Friday, March 31, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

Since I have a lot of new folks coming to check out my post on atheism, I've moved it back to the top of the page, just to make it easier to find (see how courteous I am). My post for today is below, so check it out. I've bounced from atheism yesterday to illegal immigration today, although after reading that survey, I'm wondering if we atheists should be more concerned with emigrating from this hostile territory, than with immigration into it. Nah, we're not leaving, they'll have to kick us out too.

How About A Little Economic Justice

The immigration issue in this country is coming to a head and if there was some sort of balance of power in DC, I would say, “great, it’s about time we had a real honest public conversation about this very important issue,” but since that is not the case, I’m a little worried about how this will play out. The Republicans are on the ropes and they need something that will drive their voters to the polls, and since they have effectively tied immigration to border security and there’s the added racial component, they may have found the perfect issue. Fear and bigotry rolled into one, just what Republicans like.

The problem for the country in having the Republicans control the debate on immigration reform is that they don’t give a damn about solving the problem, they only care about the political bounce they can get from demonizing illegal immigrants that are coming across our borders, well, more specifically our southern border. And just like with the Welfare mothers of the 80s, it’s not hard to sell working class Americans on the idea that they are struggling because those who are even poorer are stealing resources away from them. It was crap when Reagan shoveled it out, and it’s crap now.

There are some fundamental problems with the way we deal with illegal immigration in this country. First off, the Mexican government reads our slogan, “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..” and they say, “Great, here you go,” because it’s of great economic benefit to them. For our part, we just wink and nod because big business in this country benefits greatly from the cheap labor they provide. Without tackling the real economic problems in Mexico, unemployment and underemployment for a start, people are going to do what they can to provide for their families, and for many on our southern border, that means coming to the United States to work. And until we address the fundamental inequities in the distribution of wealth in this country, cynical politicians will always be able to turn us against each other. There will always be a “them” to point to, but somehow it’s never the “them” at the top.

While I understand the frustration that people in border communities feel about the so-called “drain” on their public resources, by aiming that frustration at poor immigrants, we miss the real point. Taxpayers are footing the bill while big business is reaping all the benefits. Not exactly a fair policy, but those who benefit from illegal workers are not going to volunteer to give up their profits to solve the problem, and that is what must change. We should all believe in the words of welcome that we roll out to the rest of the world. We want to continue to be a refuge for those seeking a better life. That is fundamentally who we are, building a wall to keep people out is not what America has ever been about, nor should we ever allow it to be.

For those sitting on top of the U.S. Economic ladder, it seems like a no-brainer. Create an under class that will give the poor in this country someone to look down on, and no one will notice the money that the rich siphon off the top. This is the same strategy employed in the 80s and it worked like a charm. Working class Americans were pissed off at the woman down the street who kept having kids so she could stay on welfare (never the epidemic is was made out to be), while they worked their butts off in the local factory, never mind that the amount of taxpayer dollars that were spent on poor single mothers was only a fraction of what was given away in the form of corporate welfare. Creating a villain that people can understand and point to in their own lives, always provides the perfect cover for the real economic drain that is usually much more complicated to follow.

So, here we are again, if we can see the Mexican family at the public hospital, paying for services with a Medicaid card while we struggle to pay for health insurance for our family, it’s easy to misplace our frustration. If those of us who see the bigger picture refuse to speak out when we encounter bigotry and misplaced anger, we will be contributing to the vilification of illegal immigrants that will last as long as it has for poor single mothers on welfare. It’s almost thirty years later and I still hear it, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit idly by and watch it happen again, we’ve got enough problems with race and class in this country without Republicans stealing our money and blaming illegal immigrants for the fact that our country is broke. Let’s make sure we get some real workable solutions to the complicated issue of immigration reform, and let’s keep our eyes on the money this time. I’m pretty sure I know the pockets it’ll be going into, and they aren’t made of denim, that’s for damn sure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Podcasting Liberally

Things got a little loud during this week’s taping, it must have been the jinx of someone telling me beforehand that one of the things he really enjoys about the show is how we let each other speak and don’t talk over one another. Oh well, with six loud mouthed liberals sitting at one small table, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Joining in the discussion this week was Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party Dwight Pelz, Carl, Will, Michael from Blather Watch, Sandeep, myself and of course our host Goldy. Yet again we discussed the Green Party and the Republicans inability to govern but we touched on some new topics as well, like the voter disenfranchisement of felons and I tried to get a discussion going about fascism and although it never really took off, it did keep coming up. It’s one of those things that sounds like flame throwing when you toss it out there (which was not my intention), but when you start discussing how this administration operates, the comparisons have a way of popping up on their own.

So have a listen, it’s almost an hour long and available here as a 51.2 MB MP3. Check out for RSS feeds and archived shows and a special thanks to Gavin and Richard for their excellent work in producing the show.

The Democrats Have A Plan

The Democrats have rolled out their plan for national security and it looks pretty good, and the best part is, it’s short. The brochure is comprised of ten pages, but that includes the title pages and both an English and Spanish version. The actual plan is only three pages long and it’s filled with easy to digest, specific solutions to security problems that have stumped the GOP. There are a few good swipes at the Republicans as well, even the title, “Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World” is a reminder of what Bush and the Republicans haven’t been able to do.

There is no wind bagging, no unnecessary words or complicated concepts, just clear-cut objectives and specific dates. Energy independence by 2020, securing loose nukes by 2010, screening of 100% of cargo containers, a promise to eliminate Bin Laden, finish the job in Afghanistan and make significant progress in Iraq this year so that troop redeployment can begin. Reading this plan I get the sense that the Democrats are not as clueless as they’ve led us to believe, a pleasant surprise for sure.

The fear mongering seems to have been kept to a minimum as well. I was a little concerned that the Democrats would use the fear card in order to wrestle control away from Republicans this fall, but there is only one reference to the “danger” of outsourcing our port operations and they handled the bird flu pandemic hoopla in a reasonable fashion. Instead of scaring people about it and encouraging them to spend all their money on stockpiles of food, water and survival gear, the Democrats say they will invest in the public health infrastructure, train health workers and make sure that first responders have all of the equipment they need for any disaster, natural or otherwise. All common sense stuff that doesn’t involve building a new bureaucracy or giving money to big pharmaceutical companies for useless antibiotics, the Bush plan up to this point.

I hope that this brochure makes it into the hands of voters across the country. It is a great first step and it takes the security issue away from Republicans. I’m hoping this is the test plan and that there will be more to come, a healthcare plan and perhaps an economic plan as well. As long as they keep it short and to the point, it’s hard to see how they don’t make gains in November. They are speaking directly to the concerns of the American people, they are promising to fix the critical gaps in security that Republicans have been unable to tackle and they are doing so without nuance. So far, so good, I hope they can keep it up.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Hate To Keep Bringing This Up But…

There was a lot of talk during the Clinton years about how his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky affected the rest of the country.  Those of us who thought the whole thing was ridiculous could see it was casting a shadow over much more important issues, but for those who wanted to take Clinton down, there was a lot of talk about how his lewd behavior trickled down to the rest of society.  The argument was that, when the President declared that oral sex wasn’t sex, this somehow gave kids the “all clear” to engage in oral sex and still retain their virginity.  I’d argue that kids have been playing that game forever, but I still see the point.  The President does set the tone for the nation, and our current President’s penchant for domestic spying and strong-armed tactics in dealing with dissenting opinions is also trickling down.

A woman in Georgia gets a ticket for having a bumper sticker on her car that reads, “I’m tired of all the BUSHIT.”  A San Diego woman is fired from her job for a bumper sticker on her car advertising a progressive radio station.  A couple pays off their credit card and Homeland Security is notified and puts a hold on their check until they can investigate.  Americans who stray from the “normal” way of doing business, whether getting their financial house in order, listening to progressive radio or expressing their displeasure with the current administration, are suddenly considered threats to society.  Is this really what we have come to?  Homeland Security is looking out for the bottom line of the credit card companies and employers and local police see it as their role to force compliance to social norms?  This should be disturbing to every American.

