP, for many years, attracted that type of personality, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd, the “keep the government’s prying eyes out of my personal business” folks. Where have you gone? The Republican Party and its manipulative, marketing managers have turned you into a bunch of yes men, willing to take your authoritarian leader’s word for everything and they have trained you to never even question what you are being asked to give up, never mind why you are being asked to do so.

I may not believe in the myth of America, but if you still do, by all means, get off your ass and show some spine! Prove to the world that you don’t need a tough, strong daddy to tell you what to do and what to believe in. Over the years I have heard many conservatives ask the question, “How did the German people fall for the authoritarian crap that Hitler spewed?” Rest assured that we are asking the same question of you right now. Please, I beg of you, prove us wrong.

(And before anyone freaks out, I am not comparing Bush to Hitler. That would be unfair and inflammatory. But I am comparing the tactics employed by both to gain and hold onto power. Bush is peddling fear, using divisive rhetoric, consolidating his power, as well as changing our government and how it functions in fundamental ways that run contrary to our history and our constitution. Bush has told us that he would prefer to be a dictator, simply because it's easier that way. All I'm saying is that we should look at that impulse and believe our own eyes when we see the signs of legalizing dictatorial rule after the fact.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

How the Pilgrims Liberated America - Part One

(An Evangelical Election-Year Sunday School Sermon)

Guest Post by Mark W. Bradley

Four centuries ago on a Sunday, a bunch of George Bush’s Pilgrim ancestors were huddled together inside a London House of Worship, praying to their Heavenly Father for spiritual guidance, and celebrating their Freedom of Religion by burning an elderly woman at the stake. Suddenly, as if by magic (or rather divine intervention), a water-soaked Indian appeared in the doorway of their church.

“Get thee inside,” said the startled Pilgrims. “Thou art wet and weary."

"Me pretty well shagged," said the Indian, as a puddle formed beneath him on the hardwood floor. "But got-um heap-big news for Great White Father. Him crap his short pants when he hear."

"Truly, this Naked Savage hath crossed the Mighty Ocean," declared the Pilgrim Minister. "Even now, in His Great Mercy, the Lord hath delivered him up out of the Windswept Waters with His Sheltering Hand and deposited him here in Our Humble Midst!"

"Actually, me spend last twenty years in plenty-bad boarding house upstream in Putney. Me go down to Big Stinky River to scrape ratshit off moccasin and fall in. Me wash up here."

"Behold, a miracle!" cried the Pilgrims, and they took him to see the king.

When the Pilgrims and their Magic Indian arrived at Hampton Court, King James I was busy writing an over-friendly letter to his purely platonic friend, the buff and manly Duke of Buckingham, whom the king had put in charge of arranging Royal Camping Trips for marginally underage pageboys.

After arising from their abject genuflections, the Pilgrims addressed the king as follows:

“Your Majesty, we, thy humble supplicants, would like to begin by offering thee our sincere and heartfelt thanks for the democracy thou hast seen fit to bestow upon us (which we promise not to over-use), and it is our fondest hope that thou wilt consent to allow us to spread the blessings of said democracy across the oceans where it is most needed (assuming that is okay with thee). If thou should deign, in thy immense wisdom and infinite mercy, to agree to our tentative plan (of course, we can always change the plan, or omit parts of it, or maybe even drop the whole thing if it fails in any way to meet thy specifications, so please don’t feel we’re putting any pressure on thee here), we would be ever so grateful for thy support (really, we would).

“Now we don’t mean to digress here, Your Highness, but we’ve taken the liberty of preparing for thee a sort of ‘informational packet’ we think goes a long way toward putting the current crisis in some kind of historical context...”

“Thay what thou hatht to thay, and make it thnappy,” lithped the Thtuart thovereign, in all his thplender.

