Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Subject 2 Discussion

I was busy yesterday, spouting off my mouth all over the place. In addition to the regular weekly podcast, I did a half hour interview with Shaun O’Mac for his radio show Subject 2 Discussion. You can listen to it here (May 30th edition) if you are so inclined. It was a lot of fun and we touched on a bunch of topics at a pretty rapid pace, amazing what you can cram into thirty minutes.

Podcasting Liberally

This week’s edition of the Drinking Liberally podcast was not quite as rowdy as last week, but with the final recommendations announced by the CAC a mere hours before taping, Goldy was still in rare form since his daughter’s school was left on the chopping block.

The usual suspects, Will, Carl, Lee and myself, were joined by Lynn Dodson, candidate for State Representative of the 43rd legislative district (my district in fact) who weighed in on the school closure debate and stated clearly that she is of course for marriage equality.

When Lynn had to leave us, Gavin valiantly filled the seat as we discussed Haditha, immigration, Bush’s problems with his base and Will proposed controversial escalator etiquette.

The show is available here as a 38.8 MB MP3 and you can visit Podcasting Liberally for RSS feeds and archives.

Activism Made Easy

An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore movie about global warming, is opening in theaters across the country this weekend and we should all go see it, and we should see it on opening weekend.  I have heard from those who have had the chance to attend pre-screenings that it is an amazing movie, both entertaining and enlightening, if a bit sobering.

The more people that see this movie on opening weekend, the more attention it will get from the press and it will start the word of mouth campaign that could prove to be even more effective.  While it is important that those of us who understand the importance of acting on the science about global warming go see this movie, it is even more important that it is seen by those who don’t know much about it or have not yet become alarmed by what is happening to our planet.

So gather up a bunch of friends this weekend and go see An Inconvenient Truth.  It’s activism made easy, complete with popcorn, candy and a comfy chair.  We’re not likely to get such easy assignments in our future struggles to preserve and defend this country and the world, of which we are but a small part.

An Update On The Seattle School Closure Nightmare

While TOPS, the school that my child attends (and my other child is starting in the fall), was given a temporary reprieve, the recommendations of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that 11 schools buildings be closed, is the wrong way to go about fixing the Seattle Public School system.

Of course I am happy that the CAC recognized that closing Thurgood Marshall, moving TOPS into the Thurgood Marshall building and re-locating Montlake Elementary to TOPS’ home at Seward was a bad move all the way around, but I am devastated for the families, students and staff that weren’t fortunate enough to “get off the list.”  This process has been flawed from the beginning, and these recommendations reflect that.

If creating a stronger public school district is the goal (leaner and meaner and offering our students more and better opportunities to succeed), then how is breaking up communities and programs that are successful and that are working hard to address areas of concern, going to make it so?

One of the greatest things about the Seattle school district is the choice that is offered to parents when selecting a school for their children and the myriad of innovative programs being implemented in different schools that serve unique and diverse communities.  We should be rewarding this type of problem solving, not preemptively dismantling schools before we even have a chance to see if they are working.

One of the best recommendations that the CAC made in their final proposal was a “Central Area Study” that works with the schools in the area to figure out a solution to the under-enrollment issue.  This is exactly what should happen throughout the district.  The CAC could have made their report simple by recommending that same approach throughout the entire district.

Closing public schools is an emotional and trying prospect and cannot be handed down seemingly out of nowhere.  This process has been hampered by the incomplete information and data available to the CAC in making their determinations.  Without clear leadership and a common vision that we can all share in, these recommendations leave the public feeling left out, neglected and in many cases, picked on.  We all want the same thing, the best education for all of our city’s children.  It’s too bad that these recommendations don’t achieve that, and instead leave us feeling like we weren’t included in a decision that affects us most of all.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Have We Learned Nothing?

As if the comparisons between the Iraq war and Vietnam weren’t clear enough, now we have Haditha, the My Lai massacre for the new millennium.

All of the mistakes that the Bush administration has made, in starting this war with no clear objective, in just about every aspect of its execution, have contributed to this horrific incident. We can vilify the soldiers who acted without a shred of humanity in the slaughter of innocent Iraqis as if that will make us feel better, but by disregarding what is just and right, this administration has stripped these men of their humanity and created the conditions that made it possible.

Of course these soldiers should be tried and put behind bars, but so too should the men who let it happen and those who covered it up to protect their political hides. As horrible as this news is to hear, I can only feel that it was just a matter of time before such an event took place. I am a bit surprised that it ever came to light, but thank goodness that it did. Now, perhaps we can have some honest discussions about the cost of war.

How exactly is Bush responsible for Hidatha? Sending young soldiers to fight a war with no clear objective leaves them flailing for leadership and wondering who the enemy is. Not providing our soldiers with the equipment and body armor necessary to protect them makes them feel more vulnerable than they otherwise would. Using a stop loss program that keeps soldiers in theater far longer than is prudent, creates unhappy and agitated soldiers. Forcing soldiers to carry out operations that they are not trained for, leads to anxiety and mistakes. The meager salaries that we pay our men and women serving in our armed forces means that they worry about their families back home, a distraction they surely don’t need. Using American military to protect contractors making four times as much for the same jobs is demoralizing for our soldiers. Destroying a country through “shock and awe” and then occupying that country without enough troops to keep the peace, puts our soldiers in danger each and every day.

All of these things contributed to what happened in Haditha and all of these things can be laid squarely at the feet of the president. Instead of apologizing for insensitive remarks like “bring it on” and “dead or alive,” Bush should be apologizing for bad policy decisions that have led us to this point. His failure is not one of style, but of substance. Until he apologizes for his real mistakes and makes a true effort to change course, more tragedies like Haditha are in our future. As Americans, we better ask ourselves if we’re okay with that, because if not, we have a duty to help bring our troops home.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Somber Speech, But It’s The Truth

After reading Catherine Crier today, I don’t think I have anything to add to the discussion.  In her commencement speech at Western Connecticut State University, she pretty much said it all.  We have allowed too many transgressions already, now we must act to change the course of history.  Read Ms. Crier’s speech, it’s comprehensive and alarming, or at least it should be.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

God Cures Hypertension

(Cross-posted at Jesus’ General)

I don’t know why it is that every time I’m given a chance to speak to The General’s choir, I become completely pre-occupied with religion.  Perhaps it’s a function of my atheism acting as the equal and opposite reaction to his unassailable religiosity.  Whatever it is, I just had to share my thoughts on this new study that suggests a strong religious faith keeps your blood pressure down.  I know, my first thought was “duh” too.

Now that all of the research about salt contributing to high blood pressure is being run asunder, it makes sense that the scientific community would be looking for other factors that might play a role, and after salt, God is the next logical step.  Unlike so many studies that attempt to make connections between the strangest things, this study makes perfect sense, even to a Godless heathen like me.

If you are a person that believes at your core that God has a plan for you, what is there to worry about?  Everything horrible can be explained away with a few simple words, “it must be God’s will.”  That’s a pretty powerful stress reducer if I’ve ever heard one.  There’s no sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do about the horrible things happening around you, if it’s God’s will, it will take care of itself, no need for you to get involved.  Might as well get a good night sleep.

Now, certainly I am making this much simpler than it is (and I’ll make some sweeping generalizations too), but I can see how having a hands-off approach to life would make living it a lot less stressful.  And unlike the whole salt issue, stress is still thought to contribute to high blood pressure as well as a slew of other ailments.  I guess we haven’t evolved enough as a species to allow our bodies to function at the optimum capacity without God.  You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty interesting admission coming from an atheist.

I’d be interested to see a study that compared different types of religious beliefs though.  This particular study looked specifically at African Americans, a good idea considering that high blood pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in the black community, and for the most part, they aren’t the stressed out religious believers that their white Fundamentalist brethren are.  Those folks spend far too much time worrying about stem cell research, abortion and what gay men are doing in the dark to ever really find any real comfort in their beliefs.  But religion in the black community seems to be more about finding solace and peace in a world that offers too little of both.  

Black folks don’t take a passive approach to religion, as in, here are your marching orders, don’t forget to cross every “T” and dot every “I” if you want to make it to heaven.  No, if you’ve ever been to a black Baptist gathering of any kind, you know that they give as good as they get, even from the best preacher.  While those crazed Fundamentalists spend their time stalking abortion doctors and hounding the families of dead gay soldiers, religious African Americans seem content to live their lives (the key being “their” lives) according to God’s teachings, and instead of being preoccupied with stamping out sin in every nook and cranny, they simply derive a sense of peace from knowing they’re living a good life.  It’s a whole other way of approaching, receiving and understanding God.  I’m not surprised they derive some physical benefit from that kind of faith.  

But what do you want to bet those Fundamentalists are popping blood pressure meds like there’s no tomorrow (and if the Rapture happens today, there won’t be).  I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, let’s just call it a hunch.