A high school kid in Denver tape-records his teacher because of his lectures pointing out the similarities between the way Bush operates and the way Hitler did.  Whether or not what this teacher said was crossing the line, it seems to me that this kid perfectly illustrated the similarity between the rise of Nazi Germany and the rise of Bush America by imitating the Hitler youth.  I’m not saying that what this teacher said is right or that the kid was wrong to have taped him, all I’m saying is that the similarities are there.  When dissent is quashed at the top, dissent is viewed much differently at the local level.  Bush isn’t mandating that local police give out tickets for political dissent, nor is he advocating that kids turn in teachers who speak ill of his policies, but it’s happening anyway.  In Bush’s America, dissent is a bad word and his propaganda machine is effectively tying dissent to terrorism.  Is it really any wonder that those of us who express displeasure with this administration are viewed as dangerous?

In our America, it is still the responsibility of citizens to speak out against the abuses of our government and conforming to social norms is not mandatory to be an American.  What happened to the respect for rugged individualism that this country took such great pride in?  Why is it all of a sudden un-American to question the role of government in our lives?  And when did we decide that Bush’s ideal of America takes precedence over our founding father’s ideal?  Bush is not Hitler and Republicans are not Nazis, but more and more Americans are starting to mimic the behavior of German citizens in the 1930s and 1940s.  We always believed that we would be better, that we would resist the urge to comply.  I guess we’ll see how far people are willing to go for a sense of security, however false it may be.  We were meant to be wary of excessive government control and instead we seem to be begging for more.  Abandoning our guiding principles in the name of security will not make us safer, it will only transfer the threat we face from outside forces to inside ones, and who wants to live in that America?  I know I don’t.

Political Talk

Politics didn’t exactly take a back seat on my trip to my small hometown since most of my friends and family are pretty politically minded and many of them are great activists for liberal causes, but there was a lot of talk of how the current political climate influences social and personal life.  It was interesting to see how the Pew Research polls on social issues played out in the real world (I say “real world” because sometimes I feel like Seattle is an island, a liberal oasis where all of the polls are skewed) where social issues are important, but they are tied to the kitchen table issues.

There was a lot of discussion amongst my female friends about the threat to women’s reproductive choice and there is a sense of fear about how far the religious right will go to legislate their morality.  Most of us have read A Handmaid’s Tale and the signs that we could soon be in real danger are disconcerting and color our thoughts of the future.  We read the book as teenagers and, at the time, it seemed impossible that such atrocities could occur.  Now, it doesn’t feel out of realm of possibility and that’s scary.

We also talked about raising children and how you do that on less money.  It’s important to raise kids who know the value of money, who understand that working hard for the things you want will be a way of life for them, but we also don’t want them to experience the anxiety that so many of us have about simply providing for our families.  We want our kids to consider college a forgone conclusion, but many of us are not sure how that will play out.  Those of us who own homes will likely take out a second mortgage, those who don’t are forced to play it by ear, hoping something will come up that will make college possible and some of us are lucky enough to have money set aside.  This is the reality of Bush’s economic policies, parents struggling to try and provide opportunities for our children, most of the time at the expense of our own retirement.  Poverty is a very real issue in this country and so is the squeezing of the middle-class.  Upward mobility used to seem possible, not so much anymore.

All and all, I get the sense that Americans are tired.  Tired of working so hard to keep it all together, tired of worrying about the future and tired of feeling like things are only getting worse.  There was no mention of impeachment on my trip, most of us have resigned ourselves to three more years of bad policy that will take decades to fix.  There is also an underlying fear and uncertainty about the future.  We have seen the Bush administration circumvent the will of the people, ignore Congressional oversight and disregard the Constitution and we’re not sure where that leaves us as a country.  Are we as strong and resilient as we were raised to believe?  Is our Constitution?  Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, we are in desperate need of some good news.  Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Leaving On A Jet Plane, Unless I’m On The No Fly List

I am leaving today for a short trip to my hometown, so I may not be blogging much (or at all) until I get back on Tuesday.  Internet access is spotty amongst my friends and family and I’m not sure I want to brave the Starbucks, besides, I may end up having too much fun and the break might do me good.  I’m taking the trip because my best friend is being honored by the Feminist Women’s Health Center, for her hard work and activism over the years in support of a woman’s right to choose.  She is an amazing person that I am honored to call friend and who makes me proud, every day, to be a woman.  She talks the talk AND walks the walk and she’s taught me the importance of doing both.  I’m so happy to be able to share in this happy event.

I am a little paranoid though about getting on the plane.  I love to fly and I’m not concerned about terrorism, I’m just afraid they won’t let me on.  I haven’t taken a flight since I started this blog and with all the reports I’ve read about Quakers and pacifists being labeled terrorists, I’m a little concerned.  I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that my blog is too small and too insignificant to warrant any attention from Homeland Security.  I wish that wasn’t the case, and who knows, as I grow maybe they will pay me visit and put me on the No Fly List, at this point, I’d almost consider it a badge on honor.  Hmm, now I’m not sure what I’m hoping for more, an easy uneventful commuter flight to California or a great blogging opportunity if I’m denied at the gate.  I’ll keep you posted, Tuesday if it’s the former and tonight if it’s the latter.  Either way, have a nice weekend!  I will be checking in, so feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

The Republican Integrity Deficit Is Spreading Throughout The Ranks

The Washington Post has decided to put a right-wing blogger on the payroll, and while I’m glad to see at least some of us bloggers are being treated with a little respect by the mainstream media, it’s a little irritating that the The Post finds it necessary to “balance out” their conservative slant with yet another conservative voice. Do they not read their own paper?

Once I got over the initial irritation (alright fine, it was jealousy), I was able to see that it was good for the blogging profession (I know, calling it a profession is a stretch for sure, but we’re on our way) even if it is a conservative getting the job. But just as I was on the verge of acceptance, Raw Story breaks this little bit of news. Ben Domenech, the new conservative blogger at The Washington Post, is a serial plagiarist. Of course it took good lefty bloggers to dig up the truth, can’t expect The Washington Post to do a better job sniffing out the crimes of its employees than it does sniffing out crimes committed by this administration. Atrios, Kos and Athenae have been diligently digging, and so far have found dozens of examples of blatant lifting by Mr. Domenech from various sources. But really, are any of us surprised? Republicans, by nature, are followers so of course creative endeavors are difficult for them, but this guy was stupid to think he could get away with plagiarism, or perhaps he doesn’t understand blogging beyond transcribing Republican talking points.

As a blogger, I am proud of the work I do, and I take seriously the blogger code of ethics however loosely they are cobbled together at this point. You cite your sources, you give credit to other bloggers when they break a story you blog about, and when you make a mistake, you take responsibility and correct it immediately. At least that’s how it’s done on the left side of the field. So many of us work hard, write well and spend a lot of time crafting our posts. It’s a shame that the lack of ethics within the Republican Party leadership has trickled down to their mouthpieces as well. We knew it had reached The Washington Post, we just didn’t know it had filtered all the way down to the lowly blogger level. We knew they stretched the truth and that they were mean as hell, but we didn’t know they were lifting other people’s words to further the master’s cause.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shift The Debate And Republicans Lose

Republicans have used wedge issues to catapult themselves into power. All of those tax breaks, regulatory rollbacks and corporate welfare that has been doled out to the elite and well connected, could never have occurred without the religious and social conservatives who went to the polls in support of Republican candidates. The problem for Republicans is, most of the social conservatives who helped put them in power, are not amongst the connected elite, and while they may agree with Republican rhetoric about gay marriage and abortion, they are being hit just as hard as the rest of us in their pocketbooks. This is exactly what the Democrats need to take advantage of. It’s easy to vote your morality when you have a job, your kids are being educated, you have access to healthcare and you can keep up with the mortgage payments. When that is no longer the case, social concerns have a way of taking a back seat.

According to a Pew Research Poll released yesterday, opposition to gay marriage has dropped from 63% in February 2004 to 51% today, and those who said they opposed gay marriage “strongly” has dropped from 42% to 28%. That’s a pretty significant shift in the national attitude on this issue. It may be that, the more people think about it, the less they care, but it also may be that other issues have been moved to the front burner. Polls consistently show that the war in Iraq, healthcare, jobs, education and the economy rank highest on the priority list of most Americans. This is good news for Democrats, considering under total Republican control, Iraq is a disaster, healthcare is less affordable and accessible, job creation has been slow or non-existent, public education is withering under No Child Left Behind and the economy may look good on paper, but for the average working American, statistics mean little when they’re working harder for less money since the Republicans took hold of the reigns of power.