“Of course, Your Majesty, begging thy Royal pardon,” resumed the Pilgrim minister, “the thing is, this still-damp Indian, known to his people as ‘Sha-lah-be’ (or ‘the Great Lyre’ for his ability to bring forth sweet songs of truth) has swum his way across the Atlantic to bring thy attention to a Mortal Danger that threatens our safety and indeed the safety of all God-fearing Christians. We beseech thee to hear his Wondrous Words of Warning.”

“Thpeak, thou thtudly thavage,” thaid the king.

The now only slightly-moist Indian unfolded his tale without the barest hint of artifice:

“Sha-lah-be almost drown in Big Stinky River. Dream he rise up into sky and meet Great Spirit. Spirit show Sha-lah-be plenty-bad vision of Devil-king who make strong fire in land across Big Water. Tell Sha-lah-be he make heap-big wampum if he warn Pale-face King about strong fire. Maybe Pale-face King kick Devil-king’s ass and make Sha-lah-be Big Chief.”

The king was exceedingly alarmed by Sha-lah-be’s vision (but spiritually aroused by the skimpiness of his loincloth), and quickly summoned his Chancellor, Sir Richard of Balderdash. Sir Richard had only just returned from an inspection tour of his capital assets, including a worm-eaten, barnacle-encrusted death-hulk in Plymouth Harbor known as the “Mayflower" (a gift from one of his many associates in the private sector, a trenchcoat-wearing Hebrew pirate by the name of “Jack”), a recently-acquired non-profit, faith-based Christian blunderbuss factory in Brixton, and an out-of-the-way, rat-infested boarding house in Putney.

Sir Richard began slowly, as if taking those present into his confidence:

“Your Highness, I believe it’s imperative we take this threat seriously. The ‘Strong Fire’ this noble (but clearly sub-human) savage speaks of may be a new Super Weapon referred to in Catholic Confessional Chatter (which some of our agents have accidentally overheard) as the “Pope’s Pincushion.” I think it’s been pretty well proven that these Wampanoag Indian terrorists were originally trained and equipped by Guy Fawkes, the Papisto-fascist heretic (whatever that means) who tried to assassinate Your Majesty several years ago.

“Significantly, the Wampanoag ‘Devil-king’ Massasoit himself is rumored to have tested this weapon on his own people, and we have reason to think he’s planning to unleash it against us next, perhaps as early as next spring.

“As you may remember, Your Majesty, Massasoit (or as his own terrorized people refer to him ‘The Cannibal of Cape Cod’) has been stock-piling thousands of arrows in secret mobile wigwam laboratories (whatever that means) scattered around the (soon-to-be-christened) New England countryside. He, of course, claims the arrows are needed for “hunting”, but inasmuch as he continues to amass large quantities of turkey-dung in which to dip those arrows, we think he may already have developed biological weapons capability (whatever that is). Even more alarmingly, reliable sources tell us that Massasoit's medicine-men have been working round-the-clock to test and deploy a series of five-story-tall mega-bows, each one capable of firing thousands of independently-targeted, heat-seeking arrows (whatever they are) across the Atlantic at a single thrust.

“Now there’s little doubt that in the coming days we’re going to hear a lot of left-wing, limited-monarchist types say we ought to wait for more evidence before we act. But the real question is, Your Highness, can we afford to put the kingdom's security at risk? What if the smoking blunderbuss comes in the form of a mushroom-cloud of pulverized poultry poop?”

The king needed no further convincing, and immediately ordered Balderdash to plan and launch a preemptive strike aimed at taking out Massasoit of Massachusetts’s Messy Bunghole Bomb of Mass Destruction. Needless to say, Sir Richard’s masterful plan for a cost-effective, pinpoint surgical invasion of an entire continent was built around the person of his erstwhile boarding-house tenant, Sha-lah-be, and supported by a pre-arranged no-bid contract for two-hundred blunderbusses, a hundred-and-fifty suits of fourteen-ply rat-skin body armor, and virtually unlimited travel miles aboard the Good Ship “Mayflower”, courtesy of “Captain Jack” (who, curiously enough, had a long history of taking Evangelicals and Indians for a ride)....