Friday, May 26, 2006

All Apologies

After watching George Bush try his hand at contrition, I immediately thought about the bullies I’ve known through the years. Most of them apologize at some point, but the apologies are never sincere and are only doled out with sarcasm or as a last ditch effort to get what they want when the bullying fails.

I think back to by grade school years and there were always bullies. Arrogant, insecure little boys that made themselves feel bigger by cutting other people down were despised and feared. I remember once, our resident bully John, in the middle of terrorizing a much smaller boy that had somehow ended up in his sights that day, John stopped and put his arms around the boy and said “I’m sorry man, you didn’t do anything wrong.” The two actually formed a sort of friendship after that and for the first time in the five years I’d known John, I actually had a little respect for him. He continued to be arrogant and a jerk, but the hardcore bullying stopped for the most part. I don’t know what kind of epiphany John had, but he admitted his mistakes at the height of his power and because he didn’t have to, I grudgingly accepted that he wasn’t all bad.

President Bush could have followed that model and admitted his mistakes when he was riding high on approval ratings that were bolstered up by his bullying behavior. He could have apologized for his inflammatory remarks like “bring it on” and “wanted dead or alive,” when it would have been sincere, but he didn’t. When the bully apologizes after having been beat down by the rest of the group, sitting in the puddle and looking around desperately for one friendly face, it garners no respect, it’s just pitiful and sad. Bush has earned his low approval rating. He has been bullying Americans and the rest of the world since his first day in office. Apologizing for his arrogant words, swaggering demeanor and bullying ways while he’s sitting in the mud looking for a way out means nothing. If he was viewed as weak before, he’s now moved into the realm of pathetic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Podcasting Liberally: Yeah, It’s Mostly About The Schools

This was a fun podcast for me, I was hyped up after attending one of the Town Meetings with the CAC and watching Goldy scream at Will made me feel so much better. Being personally affected by the school closure recommendations, Goldy and I kind of dominated the discussion. Poor Roger Goodman, candidate for the 45th Legislative District, could hardly get a word in edgewise. After Will was beaten down for even hinting that school vouchers might be a good idea, Roger, Sandeep Kaushik and N in Seattle joined in the discussion about Ron Simms’ new healthcare plan, Russ Feingold (always one of my favorite topics) and a few other things I think. I really only remember Goldy yelling at Will, it looked like fun. I’ll have to try it sometime.

The show is available here as a 41.1 MB MP3 and you can go to for archived shows and RSS feeds.

To The Slammer Boys!

The media seemed a bit taken aback that the jury came to a decision in the Enron case so quickly, but they shouldn’t have been.  The American people have had it with scheming rich white men ripping us off, stealing our retirements and lining their pockets with corporate profits and corporate welfare at the expense of workers and taxpayers.  To bad that Congress is in charge of overseeing White House crimes, manipulation, lies and cover-ups.  If the people could vote to impeach and convict, Bush and Cheney would have been gone long ago.

There isn’t really much difference between what Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling did to Enron and what Dick Cheney and George Bush have done to America.  Lay and Skilling covered up the financial problems within their company and used their insider knowledge to manipulate stock prices and loot the company before the rest of us even had an inkling that there were problems.  It was a clear-cut case of two men making themselves rich at the expense of workers, shareholders, customers and taxpayers.  Cheney and Bush have made themselves and their friends rich at the expense of workers and taxpayers as well.  Last I heard, Cheney’s net worth was around $100 million, Halliburton was still getting lucrative no-bid government contracts, the oil companies were enjoying record breaking profits and Big Pharma couldn’t be happier with the new Medicare prescription plan.  Not bad, I hope these responsible citizens and companies are paying their taxes on all that money and not hiding it in offshore accounts.

And let’s not forget that Dick Cheney and Ken Lay were pals, close enough it seems that when Ken Lay presented his recommendations to Cheney regarding energy policy, those recommendations were implemented.  Of course we don’t know if they were Lay’s recommendations or just a coincidence of wording since all of the notes from those secret meetings have never been released.  Ken Lay’s secrets at Enron have been uncovered, but Cheney’s so far have not.  Lay and Cheney are peas in a pod and Dick better hope he never has to face a jury of his peers, he’d likely get the same treatment as Kenny Boy, it just might not take as long for the jury to convict.

Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay have been found guilty of conspiracy and fraud and are now facing the prospect of decades in jail and it certainly couldn’t happen to a nicer pair.  Well, yes it could.  It’s quite possible that George Bush and Dick Cheney are guilty of conspiracy (in covering up the administrations outing of a CIA agent in an effort to discredit a critic of the war) and fraud (in lying about the reasons for that war) as well, but whether 12 jurors will ever hear the evidence against them and get a chance to decide their fate is another story all together.  I just wish I could find those Republicans that were screaming their heads off about the rule of law during the Clinton years!  They were hard to miss during the 90s, but they are an endangered species in the new millennium.  

It’s too bad really, the “rule of law” Republicans could have had so much fun with the Bush administration.  With Clinton, they had to dig around for years in order to find something to be outraged about, whereas Bush simply supplies new nuggets of outrage virtually every day.  Not only does he thumb his nose at the law, he brags about it afterward.  Oh well, the rule of law may be “so last century” in Washington DC, but in Texas, it’s still alive and well, at least for today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Battle Fatigue And Blogging

I was hoping to get a post up much earlier today but I was completely absorbed in the fight to save our Seattle public schools, particularly the innovative programs that have been slated for closure and the inexplicable plans to move successful programs to smaller facilities that cannot support the programs as they are. It has been exhausting and invigorating at the same time. When the school that you love is targeted for closure, it has an emotional impact that you just can’t plan for, but the great thing that happens is we all get involved and begin learning more about other programs that we hardly knew existed and meet amazing people who are able to come together in a common cause, our children’s future.

I will get back to the regularly scheduled program tomorrow, Denny Hastert in hot water, the FBI raiding the office of a sitting Congressman (yet another unprecedented event in American history, but par for the course in Bush’s country) more movement in the Rove indictment and Scooter Libby’s trial and I’m sure before I wake up there will be a new outrage to react to. Until then, I’ll post the speech I gave at the Town Hall Meeting tonight about the school closures. It was received by rousing applause from the audience although I’m sure the Community Advisory Committee didn’t enjoy it quite so much, but I can’t be sure since I delivered it with my back to them.

This is the tamed down version of what I wanted to say. Since I was representing a whole community, I had to tone it down a bit. Not something I generally do very well, but I think we struck a happy medium, if tilted to the left a bit. Here it is:

First of all, I would like to thank the CAC for all of their hard work. They have been handed a difficult task, and have been given inadequate information and restrictive parameters that have made it impossible to solve the problems they were tasked with solving. Quite simply, this process is a disaster. The CAC has been hampered in this flawed process by the artificial constraints put on them by the district and the school board. With fragmented information and a limit on the facilities and programs that they could consider, it’s really no surprise that the end result is a disjointed and piecemeal recommendation that does more harm than good. The CAC was not allowed a comprehensive view, so how could they come up with a comprehensive plan? These recommendations move kids around, but they do nothing to improve our school system as a whole, in fact in many cases, they destroy the programs that are working best.

As we all know, it is difficult and painful for communities to lose our schools and having those closures sprung on us, makes it even worse. A committee of citizens cannot solve the problems facing our schools, that is the job of the Superintendent, the district and the school board. It’s time for them to take responsibility, step up and be leaders, fix the problems and fix them the right way. Get experts to help work with individual schools, one at a time, involving the staff, the parents and the community in finding workable solutions, mergers if possible and closures only as a last resort, but it must be a slow, inclusive and thoughtful process that puts our children’s educational needs above all else.

We all understand that our public schools are losing market share, that we have buildings in desperate need of renovation and that some of our schools must be helped to perform better. These are problems to be addressed and worked through in a thoughtful and inclusive way, and will not be solved by randomly slotting some schools for closure and some for moving, and any process that pits one community against another should be scrapped altogether. That is not who we are as a community, but it’s what this process is threatening to bring us to. There is a better way.

This has been a one sided process with no real dialogue. Most of us were blindsided by these recommendations, I know that we at TOPS most certainly were. We have a highly successful and popular program, we were shocked that the CAC would even consider destroying what we have built. We have asked question after question and requested information that will help us understand the reasoning behind the decision to move TOPS from its home at Seward, but we have only been given bits and pieces that amount to nothing more than justifications made-up after the fact.

This has been a divisive process and if implemented, these recommendations will be disruptive to our children, create animosity between communities and perhaps even result in lingering ill will between school programs and the new communities they are thrown into with little or no thought. I know that if the TOPS program is perceived by the community as being responsible for displacing Thurgood Marshall students, we won’t likely be welcomed with open arms into our new home and the same will be true of other proposed moves and closures. That isn’t good for Seattle Schools and it’s not good for our children.