Also in the Pew Research Poll were interesting numbers on abortion. While the majority of voters, 58%, oppose a South Dakota style ban on abortion, most people aren’t paying much attention. Only 28% consider abortion a “critical issue” and the group most likely to feel this way are white evangelical Protestants. Even amongst those who strongly oppose a ban on abortion, most consider the issue “one of many” or “not that important”. This tells me that Republicans HAVE to talk about abortion, but Democrats don’t, they can say they’re pro-choice and move on. The Democrats are much better off talking about the real issues and disengaging from the wedge issue discussion all together, or at least only engage in the most dismissive manner possible, “Of course I believe in a woman’s right to choose, now let’s talk about jobs.”

Shifting the debate to what matters most to working people will be a winning strategy for the Democrats, and a big loser for Republicans who rely on the crutch of social intolerance to get re-elected. Whether good or bad, most of the country doesn’t care much about abortion or gay marriage, although they do tend to fall more on the side of civil unions and a woman’s right to choose. That should tell the Democrats that they have taken the right position on both all along, and now they must focus on the issues that are concerning voters most, healthcare, family wage jobs, birth to college education, retirement security, and making sure that all of those things are available to all of our citizens so that poverty is no longer our dirty little secret, and dignity in life is secured for every American. Let the Republicans ply their base with rhetoric, they’ll turn off the moderate voters all by themselves, no need to join them in alienating the majority of the country. Better to stand back and give those moderates a place to go. And we don’t have to move to the right to attract middle America, they are already on their way over, driven in our direction by a Republican Party with only the fear and intolerance card left to play. It may have worked for them in the past, but it looks like it might finally be played out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

News As Entertainment And Entertainment As News

I don’t know how many people watched the episode of Boston Legal titled “Stick It”, and of the people who did, I don’t know how many heard the message or took it to heart.  What I do know is that the debate that should be taking place on news shows is taking place instead in our entertainment.  I wrote a post in December tackling this very issue, yet here we are again faced with another perfect example of how the news media is failing while those who have been charged with entertaining us are attempting to pick up the slack.  If you haven’t already seen this clip from Boston Legal (courtesy of BuzzFlash’s Wings of Justice), I hope you will do so now.  If only our politicians would speak with the clarity of moral purpose and the conviction of principles that is exhibited by this fictional character.  In this case, I am hoping that life will imitate art.

Podcasting Liberally

Here is the latest installment of our Drinking Liberally podcast.  Will, Carl and I are kind of quiet on this one since Goldy from Horse’s Ass had a bone to pick with The Stranger’s Cienna Madrid.  Then, halfway through poor Lee from Blog Reload was booted and we were joined by The Seattle P-I’s Joel Connely.  On the table along with the drinks this week were, how political reporting affects politics, the third anniversary of the Iraq War, whether or not Barak Obama is the next big thing, John Edwards’ ability to talk to the working class, Al Gore’s reluctance to be a candidate and the burning question, how bad is too bad in regards to Maria Cantwell.  All in all an interesting discussion and as always, I had a great time, even if my smart-ass comments were kept to a minimum this time.

Could Bush Save His Presidency Now?

I was thinking last night, what if Bush did decide to take drastic measures to save his presidency, would it work, or is it simply too late? What if he did get rid of Donald Rumsfeld and reached across the aisle, however short a distance, and replaced Rummy with Joe Lieberman? Such a move would likely provide a boost to his sagging poll numbers, but nothing would really change. Lieberman would keep the war going and “stay the course” as it were. And what if Cheney did resign, would it really make any difference beyond the political front? We all suspect that Cheney is the driving force behind Bush administration policy, but the course is already set, whether Cheney stays or not, and we know that Bush can’t admit mistakes, so a course correction is unlikely.

I am of the opinion that Bush could replace his entire cabinet with Democrats at this point, and all that would happen is Democrats would then share in the blame for this little tyrants future exploits. I don’t think anyone can get through to this man now, he is on his way to rock bottom, and like with most addicts, no one can save him from himself.

And things just seem to be getting worse and worse. The Bush administration has managed to isolate North Korea, and not in a good way, and now they are lashing out. “Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States,” they say. There was little doubt that the Bush doctrine would come back to bite us on the ass, and how little Napoleon chooses do respond will probably only inflame the situation. Diplomacy is not his strong suit. When he does attempt it, he ends up either giving away the store or fueling the spread of anti-American sentiments. Short of tying him down and muzzling his petulant mouth, we are bound to see more blunders with dire consequences for our future, and at this point, no amount of cabinet shuffling will help. I doubt he’d even consider it anyway.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Will Someone Tell The Democrats That The Country Is Trending Their Way?

Democrats on the hill refusing to get behind Senator Feingold’s attempt to censure Bush is just the most recent proof that they are lost at sea, far out of sight of the American people.  While navigating the political waters, they need to put away their sextant, join the 21st century and use the technology at their disposal to check out the national conversation taking place without them on blogs, message boards and online news outlets.  The ship of state under the incompetent stewardship of our current President is heading into dangerous waters, and what we see on the horizon is decidedly not where we want to go.

Just because the Washington Post, The New York Times, Chris Matthews and CNN aren’t covering the story, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  If you listen to only those voices coming from within the isolated D.C. bubble, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee for the Democrats, even though most of us out here in the real world have no interest in voting for her in the primary.  Sure, she seems like a nice lady, we like what she tried to do with healthcare way back when, but we also have watched her move steadily to the right and we know how many people despise her.  We are not stupid.  We know that the Republicans and the media establishment are ramming her down our throats because she’ll never get above 50% support.  Besides, she’s yesterday’s Democrat, and things are looking up for us on the left, no need to settle this time around.

So far this year, in special elections across the country, Democrats have been doing very well.  Hans Johnson at In These Times gives a nice rundown of this new trend in his article, “GOP Trashed In Special Elections.”  It seems that even in so-called Republican areas, Democrats are winning elections with solid numbers, even coming out on top in the DeLay drawn districts of Texas.  Democrats may still be in the minority in Congress, but the country is trending their way and they need to stop acting like marginalized losers and start taking control of the message.  We’ve seen what the Republicans can do, and we’re not impressed.  Time for the Democrats to shine and remind the country how good they are at governing, cut those corporate ties and become the Party of the people again.  We’re ready for some real representation.  Work for us and you’ve got our vote, whether we’re liberal, moderate or conservative.  Until you can get your tin ears fixed, use your eyes and look around, the tide is turning.  Take advantage, we’re begging you, and turn this ship around, we’re tired, seasick and we want to go home.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pot, Meet Kettle

How many times have we heard Republicans resorting to their trusty talking point of, “the Democrats have no ideas”? Well, it seems that Republican attempts to tar and feather the Democrats as lacking in ideas, is in fact proving to be a bad case of projection. One good thing about having Republicans on the run, is that they are so busy trying to shake the labels of “corrupt” and “incompetent” and “out of touch” that they are unable to formulate a strategy for winning in the upcoming mid-term elections. This would seem like good news if we weren’t so uneasy about how the Democrats will handle this little bit of luck. They have become masters at squandering opportunities and failing to capitalize on Republican missteps. Let’s hope they realize that now is not the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the break from getting beat up on, and instead recognize that it's time to keep hammering away and even up the ante each step along the way.

Perhaps it is time to co-opt the most effective conservative rallying points that most liberals have come to accept. With a debt raging out of control, most agree (except Republicans in Congress and in the White House) that it is time for some good old-fashioned conservative fiscal policy. Not the trickle down crap that doesn’t work, but reigning in spending and shifting money away from corporate welfare and towards long term investments in education and in creating a healthcare system that works. Time to stop throwing good money after bad in an un-winnable war and humbly ask for the world’s help in solving the problems in Iraq that Republicans only manage to make worse with each passing day. It is bad foreign policy for sure, but it is also bad fiscal policy to continue funding what is so clearly not working.

Democrats need to talk about the difference between a robust economy based on corporate profits and stock prices that benefit few, and an economy that provides more family wage jobs that benefits all. A strong educational system and a thriving economy is the best solution to rampant poverty, not higher corporate profits that raise stock values and dividends for the few that hold them. Conservatives used to believe in this idea, but Republicans today prefer corporate welfare to good old-fashioned hard work. Hard work used to be rewarded in this country and the Democrats need to show that they can bring that back.

