Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Dollar Ain’t What It Used To Be

Since the midterm elections have provided some much needed breathing room for those of us that felt as if the world was crashing down around us, and that a roundup of dissidents in this country was imminent, we now have the luxury of looking at the bigger picture.  The problem is, the big picture still looks pretty bleak.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned about our economy and more specifically, the fairy tales that are being spun around it that seem more like a means for containing panic than an accurate picture of how “healthy” our economy is.  I’m not an economist, but common sense tells me that an economy based on spending and debt cannot remain stable forever and that the fall from the clouds will be painful indeed.  The dollar has hit a 15 year low now and I can’t see how that gets fixed without artificial enhancements that, in the end, are only fingers in the damn, holding off the inevitable.  There is a reason that working Americans have a very different opinion of the economy than the investor class, because we are already feeling the negative effects of a consumer based economy (fewer jobs, lower pay and perhaps most importantly, dwindling hope), but that pain will flow upward at some point.  Our futures are intertwined whether those at the top care to acknowledge it or not.

I really hope that the Democrats start talking about our two-tiered economy and the growing division between the haves and the have-nots, and I hope they talk about it loudly and often.  There are certainly signs that this will be a big issue in the ’08 Presidential election, at least on the Democratic side.  John Edwards was alone in his attention to what he describes as the “two Americas” in ’04, but he was clearly ahead of the curve.  

I’ve heard Jim Webb say that addressing the gap between rich and poor is one of his main priorities once he takes his seat in the Senate, Barak Obama touches on it regularly and it is still the center of a John Edwards bid for President.  I hope this is an indication that the Democrats on the whole may finally be ready to go back to basics and champion the American worker and push a populist agenda.  The disparity of wealth in this country is sickening (and widening at an alarming rate under the Bush administration) and that is no longer just a liberal point of view.  Discussing the economy frankly and openly is not only the right thing to do, it also may prove to be politically advantageous to anyone willing to offer up a realistic picture of where we are, combined with a vision of where we ought to be.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snowed-in In Seattle

Guest Update By Man of American Dissent

It’s funny how less than an inch of snow and a touch of ice can shut down a major American city. As you may have read (or seen on Monday Night Football) we’re in a winter wonderland. LGND is “snowed in” with a spotty internet connection (thanks, Comcast) and some kids who are delighted to have a Snow Day. She’s going to be posting something as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We Have Frostbite From All The Polarization

Earlier this week I was listening to Rush Limbaugh yammer on about the war in Iraq and those that want our troops out of that country. He calls the now 70% or so of us that are against continuing the occupation “the Left” and of course paints us as “America haters.” It must be nice to be Rush Limbaugh (and President Bush) and have the world easily divided into black and white so no thought is required. While I’m happy that Limbaugh thinks the Left in this country is so vast in numbers, his distortions of our motives are simplistic and dangerous.

Rush went on to explain to his audience that the Left is against any use of military force that furthers our national agenda. He claims that we are only for using our military in humanitarian efforts, but not in protecting our national interest. Of course he didn’t discuss the military action in Afghanistan that had nearly unanimous support and goes so far as to say that if the United States had any strategic interest in Darfur (for example if there was oil there), the Left would not be calling for US involvement to help stop the genocide currently taking place. The problem with this kind of rhetoric (besides the fact that it’s completely made up) is that his audience believes him and it only stokes the fires of their hatred of the Left (and who are the Left but 70% of their fellow Americans at this point). His listeners happily call themselves “ditto heads” more than suggesting that they will blindly follow Rush’s lead and believe any crap he shovels out. It has been difficult to listen to right wing radio, not because I disagree with most of what is being said, but because the format and presentation leave no room for thought, let alone discussion.

Polarization of the population is good for the Right, but bad for this country. This president has steered us into dangerous waters and it will take serious thought and reasoned action to get us out of this mess. We no longer have the luxury of simplistic notions of good and evil, black and white, and we need to pull together in order to successfully navigate this world of grey. Yes, we have a strategic interest in a stable Middle East as well as a national interest in energy independence, both of which have been damaged under the “guidance” of this president. The Bush administration has single handedly destabilized the region while simultaneously hindering any progress toward energy independence. Only in the bizzarro black and white world of Rush Limbaugh’s ditto heads can this be laid at the feel of “the Left”.

The American people are not as stupid as the ditto heads, and we voted earlier this month for change. We want our government to work (as in do something other than provide political theater), we want a new direction in Iraq (as opposed to staying the course that is only escalating the violence) and we want real oversight (instead of a rubber stamp Congress that acts only as an extension of the White House). We didn’t vote for more polarization or more of the kind of simplistic thinking that got us here. We understand that the world is complicated, made up almost entirely of shades of gray, and that it will take thought, discussion, differing views and hopefully consensus building in order to solve the problems we are facing. This president, with the help of his lap dog, do-nothing GOP led Congress, have made a terrible mess of things. We can only hope that by restoring the checks and balances so carefully constructed by our founding fathers, we can find some way of cleaning it up, or the very least, mitigating the damage as we extract ourselves from the hell we have created by turning our backs on the principles we were supposed to hold so dear.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Iraqis Have Spoken, But Will We Listen

Several new polls were released today by World Public Opinion and surprise, surprise, the Iraqis (still) want US forces out of their country.

Seven out of ten Iraqis overall—including both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)—say they want the United States to leave within a year.

Those numbers have risen significantly over the last year as the situation on the ground in Iraq has gone from bad to worse. We can argue over whether or not we should have started this war in the first place (but even that argument has quieted down as fewer and fewer of the architects of the policy are willing to defend it) but we can’t waste too much time arguing over whether or not we should leave, only how to go about it. Indications are that the President will attempt to stay the course which means that the Democratic Congress will have to stand up and speak for the majority of Americans that want an end to the occupation and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis that want the same.