This is not the fault of the CAC, it is the fault of the process. This is not the way to solve our complex district wide problems, with division and secrecy. In order to make our public school system the best and most efficient it can be, it will require leadership, commitment, expertise, dialogue and most importantly, a process that respects the dignity of our children, acknowledges the hard work and innovative programs that are currently working, and the right of the community to have a say in the future of our schools.

Thank You.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It’s My Blog And I’ll Use It As My Personal Platform If I Want To

I’m going to take the opportunity to use the platform that I have at my disposal (however small) to discuss a purely local and personal issue. The Seattle school district has proposed the closure of a slew of our public schools in an effort to save money. My children’s school is on the list and, needless to say, I am not happy.

My fellow local blogger, David Goldstein of the infamous Horse’s Ass, has written a lovely and powerful rant about the apparent complicity of the Seattle Times editorial board in promoting the closure of my children’s school. I don’t think he had any idea that I was personally affected, but I thank him for his post nonetheless. Whether or not it proves to be effective, it certainly made me feel better just reading his righteous anger.

I have long thought that closing public schools is shortsighted and asinine. The reasons for closing schools often involve short-term financial shortcomings and end up spending more money than they save and often result in a more segregated and decimated public school system. I must have been naïve to think that a liberal city like Seattle would be any better than other cities and towns when it comes to pro-actively improving our public school system.

While I understand that public schools are hurting nationwide as a result of “no child left behind,” probably the worst public policy initiative ever to be rolled out (over the top of our children) by our government, closing schools that are working is not the answer. The unfounded mandate that is No Child Left Behind has created more hoops to jump through and more tests to administer in order to qualify for federal funding and has left most of our public schools strapped. And it certainly didn’t help our schools here in Seattle that we were swindled out of millions of dollars by shady accounting (Republican accountants no doubt). But now, in an effort to save money to pay for the city’s (and the country’s) mistake, our children’s education and future is being put on the chopping block.

How more out of line could our priorities be when closing public schools, most of them serving minority populations, is a feasible cost cutting measure, but building sports stadiums with public money is considered “good business”? If I have to hear one more whiney word about the Sonics needing more luxury boxes while the parents of school aged children have to beg to keep our schools open, I think I just might pull out my hair. And once mine is gone, I just might start working on whoever is next to me.

My husband and I chose The Option Program at Seward (TOPS) because of what it offered as an alternative public school. TOPS isn’t a neighborhood school, but rather a citywide school that strives for diversity and equality in education. It has an integrated curriculum that focuses on social justice, community awareness, and cultural, racial and socioeconomic diversity with an emphasis on closing the achievement gap. They have delivered on that promise and it is a much sought after program, yet has been slated for closure. The proponents of the plan will say that they are only proposing to “move” the TOPS program to another facility, but the facility they have designated is too small and too ill equipped to house the program as is. Therefore, I say, they are advocating the destruction of one of the most successful programs that the Seattle school district has to offer.

Why would they do this? Well, it’s quite simple actually. They want to close down a neighborhood school in the affluent neighborhood of Montlake. The parents of the Montlake school successfully fought their way off of the closure list last year, an effort that many TOPS families supported, and in an effort to appease them this time around, the Community Advisory Committee (appointed by the School Board) has decided to offer up the Seward building, that now houses TOPS, as an enticement for their cooperation. Politics is the same on the local level as it is on the national level. If you’re connected, have money and the luxury of time to get involved, you get what you want regardless of how many other children must suffer as a result.

But as angry as I am about the destruction of my children’s school, the facility that we are slated to take over would displace another community of kids. That’s right, in an effort to appease the affluent white folks of Montlake, the diverse TOPS program will vacate the facility that was designed specifically for them and that they have poured money, time, labor and love into making just right, and be moved into another public school, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, that is currently housing a program that is on the rise and is made up of predominantly minority students. The plan of the CAC seems to be, pick on minority communities and alternative programs that are focusing on diversity and where that doesn’t work, divide and conquer. They are cynically attempting to pit parents of different schools against each other in the hopes that one or more of them will roll over in defeat. Whether or not the proposals of the CAC are purposefully biased in favor of white affluent neighborhoods doesn't matter if the perception is there. In a community, perception matters.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the schools slated for closure are serving mostly minority communities. It’s also hard to miss the fact that the best facilities are going to the affluent neighborhoods. If we allow this injustice to stand, as a community, we are saying that it is okay to further segregate our schools and continue to promote inequities in the system. At a time when we should be focusing on improving our educational system and investing money in our children’s future, we are instead cutting corners at their expense. TOPS is a successful school that is working to make our community a more integrated, cohesive and sustainable place. They are helping to bring up the kind of citizens we should all want to have as members and leaders in our community. Instead of breaking up the program and setting them up for failure, we should be encouraging more schools to follow the model.

I have faith that the TOPS community will fight this injustice and more importantly, fight it from the right position. Move the school if you have to, we are willing to do our part in creating a better school system for all, but we are not going to sit idly by while the city takes away what we have fought long and hard for, and hands it over to those who are already more privileged than most. And we are not going to do nothing while they attempt to pit us against a community in the south end that we support.

We need more schools, not less. We need better schools for all our kids, not more segregation. We need to be thinking in the long term and not allow ourselves to be enticed into solutions that only fix the problem temporarily. If the city is hurting for cash, tell the Sonics to go to hell (or Bellevue) and build their own damn arena. Raise property taxes, institute a latte tax and undo the damage done by Tim Eyman (and then ship him to Alabama). We do need some real solutions in our great city, but shortchanging our kids should not be an option.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mission Accomplished Again!

George Bush and Tony Blair are set to make an announcement regarding the war in Iraq later today. After reading Tony Blair’s statements in the Guardian, it seems likely that the duplicitous duo will be announcing some sort of draw down of US and British troops. Just in time for the mid-term elections, is anyone surprised?

"It has been three years of struggle to get to this point and has been longer and harder than any of us would have wanted it to be but this is a new beginning."

It sure sounds like Mr. Blair is saying that the end is near.

Bush has said over and over that “when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” and I imagine that he will give more of the same. Whether or not the Iraqi troops are really ready to “stand up” in the way that Bush has been selling is not relevant. His dismal approval rating needs some help and bringing some troops home, he thinks, will boost those sagging numbers. Democrats should have gotten behind John Murtha when he called for immediate withdrawal months ago, but they were simply too afraid to do what they knew in their hearts was right. Many of them thought that pulling out US troops would result in more violence and possibly a civil war, at least that’s what they said publicly, and felt it would be irresponsible to pull out prematurely. In reality, it was a political decision for most of them. They were afraid to advocate for what would surely be labeled by Republicans as a “cut and run” approach. What Democrats failed to realize was that Bush would advocate the same if it became politically necessary. And now it has.

Unlike Bush’s address on immigration that failed to boost his poll numbers, an announcement of a withdrawal of troops from Iraq may very well help him politically. Don’t expect him to frame it as a political issue though. It will be framed as US troops accomplishing exactly what Bush has been shooting for all along. Of course it’s not true, little he says ever is, but in the end, when Americans start seeing our troops arriving home, greeted at the airport by friends and family will happy smiles, flowers, banners and balloons, all will be forgiven.

Many Bush supporters that have left his side are looking for a happy ending. If Bush can give them that, complete with happy homecomings televised for all to see, they will be all too happy to come back and support this President. Bush understands that his approval is tied to this war. If he can put a happy face on it, he will. Now, Democrats will be in a position of having supported the President’s plan when it would have been smarter to force his hand. If Bush were making this announcement under relentless pressure from Democrats in Congress, it would be viewed as a sign of weakness on the part of the President and a victory for Democrats. This is yet another example of Democrats failing to do the right thing that would have also been the best political strategy. As it is now, the Democrats have nothing to be proud of, can take no credit and will be forced to sit idly by while the President reaps the benefits of a cut and run policy. Ironic, no?

Update: More news on the pending announcement can be found at Raw Story. This is the most cynical use of our military, a tool in the President’s bid to win a popularity contest. While I do think that withdrawing our troops is the only thing that we can do to help bring peace to Iraq, I do not trust this President to do it properly. He will bring home just enough troops to put on a show here at home and leave enough to cause further chaos in Iraq and the Democrats seem poised to let him get away with it. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

Taking It To John McCain

A brave young graduating student from The New School gives a commencement speech that rips into the speaker slated to follow her, Senator John McCain.  Read her speech and her explanation for why she chose to scrap her prepared remarks, and instead use her time to pick apart McCain’s words before he even had a chance to say them.  Small acts of bravery and dissent can inspire others to do the same.  Thank you Ms. Jean Rohe, for seizing the opportunity to speak truth to power and for reminding us what real a patriot looks like.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why Wait till November? Get Your 2006 Congressional Election Results Now!