The best news for Democrats is that the American people trust them to deliver the goods on education and healthcare and the great majority have come to realize that we are at a crisis point with both. The corruption and cronyism labels have already stuck, so let’s apply them to the healthcare crisis as well. It’s not a stretch for most people, all the Democrats have to do is connect the dots and then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Another winner is talking about wasteful spending. Remember how galvanizing this issue was when Reagan used it to vilify the welfare moms? That was a load of crap, but it resonated with voters, so too will corporate welfare. The average American has had at least one bad experience with a big corporation and the anger at the rising profits of oil companies and energy companies at our expense, along with the obscene salaries pulled in by CEO’s at a time when most of us can’t even manage to save for retirement, is still an untapped resource. Being nice and meek hasn’t served the Democratic Party well, it’s time to get real and start talking in the vivid language that best describes Republican policies. They are unfair, mean spirited and irresponsible.

Republicans are more interested in squeezing out the last drops of profit from oil than in pursuing energy alternatives. Republicans are more interested in tax breaks for their wealthy friends than in controlling the enormous debt we are leaving to our children. Republicans are more interested in tearing down teachers than in investing in our children’s future. Republicans are more interested in profits than in people, and people are what make this country great. It’s time for government to work for the people again and that means framing the debate in our favor while the Republicans are floundering around trying to find a message. Let’s put them on the defensive for a while, and maybe, just maybe, we can win an election for a change.

How To Tame A Republican (And Then Piss Him Off Again)

I do get some interesting emails in response to my writing, most nice, some a bit disagreeable and occasionally downright venomous. Last week I received an email from a very angry man who was irate at something I had written. This is all it said:
Your politics and ideas stink so much I am thanking God you are not the thing next door to me. I pity your neighbor. I can smell you all the way in Florida.
To which I relied:
And I'm glad you're in Florida as well. See, there's always room for agreement.
He quickly fired back with:
Gosh I hope the NSA reads your emails and keeps you in check when needs be. I will not read any more of your BS because I don't want to end up disliking you as much as I do your compatriot in hate mongering Ms Maureen Dowd. It wouldn't take much of your junk to lump you together with that, that, well never mind. Bye, bye toots. I leave you in the hands of the Dowdy Ms Maureen before I learn to dislike you too. Good luck in your little world of hate.
At this point I considered not responding, but I was so flattered to be lumped in with such great company that I simply couldn’t resist. So, for a day and a half, my new friend and I exchanged emails about random topics and areas of concern for us both. The last email I received from him that day expressed a much different sentiment from the day before:
I know we ended up doing alright. I wish that all liberals were as good as you are. You set an example for them to look up to by not being entirely closed minded about everything a conservative says. I have now come to like you and will now not completely ignore your writings because I have a small insight into you as a person. Even though we may disagree politically your soul is pure and you come by your beliefs honestly. That's good no matter how you believe.

Quite a difference, no? I realized that so much of the political conversation that takes place in this country occurs much like it does during election season, with short sound bites, angry responses and harsh attacks, it’s no wonder we are in such a mess. It’s like the chicken and the egg, I don’t know if how politicians choose to campaign has caused the degeneration of the public dialogue, or if their style of campaign is a result of the public’s short attention span and inability to dissect and retain information. Either way, we are living in a very toxic political environment.

I wish I could report that my new friend and I parted ways on that happy note, but it was not meant to be. Ignoring my plea to steer clear of my writing, he went in search of older articles I had published and so the debate rages on, but we have reached a point where the conversation isn’t marred by rhetoric and hostility, so it no longer feels like a waste of time. We don’t agree on most things, but the disagreement centers mostly on how to achieve what we both want, a better country, a government that behaves morally, prosperity and religious tolerance, all worthy things to strive for.

What I have learned most from this exchange is that religious differences often form the basis of how we view the role of government and how we approach the world, and because of that, it is very difficult to break through the emotion and get to the real debate. I suggested he read an essay, that I enjoyed very much, and that provided some insight into why some people view the role of government as the enforcer of morality and why some of us think that morality is internal, and therefore efforts to enforce morality from the outside is unnecessary and often an infringement on our rights as free citizens. The essay is titled, “Moral Endo-skeletons and Exo-skeletons: A Perspective on America’s Cultural Divide and Current Crisis”, posted at See No Evil, The Blinding of America and in it the author describes those who need strict social rules as having a moral Exo-skeleton, and those of us who do not as having moral Endo-Skeletons. It is a very interesting read and may provide some insight into why those who vote for the interests of the religious right, often do so out of fear of their own weakness, at least that was my reading of it.

Results from another study recently released were published in the Journal of Research Into Personality. Jack and Jeanne Block began tracking 100 pre-school children over 20 years ago and through follow-up interviews, Mr. Block has determined that whiny and insecure children tend to choose conservative ideologies as adults. This study will, no doubt, draw fire from the right, but it seems to confirm what those of us on the left know intuitively, that fear is what is likely behind rigid morality and a desire for rigid social constraints. Liberals want more freedom while conservatives fear it. Liberals strive for tolerance while conservatives view tolerance as the slippery slope toward moral decline.

My new conservative friend described the Endo/Exo-skeleton idea as "hogwash" and if I send him this latest article, I'm sure he'll say the same. It is difficult to accept criticism of one's point of view, especially when it concludes that it was reached by way of fear and weakness. Perhaps there are studies that purport to prove that liberals are weak and fearful as well. If you find one, let me know. What I do know, is that the neo-conservative answer to solving this problem is to create a social cage for us to live inside that will provide the external check on our impulses that they believe are necessary for social order (although they also provide for gaps in the cage that only the elite have access to). With their track record of policy failures abroad, most of us are not interested in testing their theories here at home.

Perhaps we should strive for the liberal ideal instead, enlightenment and the alleviation of the fears that plague the more conservative among us. They may think they'd prefer to live in a social cage where there are fewer decisions to make, but visit any zoo, look into the eyes of the adult animals there, and it is clear that a part of them has already died. The little ones can still run and play and have a good time, but it's only a matter of time before they, too, realize that there is an artificial boundary that limits their potential. There is no excuse for willfully subjecting our children to the same, we all deserve better than that.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Channeling My Inner Rove

I have to give credit to Yellow Dog for the seed he planted in my fertile brain with his post, “Help Me Develop This”, in which he proposes that the DNC help finance a moderate-conservative candidate to split the Republican vote. While I like the sneaky nature of such a move, I don’t think it’s quite sinister enough so I’ve come up with an idea of my own.

How about we promote the real wingnuts instead. While there have been some interesting developments within the Evangelical community, reaching out to traditional liberals and making common cause on the environment and seeking legal and reasonable solutions to religion in public schools, it seems that many on the fringe right think that this administration hasn’t done enough to promote their religious/political agenda. I know, I had to re-read it a few times myself to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but many Evangelicals, including Tony Perkins of The Family Research Council, think the President has let them down by not pushing harder to ban same sex marriage. I say, if there is a crack developing within the Evangelical community, we should do all we can to help facilitate a further drift. Continue making common cause with reasonable Evangelicals that share our concerns and are interested in realistic solutions, but peel off the fringe right and channel their energy in a more futile direction. Here is my humble suggestion for how we go about it.

Track down the most right-wing, homophobic, anti-choice, bible thumping candidate in your district or state, start going to meetings, rallies, whatever and start planting the seed that if this candidate doesn’t get the Republican nomination, he/she should run as a third party candidate. Write up “draft (Wingnut’s name here)” petitions and get the base real excited about the idea. Then, us bloggers will back you up. How, you ask? By starting shadow blogs that cater to your new fanatic friends and provide them with an opportunity to give money, volunteer time and spread the news to all of their friends and neighbors with an easy click of the mouse. Sure, it will be hard to write the kind of vile, hateful and bigoted posts that will appeal to this group most, but I even have an answer for that.

If we write all of our posts as satire, we can sleep at night knowing that we are not advocating homophobia or promoting ideas we abhor, but rather exposing hypocrisy and providing useful social commentary to boot. And the best part is, the crazies will never know. Most of them likely can’t recognize satire at all and if they can, certainly not when it comes to their own extreme views. What we would consider satire, they would consider sound political ideas. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking maybe we have winner here. I know it’s what Rove would do.

Editors note: If you are a right-wing nut and you are so angry right now that you can hardly see straight, before you send me an email, let me point out one small thing. This is satire and you just proved my point.