(to be continued)

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

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Meet Aaron Silverberg

I’m going to take a quick break from the minutiae of politics (sort of) this weekend and instead do a profile on someone that is focusing on doing good and looking at the big picture rather than on personal gain or short term solutions. Today I’d like to tell you a little bit about a lovely man I had the pleasure to sit down with by the name of Aaron Silverberg. Mr. Silverberg was nice enough to bid on a Liberal Girl blog post at a recent fundraiser for Jim McDermott, now it is my sincere pleasure to do my part.

Aaron is a poet, freelance writer, improve teacher and most interestingly, a professional life coach. His day job is to help people order their lives in an integrated way that allows them to feel fulfilled and successful in this fast paced, fast food, surface filled world. Now that is a service worth paying for, if I had the money, I’d hire him myself. While most of the time I feel like my life is pretty integrated, I do know that I could benefit from having someone see the total of who I am and help me focus in on the things that matter most and let the rest of it go, a sort of prioritizing of my life and responsibilities. In fact, I might just start saving up to employ Aaron as a sort of pre-emptive strike against the chaos that seems to always be lurking around the edges of my otherwise well ordered life.

I had heard of a life coach before, but I had never met one or, for that matter, anyone who had had the opportunity to hire one, so meeting Aaron was interesting to say the least. I had plenty of questions for him, mostly stemming from my own curiosity, and he was forthcoming, charming and explained his profession thoroughly and with the kind of authenticity and excitement that can only come from someone that has found their true calling.

Most of us have either been to a therapist or know someone who has, but what about those of us that don’t have psychological issues to work through, but instead just feel like our lives are cluttered and unfulfilling, is a therapist really the best resource for a floundering soul? I was surprised to learn that a life coach is the answer for people seeking to simplify their lives and find meaning in what they do each and every day. I was even more surprised that I came to that conclusion myself, before Aaron had a chance to make the connection for me. Perhaps because we tend to think of a life coach as a frivolous expense rather than a critical tool in building a full life, the profession hasn’t yet reached the level of stature it deserves. But with so many of us running around, working too hard and ignoring our inner lives, that may be about to change.

For those of you who are in the dark, as I was, about what exactly a life coach does, let me share with you some of what Aaron shared with me. The opportune time for a life coach is during a period of transition, such as a divorce, retirement or when contemplating a career change or just starting out, although anytime is a good time to improve one’s life. As Aaron explained, “The coach is there to serve that being with no personal agenda.” That is pretty powerful when you stop and think about it, and not a relationship that most of us find in our daily lives. Think of a life coach as a mentor, in fact, Aaron revealed that when he left college, he felt that a mentor was lacking in his life and that made him want to become a coach and provide the mentoring to others that he missed at a critical time in his life.

A life coach will act as a guide through a process that is about working out the contradictions in our lives, simplifying, and mapping out an action plan that will lead the way, with the life coach providing the all important accountability factor. Aaron explained that the process involves asking and answering the question, “How do you deeply surrender to yourself?” Having a life coach provide the structure necessary to build a fulfilling life is invaluable and has far greater benefits than just completing a task or becoming more effective in our jobs, it is a process that will lead to greater personal understanding of our place in the world. As Aaron said simply, “We need to feel our preciousness before we’re on our deathbed.” Amen. In this disposable world, who couldn’t use more of that?

So, if you or someone you know could benefit from the services of a life coach, I encourage you to contact Aaron Silverberg. He is one of the most interesting, sincere, intelligent and thoughtful people I have ever met, and I have no doubt that he could help anyone achieve their goals and become the person they’ve always wanted to be.

Friday, October 13, 2006

There’s Not Enough Money In The World To Save The GOP Now

I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to electoral math or the strategic use of political money in Congressional races, but now that the Republicans are on the ropes, it is interesting to watch them spread their money around in a desperate attempt to hold onto their majority in both the House and the Senate. Even the GOP’s deep pockets aren’t enough to tackle all of the races they now find themselves defending.