The righties, demoralized by their election night loss, are lashing out all over the place, picking up where the White House left off in hurling insults at what they call “the left” but what is really “the middle” these days. Wanting an end to this ill fated occupation is not a fringe idea and those of us pushing for some common sense in our foreign policy to not “hate America” or “want us to lose”, we’re just smart enough to know that that is not possible and instead of punishing the Iraqi people further, we’d rather see those that caused this crisis to be punished instead.

Sure, there are problems that will arise from a US withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the left in this country and the Iraqi people are not unaware of the consequences, most especially the Iraqis living in Baghdad.

Nonetheless, the number of Shias in Baghdad who fear an upsurge in violence if U.S. troops withdraw within too short a time span has risen a dramatic 52 points since the beginning of the year. Six out of ten Shias in Iraq’s capital city (59%) believe that sect-on-sect killings would rise in the event of a speedy U.S. withdrawal. This view contrasts with that of Shias in the rest of Iraq, where a majority (64%) thinks such violence would decline if U.S. troops departed in six months.

The Bush administration has fucked this up royally and that is exactly why we should do exactly the opposite of whatever they propose. This President has no aptitude for problem solving nor the intellectual curiosity necessary to bring about a resolution to the problems he’s created. Bush’s only concern (and the sole purpose of the Baker Commission) is salvaging his legacy. At this point, that is as much a lost cause as “winning” in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Left Has So Much More Fun

Okay, so, I don’t listen to right wing radio, because, well, I’m a liberal and with George Bush in the White House, I don’t need anymore aggravation in my life, but since I’m helping to keep the lights on over at Blather Watch, I felt compelled to listen to a variety of talk radio instead of my standard fare of Air America and The David Goldstein Show. Yesterday, the hot topic on talk radio was simultaneous orgasm for peace. I guess I picked a good day to start.

In case you missed it, there’s this couple in California that is attempting to organize a virtual orgy of sorts, a day (December 22, 2006) where everyone (who can) has sex and reaches orgasm while thinking about world peace. Hell, even if it doesn’t solve the world’s problems, I’m willing to give it a shot. And that right there is the big difference between having a liberal, as opposed to a conservative, view of the world, it’s positive rather than negative, it’s progressive rather than regressive and it’s about attempting to make the world a better place instead of sucking it dry for personal gain.

Rush Limbaugh was incensed by this whole idea, and of course, he had to make it seem as if the event was being organized by Nancy Pelosi, whereas on The Young Turks (my god, I had to listen to the left end of the dial by the end of the day just to feel clean) they made just as much fun of the idea, but instead of being angry about it, their take was, “go forth and orgasm for peace, it certainly can’t hurt.” Right?! When the world is in so much turmoil, what the hell is wrong with trying something positive, even if it is tilting at windmills?

On my first day of listening to talk radio for Blather Watch, I’m glad the talkers were taking on the big issues. Rush actually spent nearly two entire segments on this story and he used it as an example of “who we’ve put in charge of our government.” I guess I should be glad that that’s all he’s got right now. Once the Democrats officially take control of Congress, I’m sure there will be plenty of real and dangerous distortions dripping from his lying lips for the rest of us to untangle.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Money Isn’t The End Of The Trail, It’s Just The Beginning

This story is bigger than a corrupt and greedy Republican that bilked the state of Ohio out of millions of dollars, but the question remains, will anyone take a serious look at Tom Noe’s political activity?

Today, Tom Noe was sentenced to 16 years in prison for theft, forgery, corruption and money laundering but earlier this year he was sentenced to two years on a federal charge of funneling $45k into the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign and that is where the real story lies. In 2004, Noe was rich with money he’d stolen from the state’s workers compensation fund, he was illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign and his wife, Bernadette Noe, was on the board of elections in Lucas county Ohio, where there were significant “irregularities” and possibly fraud in the election results. Coincidence? I think not.

The rot is so deep, it will take decades to piece together the extent of this corrupt Republican Party’s criminal activity, but let’s toast to getting started!

A Fate Worse Than Death?

I’ve agreed to help fellow Blogger Michael Hood keep his blog, Blather Watch, up and running while he’s on vacation in Central America so I will be listening to talk radio more than usual over the next few weeks and I’m giving you all fair warning that it may affect my writing in the weeks to come. Since the midterms, I haven’t been getting my daily dose of outrage, this should clear that problem up in a flash.

I try to stay away from right wing radio, what with all of the hate and none of the facts, but I’m going to do my best to listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and the rest of the cracked nuts in an effort to keep Blather Watch readers informed of the misinformation being disseminated to the masses of (willfully) uninformed right wing radio listeners, so that, as Michael says, they don’t have to. It’s a public service that Michael performs diligently and I guess it’s my turn to (wo)man the dial, so to speak. It could be worse, I could have to read the right wingnut blogs!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

I posted last week my speculation as to why the Democrats were “allowed” to win enough seats to take over Congress, but I missed the most obvious one. Maybe they did fix the election, they just didn’t do a very good job of it.

The exit poll data has now been analyzed, and like 2004, the results don’t match the actual vote returns, but this time it appears that the exit poll data had to be weighted more heavily this time in order to make them work. There is speculation that a bug was installed to skew the count, but it was inserted into the machines a month prior to the election and that changes on the ground during that time made the fix not enough to keep the Republicans in control. I guess there weren’t enough Homeland Security agents available to “lockdown” enough vote counting centers in order to get the “right” result this time.