A Guest Post By, Mark W. Bradley

I like to think of myself as a trusting person, one who would never dream of assigning nefarious motives to even the most casual and untested of my acquaintances. As a result, I believe I tend to inspire similar confidence on the part of others. Just recently, in fact, I was personally contacted (via e-mail) by the wife of a Nigerian diplomat caught in the middle of an African coup de tat. Even though we’ve never actually met, she generously invited me to assist her in a complex monetary transaction involving several international banks, billions in foreign currency, a long-lost diamond mine, and the temporary use of my American Express Card. Yes, I do get a warm feeling just knowing how much this poor distressed woman appreciates my help, but believe me, the $2,500 finders fee I’ll be getting in the mail next year really sweetens the deal from my perspective!

Likewise, when my new postman asked me the other day for one of my house keys so he could save me the trouble of having to feed my goldfish, I said “Why not?” After all, I was already planning to have one made for Lester, the 37 year-old man down the street who mows my lawn, raises snakes, and lives with his parents, so how much more expensive could two keys be than one?

You see, Joe (that’s my new mailman) was just explaining to me how the U.S. Postal Service recently became a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security, and how, since he’s got to be at my house to deliver the mail anyway, it’s really no extra trouble for him to come in and inspect my personal computer on a daily basis while I’m at work. That way, we can both make sure that al Qaeda, Greenpeace, and the Quakers aren’t spying on me, which takes a huge load off my mind. Now, when I arrive home every day at 5:30, my fish have been fed, my computer’s been checked for suspicious activity, and every piece of my mail has been neatly arranged on the dining room table, even the ones accidentally steamed open and resealed with duct tape. I tell you, that Joe’s a real Godsend; I don’t know what I’d do without him…

Anyway, having a full-service postman like Joe not only saves me the inconvenience of receiving mail from the wrong people, it also prevents me from getting my mail at the wrong time. Let me explain.

The other day, I got a letter from an activist organization I joined back in 2000, a group by the name of That’s not unusual, of course, since I get letters and e-mails from all kinds of political parties on a regular basis asking for money to fight corruption and dishonesty in government. I always send them cash in the mail (you know, whatever I can afford) and I always tell Joe, so he can make sure the money gets to where it’s supposed to.) The strange thing about this particular letter is that it was postmarked November 13, 2006. That’s right, I got a letter from the future! My hands were literally shaking with excitement as I ripped open the envelope and read the following message…

Dear member:

Given the generally disappointing results of last week’s 2006 midterm elections, we recognize that the natural inclination on the part of Democratic voters is to indulge in a sort of helpless malaise and perhaps even a fatalistic form of depression. Some of us may sink into thoughts of “Why do I even bother to participate in the system?” Still others will succumb to wild conspiracy theories and unfounded speculation about the supposed “unreliability” of the machines that count our votes. All of this is to be expected, of course. But we must not let this sort of “sour grapes” defeatist thinking prevent us from participating in the important work that now confronts us. It’s time for all of us progressives to put the disappointments of the past behind us where they belong, and resume the hard work of building a better future for ourselves and our children.

Regarding how we Democrats somehow came up short again on November 7, there appears to have been no single cause for the spate of defeats sustained by Democratic candidates in Congressional and Senate campaigns around the country. Rather, it seems to have been the result of an unfortunate convergence of utterly inexplicable random events. And while the political pundits are sure to be picking over the bones of this election for months (if not years), we here at have some preliminary observations to share with you regarding a few of the more controversial races.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, where late tracking polls showed incumbent Republican Senator Rick Sanctimonium trailing his democratic opponent by a whopping 26% (and election day exit polling had him down by an even larger 32%), he somehow managed to squeak out a narrow 53 to 47 percent victory. Republican strategist Karl Bove (who is expected to be indicted any day now on four counts of murder and kidnapping for his part in a daring daylight robbery of Fort Knox back in June) attributes this surprise result to an under-the-radar stealth campaign which turned out an impressive 17 million previously unregistered Amish voters in Lancaster County. Bove especially credits Senator Sanctimonium’s decision to stimulate Amish participation by means of a well-publicized ballot initiative proposing that marriage be defined as a union between “one human being and other”, thereby preventing members of different species from entering into holy matrimony in the State of Pennsylvania.

In Northern California, Republican Congressmen Don Lung-rend and Jan Loo-diddle had been thought to be particularly vulnerable this election cycle, due to the release of an incriminating videotape depicting the two of them at the National Archives after hours, tearing original copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights into thin strips and using them to construct a papier mache pinata shaped like the Statue of Liberty and filled with gold Krugerrands for use at a GOP fundraiser. While these difficulties did necessitate their having to dig deeply into their personal campaign war chests for actual campaign expenditures, in the end they easily managed to outspend their opponents by a factor of 16 to 1. In fact, each of them was able to purchase an additional 75 “Ebony Edition” Diebold touch screen vote tabulators and present them to California Secretary of State Bruce MacPhearphactor, saving the taxpayers of the state a hefty 12.6 million dollars. These machines were subsequently distributed by the Secretary of State in the African-American neighborhoods where they were most needed: Inglewood, Compton, and the Fillmore District of San Francisco. For Republican Congressional candidates up and down the state (including Lung-rend and Loo-Diddle), the margin of victory was a consistently narrow (but decisive) 53% to 47% .

In a related story, Governor Arnold Schwarzenherzen staged one of the most remarkable political comebacks in recent history last Tuesday. Having thoroughly alienated California nurses, teachers, firemen, police officers, college students, vegetarians, Catholics, fast-food restaurant employees, Jews, teamsters, immigrants, disabled pet-owners, and most people named “Bob”, the Governor was not expected to bounce back from his single-digit approval ratings. Here again, Karl Bove was a significant factor, as he was able to tap into another “sleeper” population of Republican voters, in this case a subterranean colony of semi-blind, root-devouring Mormon mole-people living in a network of tunnels underneath the Mojave Desert. Even so, according to early returns, Schwarzenherzen looked as though he would still come up short, when a late surge in absentee ballots from Disneyland’s Toon Town brought the Governor a razor-thin edge in the final tally: 51% to 49% . (Correction - an eleventh hour recount requested by the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate resulted in an additional two percent shift toward the incumbent. Schwarzenherzen’s official totals now reflect a 53% to 47% win for the Governor.)

But perhaps the most disappointing results of the night for Democrats occurred in Florida, where former Secretary of State Slatherine Bareass defeated both the Republican and Democratic candidates with her block of 53 votes to their combined total of 47 (all of the other 8,000,000 voters in the state having been purged from the rolls as convicted felons by Mistress Bareass’s good friends at Choice Point). Even now, our crack team of election lawyers is engaged in the process of checking those 8 million names to see if any of them were deleted from the voter rolls mistakenly. We expect a full report from them sometime in late March, 2007.

In the meantime, we here at desperately need your financial contributions to keep up our valiant efforts to hold the Republican controlled Congress, White House and Supreme Court responsible for its reprehensible policies. So please send a check for whatever you can afford (or cash, if Joe is your mailman). Thank you for your unwavering support.

No sooner had I finished perusing this remarkable document than my good friend Joe arrived with a new carton of fish food. He apologized for the mix up, took the letter from me immediately, resealed it in its original envelope, and told me that as soon as he got back to the Post Office he would deposit it safely in the Homeland Security Time-Travel Machine where it would be temporarily dematerialized back into the time-space continuum. Thank God for Joe…

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

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More Speculation On The CIA Leak Case

Truth Out has issued an apology of sorts for getting “too far out in front of the news cycle” on the supposed Karl Rove indictment. Jason Leopold had stated last week that if the story turned out to be wrong, he would out his sources. If Truth Out is now saying that their story was wrong (which I’m not sure is what they are saying with this latest apology), I hope Leopold does out his sources as promised.

But the story is getting bigger and Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be methodically making his way to the top. It may be that Truth Out’s sources claiming Rove had been indicted were telling the truth, but the circumstances, thus the story, have changed since last Saturday. If (here’s the speculative part) being informed of a sealed indictment was enough to get Rove’s cooperation, we may never know if Jason Leopold’s story was correct. We must remember that Fitzgerald is not interested in keeping the public’s curiosity appeased, he is interested in building his case and making sure that each and every person involved in this criminal act and criminal conspiracy to cover it up, is brought to justice. He’s not going to rush his case, and we shouldn’t want him to.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Richard Armitage, ex-deputy secretary to Colin Powel, was snuck into the courtroom on Friday to give further testimony in the CIA leak case. If (here comes more speculation) Armitage testified that he tried to dissuade Libby and/or Rove from revealing the uncover status of Valerie Plame to reporters, that could mean that the underlying crime is in play or, at the very least, a conspiracy involving Libby, Rove, Cheney and even Bush in attempting to cover it up. Unlike others who are upset that a Rove indictment hasn’t been announced yet, I am happy to wait because the longer these behind the scenes maneuverings go on, the more likely it is that the whole truth will come out. Fitzgerald has a great track record in bringing those at the top to justice and there is no reason to think that this time will be any different.