The Washington Post gives a rundown of how and where each side is spending money and how they are spinning their decisions to do so. The best news in the article is that the GOP seems to recognize that they can’t retain all of their seats and are now being forced to choose the least dire races to focus on. Our very own Darcy Burner, running against Dave Reichert in Washington’s 8th district, is mentioned in the article as someone who will likely find herself on the receiving end of attack ads funded by the National Republican Party. I have all the faith in the world that she will be able to counter the coming barrage with her continuing frankness, honesty and seeming fearlessness to address the issues and directly challenge her opponent. This is a seat never held by a Democrat since it’s creation, Darcy Burner should be proud that she has drawn the attention of the GOP, it means she’s on track and she’s scaring the hell out of Riechert, his supporters and the Republican leadership in DC. Give ‘em hell Darcy! You’re within striking distance, do us all a favor and take him down once and for all.

You can help her do it by contributing some money to her campaign. The Democrats will take over Congress and return some accountability to government in November, but that can only happen if we keep the pressure on, and in this political system, that means money!

A candidate not mentioned in the article is Peter Goldmark (you can read my previous posts on Goldmark here and here) who is running against first term Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris. Peter was considered a long shot candidate only a few months ago, but he has seen a steady rise in name recognition, support and money coming in. Even before the Republican Party started to implode, Goldmark was making this a competitive race, polling almost dead even with McMorris. Now that the Party is in trouble and anti-Republican sentiment is spreading, this is a race the Democrats can win, even if the Republican leadership hasn’t figured that out yet. Contribute to the Goldmark campaign and help drain the GOP coffers as they spend money on races they thought were safe!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The GOP Clinging To Moral Relativity And The Malleability Of Facts

According to Congressman Christopher Shays, as long as no one dies, Republican scandals don’t matter. That is setting the bar a bit high, but okay, I can work with that. This Republican administration aided by this Republican Congress purposefully hoodwinked the American public into an illegal war that has cost almost 3,000 young Americans their lives, and according to a new report from Johns Hopkins University, over 600,000 innocent Iraqi citizens as well. I’d say that rises to the level of importance. And as if that isn’t enough, the Republican Congress supported and passed this Republican administrations wish list on torture and continues to look the other way when it comes to extraordinary rendition, you know, kidnapping so called “enemy combatants” and sending them to Uzbekistan to be tortured, sometimes to death. How about murder and war crimes Congressman Shays? Does that matter? I’d be happy to talk these issues to death as they have greater consequences than a sexual predator in your midst. The problem for you is that you have to defend this sleazeball as well as your leadership that protected him at the peril of our children, but you’re right, compared to the nearly one million deaths that have resulted from GOP incompetence and hubris, a few teenage boys used for the sexual gratification of a power mad Congressman is really nothing to get worked up about.

When confronted with the report on Iraqi civilian deaths, our dear President, of course, simply denied the facts. Big surprise eh? This is a man that still thinks global warming is a hoax and continues to hinder scientific research on stem cells because he’d rather pander to his right-wing religious base that think a fertilized egg is a person. To be fair, the report gives only an estimate of war related fatalities, which they say falls between 393,000 to 943,000 people, but even on the low end, that is a far cry from the 30,000 deaths the Bush administration claims, which is an estimate as well. Heading into a midterm election that is looking more and more grave for Republicans every day, Mr. Bush has no choice but to deny the accuracy of the report, politically it’s his only option and we know that when Bush speaks, political calculus has already been applied to his words before they ever leave his lips.

Trickle down may not work when it comes to tax breaks for the rich, but when it comes to accountability, there is a top down flow. When the President routinely denies scientific findings and exhibits a laissez faire attitude toward accuracy and accountability, it has an effect on the myriad of government agencies charged with serving and protecting the public. When Bush stood next to FEMA’s Michael Brown during the disaster that was the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and told the world, “You’re doin’ a heckuva job Brownie,” he sent the message that political blood is thicker than even 20 feet of water. It should come as no surprise that heads of other agencies got the message that the right answer is the one that benefits this administration, facts be damned. Thus we have NASA scientists bullied into changing their findings, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers having their findings on global warming kept from the public and EPA labs conducting tests on our water supplies that start with the desired answer and then conduct the tests. Fixing the facts to fit the policy is the true legacy of the Bush administration. No wonder they think they are never wrong, all evidence to the contrary is promptly dumped in the trash and anyone who dares utter the truth is cut loose immediately.