Studies like this one do not prove conclusively that the election was hacked, but they do shed light on the problems of electronic voting and on our vulnerable election systems as a whole. We really do need an overhaul of the system and we need private businesses out of the equation. We cannot have our votes counted on proprietary software! It should not be up to free and fair election activists to prove that our votes aren’t being counted accurately, it should be up to the private businesses that are making money counting our votes to prove that they are.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Redefining Winning In A No-Win Situation

We’ve been hearing the word “bi-partisan” a lot this past week, but that’s always the case right after an election, but while the word may have meaning to us common folk, it means squat to those in power. The happy talk of working together will be replaced by partisan rancor as soon as James Baker unveils his “plan for victory” in Iraq. The question is, will the Democrats let Bush Jr. take one last stab at saving face or will they refuse to cooperate. There may be political benefit to giving Bush more rope with which to hang himself, but how many American lives are worth sacrificing for a political victory exactly?

As news trickles out from the Baker commission, I get the sense that this entire exercise is more about rehabilitating Bush’s presidency than finding a solution to the crisis we have created in Iraq. John McCain wants to send in more troops and there are rumblings that GW does too. Now that Baker and Cheney are coordinating in the effort, it looks more and more likely that the recommendations out of this commission will, initially at least, allow for one last push. The Generals have been asking for more troops for years, but Bush has been unwilling to take that political blow. Now faced with a Congress that will push back and demand more details on how, exactly, the president plans to “win” this thing, Bush finds himself ready to provide the Generals with what they’ve wanted all along. The only problem is, it’s too late.

So again, what do the Democrats do? They were given the keys to Congress in large part because they suggested (and some stated directly) that they would begin to put an end to the Iraq occupation. If the President wants to increase troop levels, I’m afraid that they are inclined to let him, if for no other reason than to allow the President to dig himself in deeper thus boosting their political standing, but by going along with the President on this one, they will be held responsible for each and every casualty we suffer as a result. From the public’s perspective, Bush is just being Bush by staying the course, where Democrats promised a vigorous opposition to Bush’s Iraq policy and if they fail to provide that, they will be viewed as failures.

What the Democrats must recognize is that the White House strategy at this point is to put the Democratic Congress in a no win situation. If they oppose Bush’s “strategy to win” especially when it is seconded by Baker and crew, they are preventing us winning in Iraq. And if they go the extra step and refuse to fund the war (an act I have no faith they would even entertain) they are putting our soldiers at risk. With Democrats still wary of showing any real spine (or conviction), it’s almost a foregone conclusion that they will opt out of making any real decision at all. That way, if the President succeeds, they were part of the solution and if he fails, they weren’t part of the problem. That may work for them politically, but morally, it’s more than a little questionable. Political fear on the part of the Democrats is how we got into this mess in the first place, and political courage is the only way out.

There isn’t a good solution to the mess we’ve created in Iraq, only finding the least repugnant option that will allow some semblance of stability. The Bush administration seems to have given up on the idea of democracy in Iraq and now will settle for anything short of total chaos. The problem is, this administration has a proven track record of creating chaos and has shown no ability to work with others or solve anything. Sending in more American troops will only escalate the violence. Until the effort to cobble together some sort of peace in Iraq is internationalized and includes the countries with the greatest influence in Iraq (Iran and Syria), there is no end in sight. We could send in an additional 20,000 troops each month and all we will accomplish is more death, more destruction and ensure that anti-Americanism spreads like wildfire. That may bode well for the Democrat’s chances of taking the White House in ’08, but it seems like an awfully high price to pay for a political victory.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach, That Is The Question

I have argued on this blog almost from the very first post that we need to impeach George W. Bush.  He has flagrantly violated our constitution, lied to Congress and the American people and has violated international law in the execution of his war of choice.  The only impeachable offense he hasn’t been caught perpetrating is getting a blowjob in the oval office.  The case for impeachment is not based in retribution for impeaching one of ours, it’s about being true to our constitution and proclaiming to the world that the rule of law matters, that we are a civil society and that no one, not even the president, is above the law.  It is also critical to send a message to all future presidents that we have no tolerance for the subversion of our founding documents and principles, and extra-constitutional powers cannot be claimed by the Executive Branch without it meaning the end of your presidency.

When Nancy Pelosi came out before the election and stated firmly that the Democrats, if they took over Congress, would not seek impeachment of this president, I was extremely angry.  How could she take impeachment off of the table?  How could she decide, before ever seeing the evidence, that impeachment is not warranted?  I understand that she made a calculated move to help her fellow Democrats win in tight races across the country, but I think she went farther than she needed to go.

All that said, I am not in a hurry to impeach this President.  I think it was easy to shout from the rooftops that Bush needed to be impeached when there was no hope or possibility that it would actually happen.  Now that it’s possible, we have more than just impeachment to consider.

If the Democrats are to retain control of Congress and set up a win for the Presidency in ’08, they have to have more than impeachment to offer.  Now that the situation isn’t hopeless and there is a chance to really start solving our national problems, I want that effort to be in the forefront.  I want Democrats to start passing legislation that will really help working Americans, that will start solving our healthcare crisis and that will help relieve some of the pressure that most Americans are feeling.  The Democrats must show, clearly, that they are capable of solving problems and by making the President veto good legislation that has the support of the people, they will have the added bonus of exposing the GOP as being callous to the challenges faced by the American people.  That is the perfect setup for the Democrats to take the White House in two years, and that is the only way that we will have even a small chance of repairing the damage the GOP has wrought over the last six years.