It’s no sweat off my brow to wait for news from Fitzgerald, but I’d be willing to bet that the longer it takes, the more danger there is of White House staffers getting swept away by the river of sweat streaming out of the Oval Office. That’s good enough for me, at least for now.

The Holy Messiah Addresses His Congressional Fan Club, The Audio Edition

My dad, Mark W. Bradley, has now taken his writing to the next level. With a little help from his friends (hey Uncle Kurt) he has turned his satire into audio extravaganzas, the first of which can be heard at the Huffington Post’s Contagious Festival. If you ever wondered what Jesus sounds like, here’s your chance. It’s funny, it never occurred to me that he might sound like a smarmy comedian you’d expect to find playing to a half empty bar in a third rate Nevada casino. Will wonders never cease?

Check it out, it’s a hoot, plus, he just got it up yesterday, halfway through the judging period, so he could use all the hits he can get. Enjoy.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Color Of Dissent: Preparing For The Stolen 2006 Mid-Term Elections

Note:  I am republishing this post (one of the first ones that I wrote for this blog) because it fits in with the theme that I have been stuck on this week, that we the people are the last line of defense against the absolute power being rapidly consolidated into what was once our White House, but is now George Bush’s house.  It doesn’t matter how an election is stolen, by putting fewer voting machines in Democratic districts, by erroneously putting law abiding voters on felon’s lists, by randomly instituting absurd levels of compliance to HAVA recommendations or by “flipping” results on automated vote counting machines.  If the will of the people is thwarted, however it is done, it is the duty of the people to make their voices heard.  This is my humble suggestion for one way to do that if the worst-case scenario becomes reality (again).  

In November 2004 the election results were in and there were discrepancies between the exit polling and the official results.  There were widespread reports of voter fraud and voter intimidation.  Collin Powel said in a press briefing, “We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse."  The White House issued a statement saying that the United States is "deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud in the presidential election”.  George W. Bush went on to say, "These elections ought to be open and fair.  The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard.”  Of course, they were not referring to our election, but rather the election in the Ukraine.

When US policy demands that a democratic election be overturned in a foreign country (on those rare occasions when we are unable to rig it before hand) we use exit polls and immediate activation of organized “protests” by the people to do it.  One must only look to the election in the Ukraine to see how it works and how effective it can be.  While our own election was riddled with fraud and our exit polls indicated there were serious problems with the official results, instead of watching Americans up in arms and demanding a fair accounting of the election process on television, we watched Ukrainians doing it in their country.  The protestors in the Ukraine had two important things that those who protested the election here at home did not, strong organization and more importantly, an easily identifiable marker of dissent.

The CIA knows that in order to get the number of protestors to swell, they must make it easy to identify and easy to join. That way, those who are inclined to add their voices, can add them to an already robust choir.   A flourishing movement will sweep people up, trying to get one going, now that’s the hard part.  In the Ukraine, it was as simple as the color orange.  Orange signs, orange shirts, orange armbands and orange hats were on display everywhere.  Ukrainians who were inclined to challenge the election were able to look out of their window, see the orange all around them and know that they were not alone.  They could walk outside, join the sea of orange and have their sense of solidarity increased as they were immediately handed an orange armband of their own, now marking them as one of many in a fight against injustice.  No one wants to be the lone dissenter against the power structure, but most of us are energized by the act of joining a crowd with a common cause.

For those of us who believe that the next election is only going to bring more of the same, we should start preparing now to fight the injustice we know is coming.  We should be stocking up on bright orange shirts and hats and hording bright orange fabric and start sewing away on those armbands and flags that people can attach to their car antennae (we know how much Americans love to decorate their cars).  Orange paper to print up flyers to pass out on the street and post up on every telephone pole and orange banners to place on freeway overpasses and orange stickers (you know, for kids).  By having an easily identifiable marker of dissent, an instant community is created.

After the 2004 election, those of us who knew there was something fishy going on, were left alone to wander the streets scowling at people around us wondering, “are you one of the idiots that voted for this jerk?”  Imagine instead walking down the street and having our eyes drawn to all the orange t-shirts and bumper stickers around us, pointing out all of the people of like minded dissent.  Instead of a feeling of hopelessness, we would all be comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone and fueled by the possibility that our numbers will grow.

So we must prepare for the next election by making sure we are registered to vote or by knocking on doors for candidates or issues that we believe in or by writing to our elected officials telling them we have no intention of voting in unverifiable elections, but whatever else we do, let’s give some thought to what we will do after the election results come in.  Hopefully we will have no need for orange in our future, but let’s also hope that if we do, there will be plenty of it visible from our windows and that it spreads like wildfire all across the country.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Moral Politics

I’ve just been informed that a re-broadcast of an episode of Moral Politics that I participated in will be airing tonight on Channel 77 or 29 (if you live in the Seattle area) or streaming at, at 6pm this evening.  Bill Allford hosts Michael Tivana, author of “Beyond Iraq, Surviving Globalization”, and myself as we discuss religion in politics and the disturbing trend of Fundamentalist Christian influence on our government.

Podcasting Liberally, The Bi-Partisan Edition

On this week’s edition of the Drinking Liberally podcast, we had our very first right-winger on the panel.  The usual suspects (Will, Carl and myself) were joined by Joel Connelly, columnist for the Seattle P-I (who is fast becoming a regular on the show) and Don Ward, reporter for the King County Journal and admitted conservative, and hosted of course, by David Goldstein of Horse’s Ass.

On the table for discussion, Bush’s address on immigration, sending troops to the borders, Will’s trip to Spokane, the push for vote by mail elections and other various topics.
The show is available here as a 36.7 MB MP3, and you can go to for complete archives and RSS feeds.

Calm Before The Storm?

It is important that we look ahead to the next big outrage and be prepared to act instead of becoming stunned into silence. It is hard for many of us to believe just how much has happened over the last six years, much of it unprecedented in American history. We’ve had an election decided by the Supreme Court, a pre-emptive war, another election conducted using secret software and where critical votes in Ohio were counted behind closed doors, impeachable crimes committed by a President that Congress refuses to impeach. These are outrageous events, and their impact on democracy has been glossed over by the press, swept under the rug by Congress and simply accepted by the people. There are sure to be more outrageous events to come as Bush finishes out his term and it is our job to first be outraged, and then to act.

What could the next big outrage be? Well, considering that the noose is tightening in the CIA leak investigation, it could be that either Karl Rove or Richard Armitage will be indicted on the underlying charge of outing a covert CIA agent with Dick Cheney and possibly even Bush added as unindicted co-conspirators (this is purely speculation on my part and probably amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking). That would be justice served, but the outrageous part would be if the President and/or Vice President refused to resign and/or the Congress still refused to impeach. Logically we think, “that would never happen,” but with the litany of things we thought would never happen that have already occurred, we should at least prepare ourselves for the possibility.

The CIA leak case is huge. It is being conducted by perhaps the most efficient and dogged prosecutor in the country and it involves the compromise of national security by our own administration and the lies they peddled in an effort to justify their war of choice. It doesn’t get much bigger than that and the trail seems to lead to the very top.

Now, we all got a little excited last weekend when Jason Leopold posted his story about Rove being indicted, understandable since we’ve been waiting for that news for a long time. But whether Jason Leopold got it right or he was set up to take a fall, in the end is far less significant than the story that got lost in the shuffle. The real big story this week is that Dick Cheney’s handwriting is all over the smearing of Joe Wilson and the outing of Valerie Plame.

While we wait for the Karl Rove indictment, let’s focus on what we already know for sure, but that can’t be stated enough. Scooter Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, has already been indicted in the CIA leak case. By all accounts, Scooter and Shooter were connected at the hip, driving to work together in the morning and hatching their plans of destruction for the day. It simply defies logic that Cheney wasn’t directing this assault on Joe Wilson’s credibility in an effort to save his own. Remember that Cheney was on the front lines selling the fear of mushroom clouds to the American people so he could unleash shock and awe on Iraq. If we are convinced that the Vice President (along with Condi, Rummy and Bush) was lying about the administration's reasons for invading Iraq and that he would do anything to cover up those lies, chances are, Patrick Fitzgerald is convinced of it too.

There does seem to be a “calm before the storm” feeling swirling around, but all we can do is wait. I hope that Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation is as broad as possible, but that might not be in the cards. With Cheney’s handwritten notes suggesting a “junket” set up by “his wife” on a copy of Joe Wilson’s op-ed piece, it is clear that the Vice President is involved and Fitzgerald knows it. What he will be able to prove with the vast amounts of information that hasn’t yet been made public is another matter. Again, all we can do is wait, but we should use this time to prepare for the possibility that however shocking the revelations, charges and targets turn out to be, the press will continue to frame it in the best possible light for the administration, the Congress will continue to protect this White House and the people won’t really know what to think. If we prepare for this possibility, we will be more effective in encouraging our neighbors’ outrage and helping to turn public disgust into action.