Blogging At The Reaction

Last week I was asked by Michael J.W. Stickings, the proprietor of The Reaction, to contribute to his blog, and having been a reader of The Reaction for a while now, I was flattered and jumped at the chance to reach a wider audience. This is a great opportunity for me to get some exposure and it will not impact you, my dear readers, at all. I am not leaving, nor will I be spending any less time on my own blog and you will always read everything here first (plus, you get my undivided attention in the comments section). The only thing that will change is that one or two of my posts each week will appear on Michael’s blog in addition to being published here. It’s really not much different than what I have already been doing at The Smirking Chimp once or twice a week and on the rare occasion Democratic Underground (and even rarer occasion BuzzFlash and Dissident Voice).

As you know, I tend to get a little fiery at times so reading my posts in a more moderate environment (not that Michael is moderate, but the readership is more balanced) puts them in a new context. So I hope that you will go check out The Reaction. It is a great blog with some very thoughtful commentary and lot’s of information. Be sure to check out the other new blogger cross-posting there as well, Creature from State of the Day. So far, a pretty nice collection of bloggers and I’m happy to be a part of it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I had an interesting question posed to me during the last Drinking Liberally podcast. With the polar ice caps melting and the environment in crisis, why are we focusing on abortion? In other words, if the country were suddenly underwater, what difference would it make whether or not women had access to abortion? My initial reaction to this question was to jump all over poor Gavin Shearer, who posed it. The first thing that ran through my mind was, if I am to be forced to surrender sovereignty over my own body to the government, then I’d rather drown in melting ice caps. I tend to focus on the most immediate threat first and with South Dakota banning all abortions in a clear attempt to force the issue up the ladder to the Supreme Court in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, that felt at the time like the most immediate threat. Upon further reflection and without my knee jerking so fast it short circuits my reasoning, I understand the point Gavin was trying to make. But I still think there’s another environmental concern that trumps even global warming.

President Bush’s hometown paper, The Lone Star Iconoclast, has put together an amazing collection of articles and interviews shedding some much needed light on the use of depleted uranium in Iraq by US forces. It is a sobering read, but well worth the time (thanks to Roberta at God’s Madmen for bringing it to my attention). Leading scientists from around the world agree that depleted uranium and low-level emissions from nuclear power plants are doing serious damage to the planet and its inhabitants. Rises in thyroid cancer, breast cancer even obesity and diabetes can be linked to the aerosol sized particles released from DU munitions and nuclear reactors that travel far and wide and are easily inhaled by people and animals and contaminate water and soil. The implications of this are frightening, yet few people know much about it.

Dr. Chris Busby, Ph.D., has served on the European Committee on Radiation Risk and recently completed a study that contends depleted uranium from the “shock and awe” start to the Iraq war, traveled all the way to Britain by means of wind currents. The evidence of this was found in higher levels of radiation that were recorded by the British government in the days following the initial strikes in Iraq and we know from Chernobyl that radioactive contaminants can crisscross the globe causing damage for years to come. Nothing in his study or in the opinions expressed by the other scientists came as much of a surprise. I think we all know in our bones that nuclear contamination is real and that even so-called “acceptable” amounts of low-level emissions from nuclear power plants have measurable negative impacts on those exposed. But what is surprising is how little is being done to minimize the impact, let alone eradicate it all together. Some European countries are taking action by converting their energy sources away from nuclear power and towards a variety of other, less harmful sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Here in America on the other hand, we are being urged in the direction of more nuclear power by our President and we, through the use of depleted uranium munitions around the world, continue to be the source of the problem, rather than the cure.

With news today that the US has launched the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, we should all be concerned about what those bombs being dropped are doing to the Iraqi people, but we should also recognize that there is likely to be very real and immediate blowback for us. There is little doubt that innocents will get caught in the crossfire which will only further damage our standing in the world, but beyond the political blowback, we are unleashing uranium aerosols that will travel far and wide and indiscriminately do damage to people, including us, and to the planet that we share. It is quite possible that the strikes on Iraq could easily meld into strikes on Iran. We keep hearing from our President that “all options are on the table” in regards to Iran, and we know what that is shorthand for. There have been reports that the US will use “tactical nukes” to take out Iranian nuclear facilities, and when I read that these nuclear weapons are safe, produce less fallout and reduce collateral damage, it somehow doesn’t quite ring true. If depleted uranium from conventional weapons can travel from Iraq to Britain, it seems likely that fallout from “tactical nukes” could have an even wider reach. I guess it comes down to what “collateral damage” means and how much of it is acceptable. I don’t imagine that what is acceptable to this administration in this regard, would be acceptable to most Americans. I guess that’s why we’re not seeing much discussion about mini-nukes and depleted uranium on our televisions or reading about it in our hometown newspapers. Nothing new there, though, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

How many more examples do we need that George W. Bush doesn’t give a shit about the Constitution or the American people? When he gets caught breaking the law with his domestic surveillance program, what does he do? He hustles up support from his lapdogs on the hill and gets the investigation shut down, then quickly launches efforts to change the law and tosses in a provision to make further reporting on the program a crime punishable by up to a million dollars and 15 years in jail. Isn’t open and accountable government great?

As if that wasn’t enough, today we read that Bush now feels it is within his power to sign a Budget Reconciliation Act into law regardless of whether or not both houses of Congress have passed it. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a power the President has. Can’t you just see him in the Oval Office, looking at a budget act that requires Medicare to provide wheelchairs for seniors for up to 36 months and snarling at his aide, “This is way too much, that’ll cost us $2 billion that would be better spent on my tax cuts. Didn’t I see another draft around here that said only 13 months? Get me that one, I’ll sign that, but I ain’t givin’ them deadbeats three years worth of free travel, what am I, a charity?”

According to Rep. Henry Waxman, a call was made to the White House before the bill was signed alerting them to the problem. Bushie boy clearly didn’t give a good god damn because he signed it anyway, in direct violation of the Constitution. I was recently given a hard time for proposing the “slippery slope theory” with regards to overreaching by this administration. If it looks like a slope, and things are passing by real fast, chances are you’re moving downhill fast. My experience as a parent has taught me that children need firm boundaries so that when they test them, they know exactly what they’re going to get. If they get away with trespassing once without punishment, they’ll do it again and again until there are consequences they don’t like. I’d say our dear leader is a spoiled child out of control and the parents are on a permanent vacation. No one will say no to him, no one will stop him, are we really surprised that he keeps pushing the envelope? The first Constitutional transgression is the hardest, the rest just glide right by.

With Bush’s approval numbers at another all time low of 33% according to the most recent Pew Research Poll, it seems the American people have had enough. The most common word used to describe Bush in this poll was “incompetent” followed closely by “idiot” and “liar”. That’s a far cry from “honest” “good” and “integrity” that led the list a year ago. Even Bush voters seem to be wiping the crud from their eyes, taking a second look at this loser and questioning whether they made a mistake. At this point, the only thing propping up this President is Congress. While it’s understandable that Republicans would continue to help him keep a lid on the truth, he is one of them after all, but it makes no sense for the Democrats to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The American people are done with Bush and we’re clamoring for any opportunity to cut this disaster a little short, but it appears that we’re the only ones and clearly not the voices that matter.

With near complete support from the Democratic base, strong support from moderates and increasing support from Bush voters, there is no excuse for Democrats not to support Senator Feingold’s attempt at censure at the very least. Hell, that’s too much of a compromise already. We’ve reached the point where the only ones responsible for keeping Bush in office and allowing him to run this country into the ground are the Democrats. Unless they want to continue to be saddled with the labels “complicit” “weak” and “worthless” they better stop earning them and start doing their job. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three Senators fulfilling their oaths of office, Russ Feingold and now Barbara Boxer and Senator Harkin who have signed on to the resolution to censure Bush. Would anyone else like to earn his or her pay? Anyone? We’re waiting.

A Letter From A Friend

I received a letter from a dear friend the other day and in it she describes her emotional reaction to hearing Arlo Guthrie sing “This Land Is Your Land”. I decided to post it because it articulates so well what so many of us liberals are feeling right now, that we are being pushed out, that we are being told this country doesn’t belong to us unless we blindly support this administration.

With Senator Allard practically calling Senator Feingold a traitor for introducing Censure, it is clear that anyone who questions the patriotism of liberals has never had a conversation with a single one of us. We not only love our country, we fight every single day to make the idealized image of America a reality. We don’t pay lip service to patriotism, we honor and protect our founding documents while this administration defiles them with illegal surveillance and belittles them by calling our constitution “just a piece of paper.” So here it is, a little heartbreak, liberal style.