Please do not misunderstand me, I am still in favor of getting the impeachment ball rolling.  I want John Conyers to start his investigation and I want the subpoenas to start rolling out.  I want to watch the hearings on CSPAN, I want the truth to make it to the American people and I want the public pressure (and disgust and anger) to swell to the point that Nancy Pelosi’s promise becomes impossible to keep, but there are two tracks and both trains need to keep moving forward.  The current GOP led Congress was unable and unwilling to get any real work done and showed that they were incapable of doing more than one thing at a time (amending our Constitution to protect the flag and marriage being most important of course).  The new Democratic Congress must put them to shame and pursue an agenda that will make our lives better while simultaneously ferreting out the truth.  Once the truth is exposed, the question of impeachment becomes, as the Vice President is fond of saying, a no-brainer.

Says Who?

Anonymous sourcing has become an epidemic in traditional media reporting and it is making it more and more difficult to decipher the news.  Today, I read a report from Reuters that quoted a “senior US government official” who puts forth the idea that a preemptive strike on Iran by the US or “another country in the region” is likely in the future.  Now, how are we supposed to read that and have any confidence that this information is accurate let alone decipher what it means when we know nothing about this person other than the fact that they work for our government?  

Reuters didn’t cite a “senior White House official” or “senior Pentagon official” but rather just a government official, so I guess it’s possible that this report is based on a conversation a reporter had with an aide at the EPA or someone from the Department of Transportation, hell, it could have been an official from the office of Faith Based Initiatives for all we know.  Knowing who is providing information for a news story is important, yet reporters seem to have abandoned the idea that their job is to inform the public.  The overuse of anonymous sourcing has turned news reporting into mere gossip (or worse, propaganda), and we need more than that to truly be an informed citizenry capable of engaging productively with our government.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We Are Not As Conservative As Our Government Has Been

Just because the media has become dominated by conservative voices and the political debate has been controlled by right wing politicians doesn’t necessarily mean that the American public has become more conservative. There has been a distinct shift in attitude toward fiscal responsibility, which used to be a cornerstone of conservative ideology, but now even that is more the domain of Democrats than the fiscally irresponsible Republicans that have been leading this country into debt. And on social issues, we as a society have come along way even if the political debate has not adequately reflected that.

Traditional media have been trying to suggest that the Democratic wins last week do not suggest a shift in the mood of the public, hell, even Joe Lieberman is trying to sell that whopper. And by the way, what the hell is wrong with the voters of Connecticut that they would send this ass back to the Senate just so that he can play spoiler and spoiled brat?! Lieberman is more conservative than many Republicans and now he is going to attempt to pull the Democratic Party to the right and the first time the delegation pisses him off, he’s likely to jump ship and become a Republican despite every promise to the contrary. Lieberman is out of step with the Party and his stance on the war is out of step with the American people, it’s infuriating that he now has the power to decide which Party controls the Senate.

Anyway, this election was a referendum on right wing rule in this country and no matter how the other side tries to spin it, the Democrats DID win and we ARE taking our country back and WILL start to reshape our government to better reflect the attitudes and priorities of Middle America. The idea that this war was a mistake is a majority opinion. That we should have universal healthcare is a majority opinion. That we should pursue alternative sources of energy is a majority opinion. Protecting the environment and attempting to reverse global warming is what the majority of the country wants. The Republicans have been on the wrong side of all of these issues, so to say that the country has shifted to the right is simply ridiculous, the Republicans are out of step (by a mile or two) with the American people and that is why we voted to give Democrats an opportunity to fix what the Republicans have broken, namely our government.

The majority of Americans are working or middle class and we have been getting hosed by the Republicans. Our wages are stagnant, prices are sky high, our public education system is in shambles, we can barely (if at all) afford to send our kids to college, we are racking up a debt that our non-college educated children and grandchildren will be forced to pay off and all the while, the richest 1% is getting tax breaks and corporations are paying less taxes than ever before (which of course means that the rest of us are making up the difference). It’s not at all surprising that the American people chose a new direction, only that it took us so long to cast a vote in our own best interest.

So I will grant that conservatism has taken over in the money realm and that is a good thing. We should have social services and we should provide a safety net for our citizens but we should make sure that our government runs those programs responsibly and in a way that provides the maximum benefit, and that’s what Democrats have learned and what Republicans don’t give a shit about. As far as social issues go, we have come a long way even if progress is slower than many of us would like. Fewer and fewer people each year care about gay marriage and at some point, it will become the law of the land. This country, as a whole, is not comfortable discrimination because fundamentally we believe in expanding freedom and facilitating progress. We have made some bad choices and we have allowed a small minority of regressive thinkers to take control of the debate simply because they were willing to scream louder and they were given all of the microphones, but just because their voices drowned out the rest, doesn’t make them right or even representative of the majority. It’s not that the people of this country need to move to the left so much as we need our representatives in government to move over and meet us where we already are.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yippee, We Have A Government Again!

There are many things that contributed to last weeks tidal wave for the Democrats, a riled up base, Republicans sick of the corruption within their own Party, the quagmire that is Iraq, but I can’t help but think that the images of Republican leaders refusing to do the job they were elected to do and instead using Capitol Hill and the White House as campaign props were in the minds of the voters when we cast our ballots last week. The image of President Bush flying in from his vacation in Crawford to sign a bill to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo juxtaposed with his singing and campaigning while Americans drowned in New Orleans had to have had an affect. Republican Congressmen pontificating on the House floor about flag burning amendments and gay marriage amendments while we have a healthcare crisis in this country showed even their base how ridiculous the Republican Party has become. Yes, GOP leaders hate government, and many rank and file Republican voters do too, but we all, regardless of Party affiliation, recognize that we need government in a crisis and that our government has been AWOL for each and every crises we have faced in the last six years.