The only way that this administration will let go of their power is if we wrestle it away from them. That means taking the opportunity to capitalize on the next big scandal and getting our friends, family and neighbors to go sit at the office doors of our Representatives in Congress and demand that they do something about it. Unlike the Republicans during the Nixon administration who were able to recognize that common decency required that they get on board with impeaching the President, current Republicans in DC have no such decency (and Democrats have no such courage) and it will require us pushing them to do the right thing. Most of us agree that Bush/Cheney should be impeached and there is certainly enough evidence to justify it. All we have to do now is convince our Congresspeople that there is no other option. We have let so many opportunities pass by already, we must be ready to make the most of the next one, whatever it turns out to be.

Update: Richard Armitage may not be in legal jeopardy, but may instead be a key witness for the prosecution. Either way, this case is huge and when it breaks, it will be critical that we take the spark of public outrage and fan it into a five-alarm fire!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Secrets And Lies

This administration is the most secretive in history, and as I’ve pointed out before, even if they aren’t covering up bad, illegal and abusive behavior (as I’m sure they are) by shutting out any light of scrutiny, they inspire suspicion.  This is true of the election process and how radically it has changed during Bush’s tenure.  We now vote (and have our votes counted) on machines that run on proprietary software that cannot be verified.  It is also true of the war.  Phase II of the Congressional investigation into pre-war intelligence continues to be shut down.  It is true of 9/11.  Because so much information has been kept secret and the official account of what happened that day raises more questions than it answers, there is distrust and speculation that there’s something even more sinister to the story.  And now we have secret surveillance being conducted by the NSA on US citizens.  Is it any wonder that we don’t trust that what they are doing is “necessary” to fight terrorism?

There is a level of anxiety out here amongst the population as we try to figure out exactly why all of these invasions into our privacy are necessary.  It wasn’t long ago that fear of the “other” was used by a leader to justify a clamping down on the society at large, complete with a wall to keep them in and “papers” to track their movements.  Of course those measures were sold to the people as a way to keep them safe, much like the justifications given by our own government officials for things like high tech fences (walls) on our border, national ID cards (papers), tracking our phone and Internet habits and clamping down on the press, all in an effort to catch illegal immigrants and terrorists (the “invading other” and the “elusive other”).  For those who think that it can’t happen here, it’s time to take a good look around.

Things are changing, and although they have changed dramatically over the last five years, it has happened in such a way as to paralyze the population.  It has been incremental, but it has also been exponential with each new step more outrageous than the last.  I have heard people talk about scandal fatigue as an explanation why more people aren’t upset about the abuses of power exhibited by the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress, but we are also suffering from outrage fatigue, a much more dangerous affliction.  When we lose the ability to be outraged by radical changes to the way our government is run, changes that disrespect our constitutionally guaranteed rights and consolidate power in a way our forefathers tried to protect us from, we simply lack the will and resolve to act to stop it.  The American people are more resigned than I ever could have imagined possible.

So what is the answer?  I wish I knew.  I do think that we need to remind each other where we came from, what we’re made of and what our responsibilities as citizens are.  Paul Revere, a commenter on this site, suggested that we show our stuff on July 4th and pass out the Declaration of Independence at parades and gatherings.  I think that’s a great idea, we must re-educate our fellow citizens of what it means to be an American.  It doesn’t mean adopting an identity that involves passive acts of patriotism like slapping a magnetic yellow ribbon on our car, hanging the flag in front of our house and co-operating with the government by giving up our rights.  It means being independent, informed and active in protecting our rights and our country.  We are a country founded on sound principles.  If we abandon those principles, we are no longer the country we were meant to be and we become something altogether different.

If we love our country, truly love it, then we must act like we are the America we want to be.  We are all in this together, whether we like it or not, and that means it is up to those of us who understand the gravity of the situation, to convince the rest that we must do better than blindly follow our leader toward destruction (remember the contempt that we had for societies that did just that when we were learning history in school?).  Perhaps if we start by reminding them what we once were, they will be able to see how far we have fallen and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be willing to fight alongside us.  We should at least give it a shot.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We’ve Already Allowed Too Much

Bush has taken our right to privacy away and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do about it. His power is so great that he is accountable to no one. Just think about that for a second. Bush can do anything, legal or illegal, and there isn’t anything or anyone to stop him. He has absolute power and we are now in a position where we must simply trust that he is using that power for good. This is no longer America.

We have been hoping that the press will stop licking Bush’s boots and start looking into his dirty dealings, but if the President can track their phone calls, make sure that no one on the inside gives them information, perhaps even gather incriminating or embarrassing information on the reporters themselves, the chances of that happening become slimmer and slimmer.

We have been hoping that the Republican Congress would be frightened to action by Bush’s low poll numbers and start investigating the NSA secret domestic surveillance program, but chances are, their phone records have been collected too and what do you want to bet that most of them have something they’d rather keep hidden.

We have been hoping that Patrick Fitzgerald will be able to take down Rove and perhaps even Cheney and Bush too in the CIA leak case, but the special prosecutor isn’t special enough to avoid having his calls tracked. Lawyers defending the White House might know everything that Fitzgerald knows through these nefarious means.

We are hoping that the Democrats will take over at least one chamber of Congress in November, but we may see some of the worst dirty tricks ever this campaign season. If the NSA can gather information on Democrats running for office with impunity and turn that information over to the White House who can then pass it along to the political hacks, there may not even be a small chance of anything changing in DC.

The press, like the general public, seems to lack outrage when it comes to this administration and what we have allowed to pass does not bode well for our future. We have allowed elections that defy logic conducted on machines that are as secret as the NSA. We simply don’t know what the will of the people is anymore, there’s no way to measure it. We have allowed for American citizens to be held without trial. We have allowed for political operatives in the White House, with the knowledge of the President and Vice President, to expose a clandestine CIA agent under non-official cover. We have allowed an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation. We have allowed for secret prisons and torture. We have allowed the President to break the law and amass our personal information, calling habits and Internet use in direct violation of our forth amendment rights. A mere five years ago, any one of these things would have been unthinkable and would have sparked public outrage, but today, ALL of these things have been done and there have been NO repercussions.

What else are we going to allow before we say, “enough is enough”? Are we going to allow a pre-emptive attack on Iran? Are we going to sit idly by while we drop tactical nuclear weapons on a country that poses no threat to us? Will we allow more “upset” elections to go unnoticed? Will we continue to allow the erosion of our freedoms? Will we continue to allow a President to spit on our Constitution and claim it doesn’t apply to him?

If the press won’t do anything, the Congress refuses to do anything and our honest public officials can’t do anything about it, that leaves only the people. This President and Vice President must be impeached. We have already allowed too much, if we allow anymore, America will only be a memory and we will have to share in the blame.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Yeah, But Will Rational Play With The Crazies?

“When the border patrol stand up, our National Guard troops will stand down” was what I got out of President Bush’s address on immigration that he gave to the nation earlier tonight. It almost seems as if I’ve heard that before somewhere. If this guy ever came up with an original idea, or even better, a good original idea, I’d fall off my chair and break my butt, as my son is fond of saying.

The President laid out his plan to resolve the immigration problem and his solution involves sending unarmed National Guard troops down to secure the border, a guest worker program, ID cards for immigrant workers, penalties for employers and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that are already here, have put down roots and are willing to pay a fine as well as learn English. It sounds pretty reasonable, except the learning English part, I mean really, if it's not mandatory for the President, it shouldn't be mandatory for immigrants. And then there's the fact that our National Guard is already stretched too thin without putting more stress on them, AND Republicans never actually enforce penalties for employers, AND a guest worker program is problematic, but still, there's nothing too radical in his proposals. Although, I do tend to get nervous when this President starts talking about troops on the borders, people having value regardless of what their “papers” imply, rooting out “others” and ID cards, but that’s just me, I’m always looking three steps down this frightening road.

From a political standpoint, this was a terrible speech for a time when the only approval he’s got a chance of holding onto, is his base of 29%. The timing was good though, got old Rover’s looming indictment and the smoking gun of sorts in the CIA leak case (with Cheney’s handwriting literally all over it) pushed back a bit on the cable news shows. But even that didn’t turn out right because it was a transparently political speech meant to be a diversion. Poor Georgie, he can’t win for losing.