Just got back from seeing Arlo Guthrie. He was playing in Marin, and we went with CR’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law. I first started thinking of you because one of the backup singers looked a little like you- cute, pageboy cut, and dressed in black- except for her red cowboy boots and sparkly (sequins? Rhinestone?) belt. It made me want to sing backup with you, it seemed like they were having so much fun.

And Arlo, he’s a talker. He tells a hilarious story about being searched at the airport. He wonders why people think getting searched is a new thing, since he’s been searched at the airport for the last 40 years. He says he tries to explain to the young whippersnappers who are shaking him down that he’s just a holdover on the list from 40 years ago. “I’m not nearly the threat I’d hoped to be,” he says. And I know how he feels.

And he did Alice’s Restaurant and lots of fun songs, then he does “City of New Orleans” and I tear up because of how much was lost down there that will never be the same, and I think everyone does. And then (and I really wasn’t ready for it, stupid me) he did “This Land is Your Land.”

And it’s this huge auditorium full of people who feel the way we feel about what’s going on right now, and we’re all singing “This Land is Your Land.” It was, and I am not exaggerating, like the Von Trapp Family Singers singing Edelweiss in Sound of Music. No song I’ve ever heard sounded more beautiful, more patriotic, and more rebellious all at once. And I’m wondering where our songs are, the songs that we’re going to change the world to? The angry ones come and go, but where are the gentle, seductive ones that will break our hearts in 50 years?

He breaks in, in the middle of his own song, to say that if the world was full of peace and good will toward men and women, and neighbors were kind to neighbors, and nations to nations, you would have to go an awful far way to do a good deed. “But right now,” he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “things are so screwed up here, there, and everywhere, any individual person hardly has to make any effort at all to make a big difference. Maybe that’s the good news, that it’s easy for anyone to make the smallest effort to change the world.” And the way he says it, in the middle-aged way that all 60+ year-old men talk, you’ve got to laugh, but it’s true, so when you go back to singing “This Land is Your Land” you’re truly a wreck.

I was thinking about how I felt as a kid, hearing that song. Like it was religious, a holy song to my democracy religion, a promise that we make to each other. And I’m thinking about the fact we have a president who doesn’t care about all Americans. Maybe he just cares about the rich ones, or maybe just the Christian ones, but I’m just not sure he cares about all of us, even though the country belongs to all of us. And if that’s being too harsh a judgment of a man I’ve never met, I think it would be safe to say that he doesn’t understand all of us. He doesn’t understand the real diversity of the country we live in, and what a profound place that makes it.

And I’m holding on to my husband with my wet face and he’s wiping his wet eyes behind his glasses because these were the songs from when he was a little person, and now we have a little person, and that’s a big thing right there. And he’s right, so when we go home, I sing “This Land Is Your Land” to my daughter to put her to sleep and I pray that she never forgets it, the ownership and the responsibility and the wonder of it.

Thank you for the letter MK and thank you for letting me post it. We do all still have ownership in this country and we do have a responsibility to each other to keep moving it forward. Even when the resistance to progress is great and even when we wonder if we have enough strength left to carry on fighting for an American reality to match the idealized America we were raised to believe in.

words and music by Woody Guthrie


This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and
I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city -
In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

Podcasting Liberally

Here is the latest installment of the Drinking Liberally podcast.  This week’s show features Gavin Shearer, Goldy from HorsesAss, Lee (thehim) from Blog Reload, Will from Pike Place Politics, Geov Parrish (Seattle Weekly, Eat the State) and me.  Among other things, we discuss the abortion ban in South Dakota, weak ass Democrats, (as opposed to) Russ Feingold and framing the debate for the mid-terms and beyond.  You can download it now at the new Podcasting Liberally site.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Maybe They Should Watch Oprah

There has been a lively discussion going on in liberal circles about what is possible in the mid-term elections and in the Presidential race in ’08. As in all things, setting our sights low will yield little, but thinking big could bring us closer to what we want. If I decide to sell my beat up old car for $500, no one’s going to come offer me $1000.

While I see the value in focusing on what we can get first before moving on to what we want, I honestly don’t think that’s the right strategy. Things have gotten so bad for most people and giving them hope and a glimpse of a better way, not a marginally better way, but a much better way, is what we must do to get people on our side. We are a polarized electorate, but the numbers are swinging in our direction and apathetic working folks aren’t going to stampede to the polls if they are presented with the same tired old choice, bad and not quite so bad.

I also see a rampant assumption that working people don’t know what’s good for them. They know what’s good for them, they just don’t believe that either party can do anything about their situation because no one is speaking to their concerns. Perhaps Democrats seeking office should sit down and watch a weeks worth of Oprah to get a handle on what’s important to the American people. For one of the richest people in our country, she still has a firm grasp on the concerns of everyday Americans. We are in debt, working harder for our money than ever before, paying through the nose for healthcare (if we’re lucky enough to have it), fretting about retirement or our parents’ retirement because who can save when every bit of money coming in is out the door before it even reaches the bank?

Democrats have been playing to the wrong crowd for far too long. Pundits, corporations and their insulated social circle in DC are not going to swing an election. Working people, living paycheck to paycheck, bringing in just enough money to survive, one outsourced job away from losing the roof over their head is who the Democrats should be talking too. Oprah can tell them that 90% of Americans live this way, going into debt to sustain their lifestyles and getting ulcers from trying to keep it together. That is a staggering number of people who could be a captive audience for the right political message.

Yes, liberal perspectives tend to be nuanced, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be boiled down into sound bites. The American people are not as dumb as we think. And who says, each and every one of us that are capable of explaining the plan can’t shoulder some of the responsibility. How about a slogan that says, “Democrats have a plan! Ask me about it!” We are smart people, we can explain why the country would be better off if we kick the thieving Republicans out, and probably in 20 words or less. We just can’t do it if we have disdain for our fellow Americans and we can’t do it if we refuse to engage.

Does that mean we should stop and talk to the rabid Republican spewing talking points straight from Rush Limbaugh’s latest rant? Not unless you’re a masochist, then by all means go ahead. Those folks are, for the most part, gone and not worth the effort, but the guy behind you in line at the grocery store and the waitress at the coffee shop and the other parents at the soccer game are worth the effort. They don’t have far to go to be on our side, mostly it’s as simple as cutting through the crap, telling the truth and listening to what’s important to them. Like I’ve said before, we must change the “us” liberals and “them” conservatives into “us” the people and “them” the corporate owned politicians. Then together we can skip the evil and the lesser evil and find some real representation for a change.

Monday, March 13, 2006

When Is It Time To Panic?

Someone recently told me that it’s not quite time to panic, that things in this country may be bad, but we haven’t yet reached the point of no return. So I’d just like to toss out the question. When is it time to panic? When does mere concern turn urgent, and will we all recognize the signs in time?

Is it time to panic when the press is used as the propaganda arm of the administration, when reporters take money from the government to promote their agenda? Apparently not considering that Armstrong Williams and Jeff Gannon were exposed as paid propagandists and the General Accounting Office found that the Bush administration’s distribution of “news” stories in support of their policies violated the law, yet they continue to use them.

Is it time to panic when they use their influence with a separate branch of government to quash any investigation into crimes they may have committed? We are still waiting for phase II of the Congressional investigation into pre-war intelligence that was clearly cherry picked, manipulated and in some cases down right manufactured. The Democrats in the Senate made headlines last year when they forced a closed session in an attempt to draw attention to the stalled investigation. Bill Frist came on television and blasted Democrats for pulling this “stunt” and promised that the investigation would go forward, that they had intended all along to do so. The closed session was called on November 1, 2005 and ended with the promise that Phase II would be completed. Five months later and still nothing has been done.

Is it time to panic when the Bush administration can violate the law and possibly the Constitutional rights of American citizens without repercussion? I guess not, considering that last week, Republicans in the formerly separate branch of government known as the Senate, refused to open an investigation into possible violations of law by the Bush administration in its secretive NSA warrantless surveillance program. Even with the presence of whistleblowers from within the NSA who are willing to testify under oath to the Senate, the truth continues to be buried by partisans on the hill. So much for checks and balances and the people’s right to know.