Grover Norquist explained the conservative agenda perfectly when he said he wanted to get government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”. Well, they didn’t manage that exactly, but they did bloat government to the point that it has broken its moorings and is now bobbing around aimlessly in open waters. The GOP did manage to get the majority of Americans to hate government, but I don’t think they counted on having that anger turned on them directly. Sometimes we Americans allow ourselves to be fooled, but sometimes we decide to see through the crap and actually punish those responsible. That, in a nutshell, is what happened last Tuesday. Despite the Republicans attempts to obfuscate the facts, smear the Democrats and run from their stark record of doing nothing for the last two years, the voters recognized who was to blame for our current sorry state, and acted accordingly.

It feels like the conservative swing in this country is over, but now it is up to the Democrats in Congress to give us a good push off in the other direction. I like the plan for the first 100 hours, raising the minimum wage, instituting lobbying reform, enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations, cutting student loan interest rates, lowering prescription drug prices for Medicare, and after that, rolling back tax cuts for the rich and reinstituting “pay as you go” meaning that whenever you add something to the budget, you have show where that money is going to come from. In short, the Democrats are going to make sure that government works again and that it works for the majority of this country and not just for the benefit of the richest 1%. I know, it’s hard to remember back when the government worked for the people. It will certainly take some getting used to.

Friday, November 10, 2006

And Things Just Keep Getting Better

I don’t think I realized just how tense I have been for the last few years. The Republicans were in control of every single branch of government and they were using their grip on power not just to implement their agenda, but also to beat all dissenting voices into submission and to turn our national treasury into their own personal bank. There has been so much corruption, so much bullying and so much fear mongering that I think it had taken a greater toll on all of us than we ever imagined. I feel like I can breath easy for the first time in longer than I care to admit.

Watching Rumsfeld get the axe, and have to stand there in front of the camera while it was done, was a joy I will never forget and the reports that Cheney was pissed off at being left out of the decision, made it all the more sweet. Now that Rumsfeld will soon be without the protection of his office, perhaps he will be held accountable for the abuse that was meted out in Iraq on his (and Alberto Gonzales’s) orders. It looks like Germany will take the first stab at it, as documents are set to be filed next week on behalf of eleven Iraqis that were held in Abu Ghraib prison along with one Saudi held at Gitmo, that will call for an investigation into the role played by Rumsfeld, Tenet, Gonzales and other US officials in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. I hope this is a sign that we are now entering the age of consequences.

I am a bit surprised that things are happening so fast. I’m used to waking up to one bad headline after another, so imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to news that John Bolton is on his way out as well! I knew that things would be better if the Democrats took over, I just didn’t know we would see results this fast. John Bolton is a disaster and the absolute worst person to have representing us at the United Nations at a time (well, any time is a bad time for Bolton) when we need the world with us like never before.

And have you noticed the abrupt change in the discussion about Iraq? Just last week it was, “the only choice is victory in Iraq.” Now suddenly we have everyone, from all points on the political spectrum, in agreement that there is no winning in Iraq. The policy was a mistake from the beginning and every day since the initial invasion has just made the situation worse. We never should have gone in there and now that we’re there, in the middle of a civil war (that we started), the only thing left to do is mitigate the damage we will cause by leaving. As hard as it is to accept, we fucked up and we can’t fix it. We destroyed a country, sparked a civil war and we can’t put the genie back in the bottle, all we can do is get out of the way. Morally, what we have done is reprehensible, but logistically, there is no way to fix Iraq and our moral authority will only be restored with time (along with much hard work and many apologies).

The Bush administration led by the neo-cons wanted to transform the Middle East. Well, mission accomplished. Iran and Syria are rapidly gaining power and authority in the region (and just to round out the “axis of evil” North Korea now has a thriving nuclear program) and any resolution to the nightmare in Iraq will require their help. They’ve transformed the Middle East alright, but I doubt that this is what they had in mind. By disparaging our allies, disengaging from our “enemies” and shunning (even sabotaging) diplomacy, we have found ourselves here, despised by the rest of the world at the very moment we need their help to get us out of the mess we’ve created. I hope that this election goes some small distance in showing the rest of the world that the American people aren’t quite as ugly as the public face we’ve been presenting to the world for the past six years. I think we’re ready to admit our mistake and more than ready to start the hard work of salvaging Iraq and rebuilding our reputation, but the question remains, will the Bush administration continue to be a hindrance to that process or will the Democrats begin to engage the American people and use their newfound power to put us on a better track? Things are looking up, but this hole is pretty deep.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Where Did All The Fish Go?

Now that I’ve had a few days to absorb the results of the midterm election, I’ve come to a few conclusions.  First of all, there is something fishy about it, namely the absence of a fishy smell.  I feel like I’m standing on Fisherman’s Wharf and I can smell the San Francisco values, but I can’t smell the fish.  Like the good individual speculative investigator that I am, I’ve come up with a theory that might explain it.  Hey, now that I feel like we’ve got a little breathing room and are not waking up each day to a situation exponentially worse than the day before, I have the luxury of looking at the big picture and asking myself why things are happening, rather than simply reacting to what is happening.  Much more fun, if you ask me.