The interesting thing is that I didn’t disagree with everything he had to say, a first for me. We do need to control our borders and we do need to give those that are here illegally a path to citizenship, although I’m not completely sold on a guest worker program. I’m afraid that by allowing an underclass to develop in this country, telling people that they are good enough to mow our lawns but not good enough to be one of us, we will end up creating more problems than we solve. It is a complicated issue and I am willing to hear all sides before I make up my mind, I just hope it is debated in a calm, rational manner, without the racist overtones and without the political pandering that will hinder any real workable solution from ever becoming policy.

I’m curious to see what the reaction will be from Republicans though. Will it be enough to satisfy the Pat Buchanan wing of the Party that is fearful of “others” taking over our country? Will the rich Republicans that love cheap labor be okay with having stiff penalties for hiring illegal immigrants? It seemed to me that Bush’s address was a rare reach across the aisle that might just cause a further erosion of his already decimated approval rating. He has virtually no chance of winning over Democrats at this point, leaving only his racist and greedy base to prop up his Presidency. If they leave him over this and his poll numbers plummet, Bush’s demise could end up being the result of his one and only attempt to be a uniter. Now wouldn’t that be ironic?

Can You Hear Me Now?

It’s one thing to be compliant, but quite another to be spied upon.  I hope that the revelation that reporters are having their call patterns analyzed by the government in an effort to root out “leakers” will result in said reporters doing some actual reporting on just how dangerous this secret NSA surveillance and data mining program is to the stability of our country.  I suspect that might be too tall an order when they can just get new cell phones instead.

Hillary, Oh Hillary, Oh Have You Seen Hillary, Hillary The Right Wing’s Lady?

I've been getting the feeling lately that Slate has joined the “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” what with the neo-con Christopher Hitchens (who since 9/11 seems to have taken to downing his booze with a Kool-Aid chaser) propping up the Bush administration on the pages of Slate every chance he gets. And now, the VRWC seem to be wooing the very woman that coined the phrase, Ms. Hillary Clinton herself.

Let me start by saying that I like Hillary Clinton and I think she would make a fine President. Not because Bush has lowered the bar, but because she is incredibly smart, a shrewd politician, a skilled legislator, has a deep understanding of world affairs and a firm grasp on policy. If we weren’t mired in a war that she supports, hated around the world due to that war and on the brink of becoming a full fledged Corportacracy, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat.

A friend sent me this article from Slate, titled “Republicans For Hillary.” Reading this, on the heels of news that Rupert Murdoch will be hosting a fundraiser for Hillary in June, I instantly went into campaign strategy mode trying to figure out why the Republicans would be talking Hillary up now.

I do think that the Republicans are dying to run against her, for them she's the perfect candidate. If she gets the nomination, no one evokes more hatred from the Republican base than Hillary and her husband, virtually guaranteeing a great turnout for their side. And if she wins, well, she's a war hawk, she's pro-globalization and she's making overtures to the anti-choice crowd so really, Republicans hardly lose if Hillary wins.

Republican strategists are not unaware of the debate going on within the Democratic Party. They have spent the last several decades smearing liberal ideology and re-branding the Democrats as weak and out of touch with mainstream American values. Of course the opposite is true (or at least it used to be), but the Democrats have fallen for the myth and have acted accordingly, leading to loss after loss and a more divided electorate. When the Democrats failed to be the party of the people, they lost the people, and until they become the party of the people again, they may still win elections, but they will win them by the slimmest of margins. Republicans know this and are fearful of a unified Democratic Party that returns to its principles and pushes a progressive agenda that the people so desperately need.

So where does Hillary Clinton fit into all of this? If I were a Republican strategist, I would be chomping at the bit to run against her. She has a liberal background that she has run away from, making it far too easy to scare her into claiming the middle ground that will inspire no one, and lead to a race that will come down to authenticity, character and how comfortable the American voter feels with each candidate (expect to hear the “do you really want a girl in the White House with a war on?” meme). Republicans cannot win on the strength of their ideas, but they can win a popularity contest and that is exactly why we must put up candidates that are strong on progressive ideas, have strength of character and most importantly, buck the corporate establishment and reclaim government for the people. Hillary just won’t do because “fine” is not enough to get elected, and it certainly is not enough to lead us out of the deep dark hole we currently find ourselves in.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The "Meet Your Maker" Package Getaway

A Guest Post By, Mark W. Bradley

Attention all rapture-seeking evangelicals! Don’t miss your last chance to get VIP tickets to the most Apocalyptifying Event of the Millennium! Bring the whole family, and don’t drag your feet (or your knuckles), otherwise you may end up really, really sorry (maybe even “damned” sorry, if you catch our drift!)

: The Lord of Creation’s Holy Shrine Pavilion, conveniently located at the North Pole between Santa’s Workshop and Uncle Sasquatch’s Unicorn Petting Zoo.

: As soon as you can get your dumb ass up there.

: No need to pack warm clothes for this one! What with God’s last- minute decision to liquefy huge portions of the polar ice caps earlier this year, all you’ll need to bring is a full-coverage bathing outfit (no Brazilian butt-floss or homoerotic speedos please), a pair of comfortable sweats, two pairs of dry socks, and a large water-proof trash bag containing all the cash and valuables you can scrape together on short notice…

: First, find your way to Provo, Utah. From there, take I-15 north for 744 miles, then turn west at Hwy 3, and travel 33 miles all the way to Hwy 2. From there, proceed northward for 281 miles to Calgary, then follow the signs to Hwy 43 West. Go 252 miles to the junction with Hwy 97, then drive another 554 miles to Hwy 1. After 235 miles, you’ll arrive at Whitehorse in the Beautiful Yukon Territory. Keep right on going, and in another 600 miles or so you’ll find yourself in Fairbanks. From there, it’s just 75 miles to Livingood, where you’ll leave the pavement and embark on 500-plus miles of gravel road known as the “Dalton Highway”, which will take you to Deadhorse, where the road turns into frozen mud. Upon your arrival, the Exxon-Haliburton Permafrost Van will shuttle you the last six miles to Prudhoe Bay on the banks of the scenic Arctic Ocean. There you’ll board a specially outfitted vintage Egyptian passenger ferry waiting to whisk you away to the breathtakingly beautiful (but rapidly disintegrating) polar ice pack. Before the ferryboat drifts safely (we hope) back to the mainland, the impeccably uniformed (and usually sober) captain will present you with a compass, a set of snowshoes, a detailed ordinance map, and a delicious brownbag lunch to fortify you on your invigorating ice hike (and/or swim) to “Meet your Maker!” And don’t forget, every single item you’ll find to purchase at the North Pole is guaranteed absolutely free for the asking (assuming you can find someone there to ask), and one of our helpful representatives will be on hand to safely store whatever cash you’ve not already dropped in high-priced petrol stations along the way. So just relax, and let us worry about the details…

: Once you and your family arrive at the North Pole, you’ll be surprised at the number of exciting and rewarding activities you’ll have to chose from, including “Crevasse Jumping”, “Steal the Bacon” (Family Edition), “Hypothermic Face-off”, and the ever-popular “Predatory Polar Bear Endurance Marathon.” Based on partially digested diary fragments recently recovered from the entrails of a magnificent 2,000 lb. Ursus Maritimus, a team of anthropologists at the University of Greenland have concluded that it is while undergoing just such an event that most Evangelicals experience an intensely close (but fleeting) bond with their Personal Lord and Savior. Just imagine the adrenaline-spiked mega-rapture involved in that magic moment!

But whatever your recreational preferences, we believe you’re destined to have the time of your life (perhaps even your afterlife). And most importantly, Jesus, Santa, and Uncle Sasquatch will all be there (in spirit) to make sure your stay is memorable, at least until you lose consciousness and the negligible remains of your cerebral cortex are extruded out your ears like tiny grey stalactites…

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

For a little bit about the unrecognized contributions that mothers make to our economy, read “A Layer Cake For Mother’s Day” by Kelpie Wilson.

For a little insight into the market value of motherhood, check out MomSalary.  If we really cared about family values in this country, these checks would be real.

For a little fun, check out the alternate universe where Al Gore is President and America is a prospering nation and a beacon of hope.  In other words, a country a mother could be proud of.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Mother’s Day, with the sun already shining in Seattle, I know I will.  Peace.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bush’s Brain Indicted?!

Jason Leopold of Truth Out has the details of the story that has yet to break in mainstream media, that a Karl Rove indictment in imminent and that Rove has already notified President Bush that he will resign as soon as Patrick Fitzgerald announces the charges.

This has been a long time coming, to say the least, and an announcement of indictments against Karl Rove will be one more blow to the Bush administration’s credibility (that they have any left to lose is mystifying) and with Rove occupied defending himself against criminal charges, hopefully he will be too busy to meddle in the mid-term elections.  Republicans may view this as “just another indictment” and not a big deal, but hopefully Middle America will view it differently.  

This is an administration that is rotten at its core, and the lies peddled to justify an invasion of Iraq were hatched at the highest levels of our government and Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and President Bush used the power of their offices to cover up those lies and it seems clear that they committed crimes in the process.  Libby and Rove will pay a price, hopefully Cheney and Bush will as well.