I get the sense that the Republican voter base doesn’t care much about the stifling of facts and the manipulation of science for political gain, but I can only hope that they have enough self-respect to stop supporting a Party that holds them in such contempt. If the “values voters” will get off their high horses long enough to at least look at the facts on the ground, they will see that the GOP has nothing but lip service to offer them. They need to stop listening to Karl Rove and start listening to their own, and they should start with David Kuo, the former number two guy at the Office Of Faith Based Initiatives that has written a book about his experience with the Bush administration titled, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story Of Political Seduction in which he reveals that Karl Rove’s office routinely referred to Evangelical leaders as “the nuts”. It’s time to face facts, the home that Evangelicals have found in the Republican Party is an abusive one and it’s time to get out. They really should trust their first instinct and stay out of politics all together, it will only sully their religion and allow for devils like Karl Rove to take God’s lambs and turn them into Republican sheep. Don’t go over the cliff with them, cut the ties and save yourselves while there’s still time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Declare Your Independence!

"When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

These words are just as true today as they were in 1776. We have suffered a long train of abuses and usurpations at the hands of this President and it has become necessary to dissolve the political bands that have bound us to him, but unlike in 1776, we have a framework to work within that will allow us to dissolve our political ties without having to wage a war. But mankind are disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, even, apparently, when the remedy is relatively easy. We don’t have to take up arms like our forefathers did in order to secure our freedom, we only have to participate and arm ourselves with the knowledge of our tyrant’s crimes against us and exercise our rights granted not only by our Creator, but also by our Constitution. The evils are becoming less and less sufferable to more and more people, the only question is, will we use the vote that our ancestors died to secure for us, or will we let apathy secure a win for evil?

We may not have yet reached the point of a constitutional crisis, but Republican voters must understand that their ties to a corrupt Republican Party have indeed become critical, and not just for them, but for the rest of us as well. It is time to stand up and declare your independence from a Party that abuses its power, protects its criminal elements, rules from greed and that once in power, abdicates its constitutional responsibilities and neglects the needs and desires of the people that (supposedly) granted them their power in the first place. Whatever failings we may ascribe to the Democrats, they are not the tyrants in power. The Republicans are responsible for the $8 trillion dollar debt, for “staying the course” in Iraq, for making torture and American value, for suspending habeas corpus, for allowing North Korea to become a nuclear nation, for allowing US citizens to be spied upon by our government without consequences, and for outsourcing our jobs while turning America into a consumer state with the highest health care costs in the world. Today’s Republican Party is evil and no longer sufferable. We must strip them of power, with our vote, with our voices and through our direct involvement with our government. It’s not 1776, we have a political process, all we have to do is use it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Will The Real October Surprise Please Stand Up?

Guest Post by Man of American Dissent

It’s only 10 days into the month and we’ve already had two MOAOS (Mother of All October Surprises) drop into our laps. PedoGate and now an alleged nuclear test from North Korea. I was already feeling the burnout from the corruption, scandal and general incompetence, but now it appears that there may even be worse to come. Dave Lindorff outlines the serious potential for imminent strikes against Iran in a piece I read at The Smirking Chimp. Let’s hope there’s no more surprises, and that the kids can have fun on Halloween and that the country and the world get a treat on November 7th.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How Are Those Six Party Talks Going Mr. Bush?

George W. Bush is on a roll, making the world safer through belligerence toward and bombing of non-threats while ignoring and inciting the real ones.  With a president like him, who needs enemies?