There have long been reports that the Bush Sr. crowd is disgusted with the Bush Jr. crowd, the big difference between them being that the 41s are pragmatists and never take their eyes off of the money filled ball whereas the 43s are ideologues and can play the game without a ball since they live in a world of make believe.  Daddy has let Junior play his game, but now that it’s interfering with papa’s money making ability, Junior’s been shut down.  George W. described the election as “a thumpin’” but to me, a thumpin’ is what you get from your dad when you’ve been stupid, a thump on the head as you’re sent to your room.  I think Junior was fully convinced that Rove had taken care of things (thus the petulant outburst at the press conference yesterday suggesting publicly that Rove didn’t do his job), but perhaps Rove was overruled by the big boys.  I have no doubt the power to manipulate our elections exists, I’m just not sure exactly why that power wasn’t exercised this time around.  I’m willing to entertain the idea that it never was, but I have yet to be convinced of that and rather than simply relying on faith, we’d be better off securing our elections once and for all.

I had a discussion with Man of American Dissents about this last night, and his take is that Rove is willing to manipulate an election to save his boy, but not on behalf of a bunch of lapdogs, sorry, I mean Congressmen.  I have a different take.  I think that either Rove tried or, he was cut off at the knees before he had the chance.  One possibility is that Rove did manipulate the numbers, but the big boys changed them back.  But more likely is that Rove was sent a message early on in the day that changing the outcome was not going to happen and I think that that message was sent through the television coverage.

I noticed early on Election Day that the networks had started releasing exit poll data, not on the individual races, but on the general questions posed to the voters.  I was shocked when they started reporting that a third of white Evangelicals had cited the war and corruption as their main concerns.  Not shocked that they felt that way, but shocked that the information was made public.  As soon as Rove heard that, he had to know that his cover was blown.  Without the lie of the “values voters”, what could possibly explain the GOP holding on to control of Congress?  Perhaps a deal was struck, “don’t impeach my boy and we’ll keep our thumb off the scale.”  It makes at least as much sense as this election going smoothly for no apparent reason, I mean really, what has changed over the last two years that would explain the complete absence of “glitches” that exclusively favor one side and exit polls that are suddenly right again?  

Of course there is one positive change since our last election and one I would love to attribute this clean election to.  There are more people aware of the problem than two years ago and citizen activists were out in full force this time, ready to document any problems with this election.  I’d like to believe that that alone could have scared Rove off, and whether or not it did, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those diligently fighting to protect the most basic of our democratic rights, the right to have our vote counted openly and accurately.

Clearly things are changing in the White House.  Rumsfeld is out, Cheney is being swept aside and Daddies boys are coming in to clean up the mess.  I never thought I’d be happy to see James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and Robert Gates, but one thing I’ve learned over the last six years is that old school Republicans are not nearly as dangerous as this new breed of neo-con lunatics that have run this country into the ground.  As much as I despise George H.W. Bush, I’m thrilled that he has decided to take over for his delusional son.  The devil you know and all that.

Of course all of this is speculation and, in the end, isn’t nearly as important as the fact that we now have the opportunity to start making progress toward repairing the damage this administration has done.  I’m thrilled that we have restored some semblance of checks and balances to our government and I couldn’t be happier that the voters of this country are united in our desire for change.  I have been wondering for some time when enough would be enough, and it appears that we’ve finally reached that point.  And the best part is, we made our will known at the polls and our will is about to be implemented.  That hasn’t happened since George W. came on the scene.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I’m Not Used To Feeling This Way The Day After An Election!

Wow, I’m still a little bit in shock that this election went relatively smoothly and fell pretty much as predicted.  I have said all along that close races weren’t an option for the Democrats, that they had to win big, and win big they did in House races at least, but I’m still stunned that the close Senate races went for the Democrats.  Not that the people voted to put Democrats in office, but that there was no attempt to skew the close races.  And amazingly (or not) the exit polls were accurate this time, but that only solidifies my belief that the exit polls were right last time too.

On the bright side, I am happy to admit that my pessimism about the mid-terms being conducted in a fair and open manner was, while not without warrant, certainly wrong.  The people of this country have spoken and they are ready for a new direction, on Iraq, on energy policy and most certainly on corruption in our Capitol.  This was a national election and the voters spoke with one voice, we need oversight and we need action.  A Democratic Congress better be ready to deliver.  In this, the honeymoon period, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Locally and nationally there is still a question as to how the election went.  Darcy Burner is currently trailing Dave Reichert, but all the votes haven’t been counted yet and it’s still too close to call.  The Senate race in Virginia is also a squeaker and Senator Allen is in the process of figuring out if a recount makes sense for him.  I am not one to join the chorus of those encouraging Senator Allen to concede.  If the result is determined within one half of one percent, he is well within his rights to ask for a recount, regardless of how difficult it will be for him make up the difference.  I would always rather wait for a result if it means all of the votes will be counted.  I hope Darcy Burner takes her time in making her decision as well.  We aren’t anywhere near a recount in that race at this point, we still need to make sure that all of the ballots are counted for the first time.

My head is still a little fuzzy at this point, too much activity while already sick, and I’m not yet clear on what I think all of this means, but I do know that I’m happy and optimistic for a change.  There is so much work to do, so many truths to get at and so many messes to fix, but at least there is a chance to start doing that hard work now.  Donald Rumsfeld is gone, the President has strayed a bit from Cheney’s psychotic side and we are about to have the first female Speaker of the House.  I’d say this election has already started to change the country for the better.  Tomorrow I might even wake up and search for more signs that perhaps our long national nightmare is coming to a close.  What a nice change that will be.

Monday, November 06, 2006

All That’s Left Now Is The Voting

Make those calls, walk your neighborhood and contact a campaign near you and offer to do whatever you can tomorrow. Getting out the vote (and voting yourself obviously) is all that is left to do. Man Of American Dissent has been diligently making calls into key districts all evening through Call For Change (in between taking care of the rugrats and cooking dinner for me, his sniffly, cranky, sick wife). I probably won’t be posting until late in the day Tuesday since I will be volunteering for the Darcy Burner campaign and driving people to the polls in this nasty Seattle weather. I hope Election Day 2006 will be one to remember, and not in a bad way. More as the results start coming in.