Is it time to panic when this administration starts attacking sovereign nations without provocation? We have already done so in Iraq and the propaganda machine is in overdrive selling the next pre-emptive strike on Iran. Support for tactical strikes (possibly using nuclear weapons) are being sold to the people via the same means and methods employed before invading Iraq. There is no reason to think that the con job won’t work just as well the second time around. It’s not as if being proven wrong on weapons of mass destruction will carry any penalties.

Is it time to panic when the Bush administration ignores treaties and violates international law? We’ve seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, read the reports on Gitmo and heard the tales of rendition. Instead of owning up to abuse and torture, the Bush administration has twisted the law and declared the Geneva Conventions “quaint”. We may be disgusted by what is being done in our name, but there has been no price to pay for those who formulate the policy. Only those who implemented the policy at the bottom of the chain of command have paid any price at all.

Is it time to panic when our votes are counted in secret? Like Stalin said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” We are allowing our votes to be tabulated by machines that run on proprietary software, that are easily manipulated and in most cases unverifiable. Whether or not elections have already been rigged is not as important as whether or not they could be. If there is no integrity to our voting process, there is no integrity in the outcome.

Is it time to panic when the rubber stamp Congress tries to criminalize reporting? Instead of investigating the warrantless surveillance being conducted by the NSA, Congress has decided to pass new legislation that will simply make the illegal program legal. In doing so, they may also be making it a crime for reporters to report on the program at all. According to the Washington Post, “The draft would add to the criminal penalties for anyone who ‘intentionally discloses information identifying or describing’ the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program or any other eavesdropping program conducted under a 1978 surveillance law.” Senator DeWine, R-Ohio, assures us that it is not the intention of the bill to silence reporters and that if need be, they will patch the problem language. I don’t know about you, but Senator DeWine’s words give me little comfort.

Or is it time to panic when, as Patricia Goldsmith beautifully details today, there is no opposition left? It has long been the case that our two party system is nothing more than political theater. We have two political parties feeding from the same corporate troughs and serving the same corporate interests. If we continue to buy into the lies of either side and continue to separate from one another reducing public discourse to screaming at one another from opposite sides of the wedges driven between us, we give the only power we have left away to leaders who will only abuse it. If we willfully divide ourselves, we will be easily conquered.

I don’t want to panic before it is warranted, but I sometimes wonder if we will recognize the last straw. Don’t we remember that in Germany, the Nazis took control of government, not in a violent coup, but by passing laws that gave them increasing power and control over the people and the news they received? We keep hearing that it’s not time to panic just yet, but if history has a lesson for us right now, it’s that panicking too late won’t do a damn bit of good. Do we really, as a country, want to sit idly by watching evil become a way of life? Most of us judge the German people not as victims, but rather as willing accomplices. Will we judge ourselves the same?

I have been wary of using the Nazi comparison, but since Sandra Day O’Connor, the voice of reason on our high court for decades, feels comfortable warning of a dictatorship, I guess I feel justified. We are being fed propaganda, our government is becoming increasingly secretive, dissenting voices are routinely being silenced and this administration appears to be accountable to no one. If it isn’t quite yet time to panic, I fear the time is fast approaching.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Last Day To Vote In First Round Of Koufax Awards

Voting will close Monday night at 11:59pm. If you haven’t already done so, go vote in the Koufax Awards and make your favorite bloggers happy today! So many great blogs, so few hours in the day!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Podcasting Liberally

I forgot to post the Drinking Liberally podcast from earlier in the week.  It seemed like it was a little slow when we were taping it, but I just listened to it and it’s actually pretty good.  Well, if you like listening to drunk liberals dissecting the news of the day.  On this weeks podcast, Goldy, Carl, N in Seattle, Sandeep Kaushik, Will, and I discuss, among other things, liberalism, tunnels, new versus old and questions such as, does the media do a good job?  Is the Bush administration crazy?  And a question from Will’s Republican friend, are liberals more emotional than logical?  Check it out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Why Halliburton Should Run Our Ports

There are rumblings that Halliburton is being considered as the recipient of the DP World “transfer” of port operations to a US “entity”. I know what you’re thinking, who couldn’t have seen this coming right? But perhaps Halliburton is the best possible answer to this security problem. All we have to do is take a look at their record and I’m sure all our fears will be put to rest. Just look at what they’ve managed to accomplish in Iraq!

Halliburton was given a no-bid contract in the amount of $2.41 billion dollars to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment. So what if they overcharged the US taxpayers $263 million, that’s a small price to pay for all of their hard work. They have been able to import fuel from Kuwait at twice the cost of anyone else in the region. They fed spoiled food to our troops (just because it’s rotten doesn’t automatically mean it’s inedible), and they also managed to supply our troops with untreated water that had twice the amount of fecal coliform as found in the Euphrates. This kind of price gouging and cost cutting is exactly why we should be thrilled at the prospect of having Halliburton overseeing our port operations. The more they save, the more the stockholders make and that means more money to the top 1% without having to give more tax breaks. So really, it’s almost like a tax reduction.

And that’s just what they’ve managed to do in Iraq. They have long had liberal policies when it comes to doing business. For one, they don’t discriminate against countries that have sanctions placed on them. When Iran was placed under US sanctions, Halliburton continued to do business with them, not leaving until they had finished their work there. And when Iraq was placed in the same situation, Halliburton refused to abandon them and helped Saddam keep the economy going by supplying oil services and parts. Isn’t that exactly the kind of corporate philosophy we should have overseeing our critical infrastructure, one that will build bridges to our enemies in the spirit of true cooperation? What we need is a company in charge that will really think outside the box and not let pesky regulations get in the way of protecting the homeland, and Halliburton has a proven track record of bypassing bureaucratic “safeguards” and getting the job done.

But what if the worst happens, what if Al Qaeda does manage to sneak a nuclear weapon into the US inside an un-inspected cargo container? This is the best news of all. If Halliburton is found in any way liable through negligence, they won’t be burdened with paying out huge settlements to the victims of this horrific tragedy. They have already figured out how to evade financial liability with their previous “test case” of asbestos claims. This means that either the victims will rightly see their suffering as their patriotic duty, or we as American taxpayers will have the cleansing experience of taking care of our own. That way, we grow closer as a nation and Halliburton will be free to continue its fine work of saving us money and protecting us at the same time. So you see, there is no downside and we should all hope with our big hearts that the rumblings are true, then we can roll out our new patriotic slogan, “We heart Halliburton.” Nice, huh?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Another Hardball Hangover

I know I shouldn’t do it and every time I do, I hate myself in the morning. I watched Hardball with Chris Matthews again and in addition to his continued selling of Hillary Clinton as the Democrats choice in ’08 and the right wing slant of his guests, he is so insulated in his DC bubble (the one where the fat cats live, not the other DC) that everything he says has a deep and profound irrelevance. I guess he thought he was breaking news when he brought up a poll showing that average Americans don’t agree with Wall Street that the economy is doing great. It’s hilarious to see rich people who are making money hand over fist and getting tax breaks to boot, get news that the serfs aren’t happy supplementing their lifestyles. Especially when those same folks are filling up our television screens trying to tell us how we feel about the candidates we have to choose from and the issues of the day. Of course the economy is going gangbusters if you’re rich, but if you actually work for a living, things aren’t looking so good. Wages for most of us are stagnant while prices continue to rise, healthcare costs eat into our disposable incomes and higher education for our children is becoming a luxury fewer and fewer can afford. The only ones surprised by this “bombshell” were those in front of the camera on Hardball. I’m sure the crew working on the set could have clued Chris in on the reality of our economy long ago, had he cared enough to ask.

Media Matters has been dissecting the right slant of Mr. Matthews for a long time, even honoring him with the 2005 Misinformer of the Year award, quite a feat considering Bill O’Reilly is still performing his shtick over at Fox News five nights a week. Not only does Matthews openly express his manlove for Bush on a regular basis (declaring Bush should be on Mt. Rushmore should his plans to democratize the Middle East succeed, that only lefty wingnuts don’t like the President and even going so far as to compare Bush to Atticus Finch), but he has consistently favored conservative guests and always seems to find the bright side of Bush wrongdoing. Receiving a paycheck from handed down from GE has clearly moved his political leanings farther to the right, and news today that he has been receiving unknown amounts of money for speaking engagements to conservative groups may be another reason for his right turn. Hopefully this revelation will clue his viewers in on his utter lack of objectivity.