North Korea today conducted its first nuclear weapons test, setting the world on edge and proving yet again how dangerous the Bush administration has turned out to be.  Not only did George W. Bush turn his back on diplomatic efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, he also handed Kim Jong-il the perfect basis for marketing his new toy to his country and allies.  North Korea is going with the “Bush administration made me do it” defense and who in the world won’t understand, at least in some way, the argument that nuclear weapons are the only real deterrent to an unlawful US invasion?  I’m not buying it, but many citizens of the world will and not without reason.

This is a sad day for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and peace activists everywhere.  It’s hard not to see this as the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race, but this time it will be far more complicated as it won’t be limited to two superpowers.  The idea that nuclear weapons will provide a deterrent against imperial invasion will resonate, especially in countries that possess natural resources appealing to US companies.  The citizens of the world are not as ignorant as are US citizens of the tactics used by this country to gain control of and exploit resources that don’t belong to us.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a sense around the world that the US would be a responsible Super Power, that we would wield our singular power wisely, but that was back when much of the world still trusted us.  That is not the case anymore, thanks to our diplomatically challenged President.

So what happens now?  Is South Korea going to put at risk their economy by taking military action?  Is Japan going to be forced to overturn their pacifist constitution in order to join the arms race for fear of suffering again what they did at the hands of America sixty years ago?  Is Iran going to be emboldened by North Korea’s defiance?  Will North Korea provide cover for Iran?  Is it time to choose up sides and dive headfirst into the new nuclear age and World War III that the Bush administration seems hellbent on sparking?  Or will the American people finally wake up to the fact that our leader is just as crazy as Kim Jong-il?

That the world became a lot more dangerous today can be laid squarely at the feet of this president.  Bush chose to ignore the real threats in favor of manufactured ones.  He chose aggression over diplomacy and in the process destroyed our reputation, sacrificed our safety, ignited anti-Americanism around the world and caused a re-alignment of allegiances that is increasingly putting us at odds with the rest of the world.  Bush has proven that we cannot be trusted to use our singular Super Power status responsibly, how dare we be surprised that the world is reacting accordingly.  At this point, the best we can hope for is that we have enough goodwill in reserve to repair the damage, but we can only cash in on that reserve if we do something about our tyrant in the White House.  If we rein him in soon, we may still get credit, but time is running out, and fast.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Republicans Firing Blindly…..At Each Other!

Let’s talk about the ridiculousness that is today’s Republican Party. I think I’ve been a bit disheartened that the things that really matter, like the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the fact that Congress has tossed aside habeas corpus and that we are now a country that condones torture, are not the issues that are getting much play in this election year and that we instead are spending all our time talking about a sexual predator that confused the Congressional page service with an escort service. But you head into an election with the scandal you’ve got, not the scandal you want, so I guess I might as well get with the program and start piling on. At this point, I don’t care how the Republicans leave Congress, as long as it’s fast and leaves them with lasting bruises.

The Republicans have launched vicious attacks on Democrats over the years, but watching them go after each other is much more fun. They all think they’re Cheney now, shooting at their “friends” in a circular firing squad. They’ll be picking buckshot out of their backsides for weeks after this first round of ass covering. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

Protecting sexual predators is nothing new for the GOP. The young pages working in DC were of no more concern to Denny Hastert and John Boehner than the sex slaves of the North Mariana Islands were to Tom DeLay, John Doolittle and their buddy Jack Abramoff who worked together to ensure that the Congress did nothing to address the poor working conditions and forced sex trade there. The Republican hypocrites don’t have any moral values, let alone family values, unless of course “my family will step on yours to get ours” can be considered a family value. They talk about the immorality of gambling while they steal money from Indian tribes to push through legislation in favor of gaming casinos. They talk about protecting children from Internet predators while protecting a child predator using the Internet to solicit sex from underage boys. They laugh at the stupidity of their supporters while they strut around so proud of their abilities to manipulate voters and the system. When will enough be enough?