At the end of the day, this whole case into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to the press is really about the Iraq war.  Lying our country into an immoral war that has claimed the lives of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands Iraqi civilians (not to mention billions of dollars and any moral authority we had as a nation) is the true crime, but the cover-up is what will bring them down.  Libby and Rove are a start, but Cheney and Bush must follow.  Patrick Fitzgerald has taken care of the former, the latter are up to us.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Slip Sliding Away

The new Harris Interactive poll has Bush’s approval rating at 29%! He is rapidly approaching Nixonian numbers, but the most interesting number from the Harris poll is the loss of 13% from Republicans due to Bush’s economic policies. Tax cuts usually produce a boost in approval from the Republican base, so Bush’s victory in getting his latest $70 billion dollar tax giveaway to the rich passed by the Senate yesterday is sure to get his numbers at least back into the 30% range. Or is it?

These new tax cuts are just more of the same, a shifting of the tax burden from those at the top, to those in the middle and taking money away from government at a time when we are running record deficits. Wall Street may like this, but even if the economy is doing well on paper, the American people aren’t feeling any relief and continue to view the economy as shaky. If Bush’s previous tax breaks for the wealthy haven’t improved his poll numbers, it’s doubtful that these will either, in fact, they are likely to drive them further downward as many people are waking up to the idea that this is not only bad fiscal policy, it is downright dangerous.

The Harris poll was taken before the news broke that the NSA domestic spy program, authorized by Bush, is collecting information on millions of Americans with the help of the three largest telecommunications companies. While over half of Americans were okay with warrantless eavesdropping on international telephone calls, data mining of their own personal telephone and Internet habits may provoke a much stronger negative response. Especially when President Bush’s reaction to the breaking story was, “trust me, I’m not breaking the law.” That may have worked when he had widespread support after 9/11, but at 29% approval, it’s pretty clear most of America doesn’t trust him at all.

And there seems to be nothing but bad news on the horizon for Bush. Reporters are staking out the courthouse today in anticipation of a Rove indictment being handed up in the CIA leak case, the FBI raided the home of Kyle “Dusty” Foggo this morning, likely in connection with the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal. Foggo was the number 3 man at the CIA, hand-picked for the position by Porter Goss. And now that over 50 members of Congress have signed on to a full investigation of the NSA domestic spying program, the confirmation of General Hayden as CIA director could get pretty ugly, considering that he is the one who set up the program at the NSA in the first place.

If Bush’s support among Republicans dropped 13% over the last two weeks, there’s no telling how far he will drop over the next two. Bush might want to take a walk down the hall and ask his boss Cheney how it feels to have an approval rating in the teens, it might better prepare him for what looks to be right around the corner. He is the worst President in history and the American people may be on the verge of letting him in on this little secret. It’s about time!

Update: Apparently, I was a little too quick in assuming my fellow Americans would be outraged at the prospect of their personal telephone habits being collected and analyzed by a secret government agency. I guess feeling protected from the hyper-inflated risk of a terrorist attack IS worth sacrificing our Constitutional right to privacy. Just when I think the public is finally waking up, they fall right back to sleep again, or do they? Perhaps I'm just meant to think that they do.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Women Rock!

Jane Hamsher over at firedoglake wrote a great post about women bloggers. It seems we are toiling away along with the men, but none of us have been able to break into the top 100 (although firedoglake is well on the way). As Ms. Hamsher points out, it is not due to lack of support from our male counterparts, they are in fact extremely generous with their help, nor is it because we aren’t good at it. It may just be that we haven’t hit our stride yet, but female voices in politics have always been marginalized to some extent. Just look at the make-up of Congress, The Supreme Court, the White House and of course cable news. They have plenty of women delivering the news, but few women are invited to give their opinions on the pundit shows (except those with terrible opinions like, Peggy Noonan, Ann Coulter and Kate O’Beirne). Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.

I suggest you check out the list of her favorite female bloggers, many of them my favorites too, but I’d add these fine women as well:

Baghdad Burning
Betty Cracker
Gray Does Matter
Mad Melancholic Feminista
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Ravings of a Semi-Sane Mad Woman
Watergate Summer

This is by no means a complete list (often times I don’t know the gender of the blogger) and there are many great women bloggers out there that I just haven’t found yet, if you have some favorites, please share!

Where Did My Tent Go?

I’m all for Party unity, but as I’ve said before, unity requires compromise from both sides. As I see it, the Democratic Party has moved too far to the right that has resulted in a blurring of the lines and contributed to the idea that there isn’t much difference between the two Parties. We, of course, have learned over the last five years that there are very real differences, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the center has been artificially moved to the right. With Democrats poised to make some serious gains in November, it is more important that ever that we work together to make that happen, but it is also critical that we force the center back to the center again.

Targeting Democratic Senators and Representatives that have conservative views that are out of step with the American people and way out of step with the Democratic Party, is a good thing. Sure, it’s better to have Joe Leiberman in the Senate than a moderate Republican, but targeting him in the Primary is exactly what needs to be done. If it’s possible to replace a DINO with a progressive, we should do that, but there’s another reason to vote for Primary challengers to less than satisfactory incumbents. It may very well pull those incumbents back to the center and give them the courage to speak the truth and cast votes out of conviction rather than fear.

The liberals on the left are not trying to divide the Party, we are trying to strengthen it. We are not going to shoot ourselves in the foot by voting for third party candidates that will result in Republican wins. Some will, but more and more of us are choosing to make our Party better rather than abandon it all together. We are taking the advice that our grandmothers gave us, “if you don’t like it, change it,” and the Primaries are the perfect place to do that.

Just because I would like to Leiberman’s seat go to a more progressive candidate (that would better represent Connecticut voters, by the way) doesn’t mean that I am any less committed to a Democratic majority in the Senate than those continuing to prop Senator Leiberman up. We all want the same thing. It’s just that many of us in the left wing of the Party happen to think that Leiberman will be a hindrance to any meaningful investigation into Bush administration misdeeds while his challenger, Ned Lamont, would be of great help. We are looking past the election and are greatly concerned about what will happen once it comes time to govern. So far, the Democrats in Congress have been unwilling to unite and be even a small speed bump on this President’s road to complete and unfettered power, and it is the DINOs, the triangulators and the fearful moderates who most often fail to act in “unity” with the rest of the Party, making them a problem that must be solved.

I believe a “big tent” is what the Democratic Party should be, and I do believe that there is room for all points of view. It’s okay to not agree on abortion, gun control and gay marriage, but there must be a cohesive underlying set of principles that guide our Party and make it easy for us to come to consensus on the other important issues. That is all we are looking for. Liberals haven’t moved, but the tent has and we’re tired of standing on the outside. And rather than join the Party in its current location, on the rocky slope to our right, we’re using our muscle to move the tent back to where it used to be, just a little to the left, in the nice green plain where we can put down roots and grow. It’s nicer over here, plus, it’s where most Americans are making their way. It would be a shame to erect a new tent when the one we have is big enough, just in the wrong place.

I Love My Congressman!

Every time I read about more abuses of power by our current President, I first get angry, then I go looking for what is being done to combat it or, at the very least, bring it to light. Most of the time I find ordinary Americans doing the heavy lifting, bloggers, historians, scientists, a few intrepid reporters, even fewer working columnists and sometimes even the rare politician. But always among those rare politicians, is my own Congressman, Rep. Jim McDermott. In my household, he is honored as the rock star he is, and for the few of you who have similar representation in Congress (Michigan’s 14th district comes to mind), I’m sure you know what I mean.

Why am I choosing to praise my Congressman now? Well, I write him fairly regularly just to say thanks, but late last night I read that the NSA has been conducting extensive data mining on millions of Americans’ communications habits without the proper authorization and that I had switched from the one carrier that had refused to turn over their records. Pretty depressing.

I had switched from Qwest (the only telecommunications company to refuse the NSA the information they wanted without a warrant from the FISA court) over a stupid customer service issue that seemed important at the time, but in retrospect, is nothing compared to what they were willing to do to protect my privacy. Needless to say, I will be calling Qwest in the morning to have my service switched back because, I believe good behavior should be rewarded.

So, after reading this devastating piece of news, I went in search of more information and stumbles across this, a blog post from my Congressman on the Huffington Post. Yes Mr. McDermott, you are right, it is getting cold in Washington DC, where the President’s approval rating is below freezing and the only thing we have to keep us warm are the embers of our charred Constitution. My Congressman says, “In a nation where free speech is the last line of defense against absolute power, they don't want you to know, because the more you know, the worse they look.” Amen to that! So let’s speak freely about their abuses of power and proclaim loudly that, although they may not care for our Constitution, we think it’s pretty swell, and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to protect it. Kicking them to the curb would be a good place to start.