But beyond his conservative slant and his Friday roundup of political news featuring the “balanced” views of Joe Scarborough (former Republican congressman from Florida), Tucker Carlson (long time Republican talking head propped up by his bowtie) and Rita Cosby (formerly of Fox News and better qualified to illicit tears from grieving parents for higher ratings than political analysis), is his ineptitude in recognizing the mood of the country. In this he is not alone though. As the salaries of journalists and pundits have propelled them into the elite social strata of the politicians they are supposed to cover, they have joined the tone deaf, out of touch and insulated world of Washington DC. Matthews no doubt was surprised to hear that average Americans aren’t benefiting from Bush domestic policy, which is understandable on a personal level since he is clearly rolling in cash due to tax cuts for his income bracket, but as a political watcher and pundit, there is no excuse for not making the connection between tax cuts for the rich and the rich getting richer. Logic should tell him that the money moving up the ladder must come from somewhere down below.

Without the objectivity to present the political news of the day in an unbiased way and lacking any understanding of how the average voter feels about kitchen table issues, anything Chris Matthews says on his show regarding candidates running for re-election this fall or running for President in ’08 is useless. He, along with a whole host of other political hosts, is trying to force Hillary Clinton down our throats as the candidate of choice for the Democrats. Given Matthews’ slant, Democrats should recognize that Hillary is the candidate the Republicans want to run against making her the candidate we should run from as fast as possible. I’m with Molly Ivans on this one, Hillary will be the death knell of the Democratic Party should she get the nomination and I, for one, will do everything I can to help sink her early.

Hillary Clinton has nothing to offer other than her stockpiles of cash. She is a divisive figure and she has too much baggage when it comes to her position on the war. If Hillary is the candidate in ’08, we will only see a repeat of the ’04 election except she won’t pull as many votes as John Kerry did because Bush won’t be on the ballot. If the Republicans put up a religious right nut, Hillary may be able to squeak by, but if they put up a McCain or a Giuliani, she hasn’t got a chance. On the other hand, if the Democrats put up someone like Russ Feingold, who’s got a great record that the base will love and credibility on the war he voted against, the Democrats can pull off a convincing win that will reflect the mood of the country. We can’t be suckered into the “frontrunner” crap that Chris Matthews and crew are trying to sell us. They get their money from the right, not the left, making it quite clear where their loyalties lie and what their agenda really is.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Some Scary, Some Vile And Some Funny

We say opinion, but they say sedition. After my last post about Bush administration attempts to silence the media and the fear that there could be a return to the days of reporters and citizens being charged with sedition for daring to speak out against our government, this new case was brought to my attention. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviews Laura Berg, a Veterans Affairs nurse investigated for sedition after writing a letter critical of the Bush administration to her local newspaper. A transcript of the interview is available at Democracy Now. It may not yet be time to panic, but it’s certainly time to pay close attention and be ready to panic at any moment. (Thanks to Yellow Dog for bringing this to my attention.)

I have not been able to write anything coherent about the South Dakota abortion ban as every time I try, the rage overwhelms me and nothing productive comes out. But sometimes venting is the exact right thing to do. For an explicit, angry and right on post about South Dakota’s vile, repugnant and tragic view of women, check out Rory Shock’s “Asshole South Dickota Governor Mike Rounds Gives More Rights to Nonsentient Lumps of Flesh than to Raped Children”. As you can tell from the title, it’s not for the fainthearted but I found that it hit the spot and was the perfect cathartic read.

On the lighter side of things, over at Democratic Underground, my dad pokes a little fun at the President. “The Do-It-Yourself Online Presidential Leadership Quiz” by Mark W. Bradley is the funniest thing I read today (certainly funnier than Amy Goodman’s interview with Ms. Berg and Rory’s references to child rape). If this idiot can do it, perhaps any idiot can.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

There’s A Canyon Between Us. Do We Build A Bridge Or Say “Adios” To Democracy All Together?

South Dakota has outlawed abortion, Missouri wants to make Christianity the state religion and the Bush administration is trying to revive the horrors brought on by the Sedition Act. I’d say we’re a country in trouble. Sure, the South Dakota law will likely be deemed unconstitutional and the Missouri bill is just a political stunt, but the fact that the fundamentalist right feels empowered enough to force these issues is a sign that we have taken a wrong turn down a dark and dangerous road. Have we reached the point where we need to banish our leaders and write off a few of our states as lost causes? We fought a civil war to keep the union together, were we wrong all those years ago? We certainly have little in common and apparently the documents that our countrymen died to protect aren’t worth all the trouble.

Our constitution was meant to be a living document, able to change with the changing times. The Civil War was about many things, but part of the mix was the emergence of two diverging ideas of how our country, as laid out in our founding documents, would evolve. Funny that the same is true today when we have the “strict constructionists” on one side, believing that white men have divine rights bestowed by their creator (who the hell they think created the rest of us is beyond me) and the progressives on the other side who want to keep the march toward freedom going, tearing down each and every barrier to equality that is put in front of us. Progress is what a progressive is all about (truth in advertising by golly), and if you’re not with us, you’re regressive.

But we are a whole country still and it would be great to find a way to work together. The first step is accepting the reality of where we are. Bush supporters are here, they’re deer (caught in the headlights), get used to it! Believe me, I’m trying, but in order for us to come to any semblance of a consensus, it will be necessary for them to shake themselves out of their stunned stupor and recognize that they’ve been lied to by this President and that their party has been taken over by the Christian Taliban. We can’t help you there, this one’s on you.

If there was any doubt that the religious right hit pay dirt with the confirmations of Justices Roberts and Alito, the gall of South Dakota and Missouri legislatures fueled by religious extremisms in passing a law banning all abortions and attempting to establish a state religion should put those doubts to rest. If traditional conservatives hope to have any credibility, they better disown this administration and cut the wingnuts off at the knees. If conservatives aren’t interested in taking giant leaps backwards, they better speak up now or suffer like the rest of us at the hands of the Christo-fascists that they are enabling. But even more distressing than what the fanatics are doing, is how hard it is to dig up any news at all about their efforts and successes.

The biggest threat to our democracy is the silencing of the media. It’s hard to believe that the Bush administration feels the need to silence what little dissent there is by attempting to criminalize unfavorable reporting, yet he is. The Sedition Act, which made it a crime to use disloyal language about the government, was repealed in 1921 but the Bush administration is using the Patriot Act, the secretive NSA and Alberto Gonzales’s henchmen at the DoJ to spy on, investigate and eventually prosecute reporters who publish articles about government wrongdoing using leaked information. Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue discusses in detail the lengths to which the Bush administration is going to silence reporters in his article, “Bush Declares War On Freedom Of The Press.” Who needs the Sedition Act when you think you’re King and the Congress and the Courts refuse to correct you?

But what is the responsibility of the press? Just because the press was singled out in the Constitution as having a freedom crucial to a working democracy, does that mean they are obligated to use it? There is no guaranteed freedom of pollution by corporations, no freedom of profit at the expense of workers, no freedom of retail giants to exercise their dominance wherever they choose. In fact there is no constitutional right explicitly given to any private industry other than the press. It seems that this fact should place a special burden on them, but with media consolidation a fait accompli, it’s simply not the case. They are a private business like any other and their main objective is making money, plain and simple. Informing the public of what our government is doing is only a small piece of the product they sell and if the truth conflicts with their profit margin, they have every right to exclude it, distort it or repackage it in any manner they see fit. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. The fact is, they make more money from Republican deregulation and tax giveaways than we could ever provide as consumers and because of this, their allegiance is not to us.

However painful, accepting the reality of the business of media is critical to our understanding of how the government now works, but a line is being crossed. There is a big difference between having to and being able to report the truth, even if it’s inconvenient for the Bush administration. Criminalizing reporting is a blatant violation of the first amendment, and even the big boys who’ve been happily towing the line and circling this administration on their short leashes are likely to get a little bent out of shape on this one. They should be able to see that their success may not forever be tied to the government and that they will want the option of following their own path when their interests diverge. Let’s hope that they do. If they refuse to stand up against this administrations attempt to silence them, there may be little hope left for the rest of us. Willful silence is one thing, but forced silence is quite another and the little guys will need the big boys in this fight. We at the bottom may have more to lose at this point, but hopefully those at the top have the foresight to recognize that that could change in an instant.