Predatorgate could be the scandal that awakens the sleepwalking supporters of the GOP. It has amazed me for years that ordinary working Americans would vote against their best interests by buoying up a Republican Party that only serves the corporations and rich families that bankroll them, when all they get out of the deal is the false promise of “moral clarity”. The moral values of the GOP leadership have been laid bare for their supporters to see and I can only hope that the rank and file Republican voters are more than a little disgusted.

This scandal is like all the rest in that it stems from the way the Republicans do business. They talk about bipartisanship, but they exclude Democrats at every turn. Democrats weren’t shown pre-war intelligence, were kept in the dark about the NSA domestic spy program and they were shut out completely when it came to the known problems with Mark Foley’s inappropriate, immoral and possibly criminal behavior with young boys going back a decade. This Republican Congress has never been about serving the people, it has been about maintaining a stranglehold on power and lying, cheating and covering for each other have been their tactics. But greed is a complicated thing. Hanging together during the high times is easy, but when the house of cards starts tumbling, the dimes start dropping as everyone scrambles to save their own butts. The only thing to do now is keep the focus on them, stand back and watch them take each other down, either through infighting or from the sheer weight of their collective corruption.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Don’t Get Me Wrong, A Little Less Evil Sounds Pretty Good

I want to clarify my speculation yesterday about what the Democrats will or will not do if they are allowed to take over control of Congress.  In the grand scheme of things, I honestly don’t think much will change, at least not right away.  The war will go on, the polar ice caps will continue to melt at an alarming rate, the President will still sign bills into law with signing statements attached that allow him to disregard them, we will still be subject to arrest and imprisonment without recourse and war profiteers will continue to rake in the dough while the rest of us work harder for less money each year.  We have a two party system in this country (theoretically anyway) and the rich and powerful invest heavily in both sides to ensure that either way, they come out on top.  But at least with Democrats in Control of one branch of government, there will finally be some oversight and a check on the power now held by the Republican Party that has corrupted them so completely.  

There are still far too many Democrats that support this occupation and that think the answer to our failing mission in Iraq is sending in more troops (can you say Hillary Clinton?)!  A Democratically controlled Congress isn’t likely to stop funding this war or demand that our troops come home.  They, like the President, seem content to delay any meaningful decision on the occupation until they can figure out how to make it a political win.  But at least a Democratic Congress will investigate this White House and make public the lies that led us to war and the failures of execution that have created a bloody mess in Iraq.

I also don’t see the Democrats clamoring to repeal this torture bill that, in my opinion, paves the way for a legalized fascist state.  This administration has seriously altered how our country functions and has run roughshod over our values and traditions as a democratic republic.  That is what I want Democrats to address yet what I fear they will not touch.  That said, I do understand that many little things will change if the Democrats take over.  For one thing, it will stem the bleeding somewhat and they will likely stop or at least provide some opposition to new usurpations of power by the White House.  That alone is worthwhile at this point.

There is the short-term and the long-term to consider.  Yesterday I was ruminating on the long term, but here is the short-term argument in favor of Democrats.  As bad as things are right now, they can get much worse and at a pretty rapid pace.  Now is not the time to disengage from politics or shirk our responsibilities as citizens.  In 2000, few people realized just how bad things could get, I used the Reagan years as a reference, silly me.  I thought that we would suffer four years of funneling public money upward, a vilifying of the poor, social conservatism run amuck and covert wars for control of resources that don’t belong to us but that corporate America somehow thinks should.  I never could have envisioned what we got instead.  

This administration has taken the lessons of Reagan, Nixon, Joe McCarthy and the rest of the worst examples of leadership in American (and world) history and rolled them into one giant political philosophy of winner takes all and the ends always justify the means.  We the people have become the enemy, and we will continue to be treated as such until there is a power shift in DC that gives us some authority back.  We must come to accept what corporate America knows intuitively, that you get the representation in government that you pay for.  If we want to be considered, we must pool our resources and buy our own members of Congress.  The reality is that the Democrats are all we have, and at this point, a little less evil sounds pretty good.