Oh, and if you or anyone you know has problems voting, don’t leave your polling place and call 1.888.DEM.VOTE (thanks for the tip Miss Betty Cracker) and Howard Dean promises that someone will come to your polling place and help.

Happy Voting!

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

I was on the David Goldstein Show on KIRO radio last night, along with fellow local bloggers Will and Carl, for a roundtable discussion on Tuesdays election and we were asked at the end of the segment to give our predictions, and I just couldn’t do it. I have read the polls, I have seen the general numbers and the numbers on individual races and I know that a big wave is coming, that the Democrats will likely sweep into the House AND the Senate on Tuesday, but I’m just not sure that it will actually pan out that way.

I was shocked this morning (well, this afternoon really, I’m a bit under the weather today which could be a sign that the Democrats will win, since I’ll be too sick to attend any parties!) to find that Nancy Pelosi expressed concern over a fair counting of the votes on Tuesday. "That is the only variable in this," Pelosi said. "Will we have an honest count?'' At this point, she’s exactly right, it is the only variable, with a level playing field, it’s a no-brainer, the Democrats win, and win big. I hope this means that she, and other Democrats will be up for the fight if there are clear signs that the count wasn’t honest. They have, in the past, been too afraid to touch the issue and instead have been all too quick to go straight to self-flagellation and cries of “where did we go wrong?”

On the bright side, Move On has built an incredible tool for their Call For Change program that will be helpful in turning out the vote in all future elections (if you haven’t signed up, do so now and make a few calls). This is exactly the kind of infrastructure and coordinated effort that the left has been slow to implement. Now, any time there is an important race anywhere in the country, we can all pitch in from our own homes and I’m hopeful that Howard Dean’s leadership at the DNC will help implement the 50 State Strategy and build up the state and local Parties in a way that will allow Democrats to be competitive in every single district in the country. We have the strength of ideas, we just need the infrastructure to back it up.

The big question is, will the Democrats take over tomorrow? If there’s no hanky panky, most definitely they will. And if they do, I will have a whole new slew of things to write. As much as I’ve needed to rail against the Bush administration, I’d much rather be holding the Democrats feet to the fire. If they fail to take control of even one chamber of Congress, I’m not sure what I will do. I’m prepared for that eventuality. However remote it should be, it still feels like a distinct possibility. I’m tired of writing about our slide toward fascism, it would be great to focus on moving back in a positive direction, even if we are at the very bottom of the canyon looking up.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday Round Up

There is still so much that can be done between now and Tuesday to make sure that we get people to the polls. Volunteer to knock on doors for a campaign near you or go to Call For Change and sign up to make GOTV phone calls. They system was set up by Move On and they have developed tools that make it easy to participate and make calls to your fellow citizens around the country and encourage them to vote. The best part is, you can make the calls from home and for a short session or a long one, whatever works for you. Call For Change is targeting Democrats that vote in Presidential elections, but that don’t generally vote in the off years. These are easy calls because they’re on our side, they just need to be prodded to the polls and it’s not hard to convince people how important that is right now.

Lynn Allen has written another great piece on Darcy Burner over at Evergreen Politics. Check it out and spread the word to anyone you know that lives in Washington’s 8th district.

I’m linking to this one because it’s just fun. David Goldstein at Horse’s Ass asks the all important question, “Dave Reichert: Liar Or Asshole?” I doubt the answer will surprise you.

The neo-cons throw the Bush administration under the bus in this months Vanity Fair. They admit that they never should have gone into Iraq, but they perpetuate the myth that it was sound policy that was just bungled by Bush. I don’t buy their line of reasoning, but that they’d torpedo the President now is still a good thing, whatever their intentions may be. I certainly don’t give them any credit for being somewhat honest now, but hey, the pile on can only help.

And even Lou Dobbs expresses outrage at the insecurity of our elections. That we vote on privately owned machines that have no paper trail and that can be altered in an instant by anyone with a blackberry should have us all up in arms. But I’m sure the thousands of Diebold employees and technicians that have spread across the country in preparation for the upcoming election on Tuesday are all (each and every one of them) stand up folks with no loyalty to the company that signs their paycheck and instead are all well informed, well intentioned, super patriots whose only concern is protecting democracy. It’s so comforting to have a handful of citizens acting as agents of their company in full control of our election results.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Paving The Road To Hell

The Posse Comitatus Act was signed into law at the end of reconstruction in order to end the practice of using the military for domestic law enforcement (especially the supervision of elections) in the former confederate states. Why then, would we do away with it now? Call me crazy, but I don’t think this administration does anything without a sinister motive. I challenge any of you to come up with a benign reason for making significant changes to The Insurrection Act and effectively doing away with posse comitatus at this particular point in our history. I’m not being facetious, I’d actually love for someone to give me a reasonable explanation that will keep my head from spontaneously exploding! And don’t even bother with the “war on terra” angle, the Posse Comitatus Act was not hindering the military (unfortunately) from providing support to Homeland Security.

The only statement I could find from any of our representatives in Congress decrying the changes to the Insurrection Act and the doing away with posse comitatus was from Senator Patrick Leahy:

Not only does this Conference Report unfortunately drop the Empowerment amendment entirely, it adopts some incredible changes to the Insurrection Act, which would give the President more authority to declare martial law. Let me repeat: The National Guard Empowerment Act, which is designed to make it more likely for the National Guard to remain in State control, is dropped from this conference report in favor of provisions making it easier to usurp the Governors control and making it more likely that the President will take control of the Guard and the active military operating in the States.

The changes to the Insurrection Act will allow the President to use the military, including the National Guard, to carry out law enforcement activities without the consent of a governor. When the Insurrection Act is invoked posse comitatus does not apply. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy, and it is for that reason that the Insurrection Act has only been invoked on three — three — in recent history. The implications of changing the Act are enormous, but this change was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study. Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.

Not only did Bush gleefully sign this bill into law, he of course added a signing statement that deems all provisions that require accountability to Congress, “advisory in nature.” In other words, he will do what he damn well pleases and maybe let Congress in on it, after the fact. Now, we’ve gone over this before, Bush isn’t Hitler, but he is using the very same legislative maneuvers to guarantee himself absolute power, and power is a finite resource. When one person grabs more than his fair share, it comes at the expense of someone (or everyone) else. So let’s go through this again.

We no longer have the right to privacy in our homes and papers and the Bush government spying on Americans is okay. We have an overly broad definition of what an “enemy combatant” is and the term can even be applied to American citizens. We have repealed habeas corpus so if we are deemed an “enemy combatant” we have no legal means to challenge the validity of the charges against us. And let us not forget that torture is a perfectly acceptable activity while we are unjustly incarcerated. Now, we have cleared the way for our own military to be used against us. Who in the hell can still recognize America in all of this?

Michael Hirsh asks in Newsweek this week if America has lost her luck. I don’t know about luck, but we have certainly lost our mind if we are going to sit back quietly and watch as our entire history is flushed down the toilet by a man who can’t even understand the subtle nuances of a joke, let alone the delicate balance our forefathers took great pains to strike in our constitution. Are there really any citizens left in this country that would rather choose obedience to this lackluster man posing as a leader over loyalty to this (once) great country of ours?! Instead of waiting around for lady luck to grace us with a visit, I think it’s time we made some of our own.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Quarantining The News

Are you ready for the Bizzaro world elections next Tuesday? Our corporate owned (by a handful of people) media has set up a Quarantine room for election night where all of the exit polls will be poured over, but no information will leave the room until it matches the actual returns. Sound familiar? This administration is quite deft at fixing the facts to fit the policy. An election is small potatoes by comparison.

Remember 2004, when all of the exit polling showed Kerry winning handily until the exit polls were changed to fit the “unbelievable” last minute surge for George W. Bush? Well, that won’t happen this time, our “news” media is making sure of that. This time, none of the exit polling will see the light of day until they are certain that it matches the results coming in. They don’t want to accidentally reveal information that might suggest the election was tampered with. So what if exit polling is how we monitor elections around the world to make sure there’s no hanky panky? If the shoe doesn’t fit, stretch it until it does. In this story, Cinderella doesn’t marry the Prince, instead, it’s the ugly step sister that wins the day.

I wonder if Keith Olbermann will be allowed anywhere near a camera on election night? I have this image of Olbermann losing his shit on air as the news comes down that Republicans are unexpectedly winning seats all across the country. Will he start to visibly shake when Chris Matthews starts trumpeting the “values voters” and the superior “ground game” of the Republicans? Will he throw something at Chris’s marshmallow head when he cites John Kerry’s remarks this week, as the reason each and every tight race is magically falling in the GOP column?

There is plausibility and then there’s reality. The reality is, this IS a nationalized election, it IS a referendum on Bush and his failed policies and it IS about the disastrous occupation of Iraq. There aren’t enough Evangelicals still in the Bush camp to pull this one out. Not only do the numbers not work EVEN IF every single Evangelical in the country voted Republican, the Bush administration has alienated a large segment of their religious base by disparaging them behind their backs.

Before you accept the validity of a Republican win next Tuesday, keep a couple of things in mind. When the Republicans Revolution swept into DC in 1992, generic polls had them up by 7 percentage points. Today, the Democrats are up by as much at 15 percentage points. Yes, there has been re-districting that heavily favors Republicans, but that is a monstrous lead, and the less publicized side effect of the GOP gerrymandering is that more seats are competitive and that doesn’t bode well for their side right now.

For me, it’s simple, the Bush administration has committed crimes of which they cannot allow vigorous investigation. That is one hell of a motivator, and what in their history suggests that they wouldn’t resort to criminal behavior to stay in power? In fact, all evidence is to the contrary. The infrastructure for rigged elections is in place, privately owned voting machines that have no paper trail, exit polls that are weighted after the fact to fit the “actual” vote returns and a corporate media with a dog in the fight. They may not have decided to use it yet, but that it’s there is enough to cast doubt on any more “unbelievable” GOP wins.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Now It’s Time To Get In The Streets

Now that we have passed the point where contributing money to campaigns is the best use of our resources, it is time to get boots on the ground (if you haven’t already) and volunteer to get out the vote in your district.  Knocking on doors is the most effective way to reach people, so get out there!  Volunteer to knock on doors in your own neighborhood if you can, and if your home district is somewhat safe (like mine here in Seattle) go to a district nearby where they need the help more.  Second best is making phone calls, so go sign up with any campaign or organization that is working to get out the vote.

If you live in the Seattle area, call the Darcy Burner campaign (call, don’t email) and they will be more than happy to put you to work.  I will be down at the campaign tomorrow evening making phone calls and hopefully out in the field knocking on doors in the 8th on Sunday (and back on the phones Monday), so maybe I’ll see you there.  And of course, if you live in Eastern Washington, contact the Peter Goldmark campaign (call, don’t email) and help push him over the finish line.  Both of these races are winnable and it is critical that we do everything we can to make sure we turn out the vote.  The GOP talks a lot about their superior ground game and I just don’t buy it.  Let’s prove once and for all that that’s just a load of crap!