Sunday, December 31, 2006

Some Thoughts on the Final Two Years of George W. Bush’s Presidency

A guest post by Mark W. Bradley

Like nervous passengers on a roller-coaster carelessly assembled by a toothless carney bearing a broken crescent wrench in one hand and a canning jar full of homemade amphetamines in the other, the American people are finally starting to notice, with growing alarm, every fissure in every bolt that holds the rickety structure together, even as they fly helplessly past each one at breakneck speed. Perhaps they should have paid a little more attention to the fine print on their Diebold “optical scanner” ballot stubs that reads “Bush Brothers / Barnam and Cheney - Ride at your own risk.” Oh well, three laps behind us now, one lap to go. Hold onto your cookies, and whatever you do, don’t look down. Here are a few random thoughts to distract you during the last few harrowing dips and turns.

1. First of all, I have some advice for all of you aspiring presidential “talent scouts” out there. When it comes time for you to make your obligatory pilgrimage to Yale University with an eye toward selecting the next Intrepid Leader of the Free World, this time around make sure you interview all potential candidates on the “short” bus, not just the guy who sits next to the driver reading comic books out loud, and regaling other passengers with his realistic sounding fart noises. Remember, just because someone starts out with an I.Q. of 72 doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that high forever. A steady diet of cocaine and Jack Daniels, for instance, can kill brain cells at an alarming rate. So while it’s true that every presidential handler worth his or her salt knows how difficult it is to control the behavior of someone whose intelligence qualifies him as “gifted”, it’s also important to remember that this is equally true of Irish Setter puppies who have eaten too much lead paint, for precisely the opposite reason.

2. Secondly, in retrospect, it probably wasn’t such a good idea for Dick Cheney’s elementary school teachers to allow the other children to beat him unconscious with shoes, rocks, and coat-hangers every day at recess. While this may have been standard operating procedure in Wyoming schools at the time, it now seems painfully obvious that such treatment inevitably led to more, not less, anti-social behavior on the part of the future vice-president. In particular, the persistent beatings appear to have fostered in him a significantly diminished capacity for human empathy, coupled with a morbid (yet detached) curiosity regarding the ability of others to withstand the sustained application of protracted and excruciating pain. Perhaps imposing occasional “timeouts” on the misguided boy might have resulted in a less catastrophic outcome for Mr. Cheney in particular, and for Earth and its neighboring planets in general.

3. Thirdly, I have recently come to realize that once a person learns to operate a chainsaw safely and correctly, cutting brush can be a satisfying, manly career for anyone who likes the great outdoors and enjoys strenuous but stress-free physical activity. Assuming you have the requisite aptitude, you, too, could become an “expert” brush cutter in just a few weeks, thus filling up otherwise empty spans of useless time, even as you indulge your energetic mind in endeavors of a more contemplative nature - such as planning exciting bike trips, memorizing clever bits of bathroom humor, and crafting vacuous and unimaginative nicknames for people you barely know.

4. Finally, it strikes me as an unfortunate twist of fate that Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush were deprived of the opportunity to be friends as children. Had they grown up together designing explosive suppositories for hapless animals on the mean streets of Sao Paulo, for instance, they might have become nothing more dangerous than a couple of gun-toting pimps whose combined total of cowardly and ignoble homicides might have numbered in the mere dozens. What an untold blessing that would have been.

Unfortunately (barring any unforeseen good fortune), we’re stuck with these two festering pustules of distemper (Bush and Cheney, I mean) for at least the next two years (perhaps more, should they choose to avail themselves of the ominous machinery of martial law they have so painstakingly constructed over the past six years). Fortunately, we can draw some measure of comfort from the fact that we are all precariously cradled in the misleadingly anthropomorphized imaginary “hands” of an entirely fictitious pseudo-deity whose lack of actual existence, by definition, makes it impossible for him/her/it to give even the tiniest modicum of a shit one way or the other whether we pathetic humans thrive amidst plenty, or perish without a trace.

But try not to think about any of that, and have a nice day.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A New Way Forward Toward A Mystery Goal That Was Only Ever A Mirage

I am eagerly awaiting President Bush’s State of the Union address, first of all because there is always that WTF moment in every one of his speeches to the country (think “switch grass” and “animal human hybrids” and “steroids in baseball” in the midst of a failing war) but secondly, because I’m curious to see if the American people will see through his “new way forward in Iraq”. A slogan is not a policy, but the Bush administration is still ignorant to that fact.

While Tony Snow digested his Christmas turkey, Scott Stanzel took to the podium and gave this nugget to the press:

“President Bush will talk soon to our troops, to the American people and to the Iraqi people about the new way forward in Iraq that will lead to a democratic and unified country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself.”

Still aiming high eh?

Bush and the American people have never exactly been on the same page when it came to Iraq, I mean really, what interest did most of us have in using our children to avenge a failed attempt on his father’s life? But now that we have sparked a civil war in Iraq, and more and more of our young men and women are coming home without their limbs, or worse, in body bags, we recognize that there is no winning while the President still shoots for the moon.

If there was ever a common goal, it was supporting our troops while they are in harms way, but increasingly, the American people recognize that the only way to support our troops is to get them the hell out of Iraq. Meanwhile, rumor has it that Bush will argue for sending in more troops. And why? Certainly not because “winning” in Iraq is possible, or even because it is in our country's best interest, but because he must stay the course to save his legacy. Again, what interest do the rest of us have in that?

It is dangerous to have a President at the helm whose sole concern is his place in history. The troops on the ground in Iraq don’t care about that, nor do the General’s, the Joint Chiefs or the American people. If, in his State of the Union address, President Bush puts his desires above everyone else’s and proposes a troop surge to create a “democratic and unified” Iraq, he will prove that he is unfit to lead. I, for one, can’t wait to see what we do about that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Are The Blinders Finally Coming Off?

My schedule has been a little bit out of whack since the big windstorm here in Seattle last week.  My writing haven, a covered deck in the back yard rigged up with an outlet for my laptop (and a door to the cold outside between me and my kids), was ripped apart and I couldn’t seem to get my rhythm right.  So instead of reading news online, I was watching the cable news shows and although I felt less informed, I was encouraged by what I was seeing and hearing.

Mere weeks ago, the pundits and Bush administration surrogates (and apologists) were still putting a happy face on the Iraq occupation.  What a difference an election makes.  I was watching MSNBC earlier this week and I heard words like “delusional” and “impeachment” used in reference to President Bush, and that was on Joe Scarborough’s show!  There seems to be a fear setting in amongst Republicans and pundits that what those of us on the left have been saying for years, just might be true.  Namely that this President is crazy!  He is an End Times believer and an ideologue and he is in charge of our foreign policy!  It’s about time they started questioning his fitness to lead this country.

Bush’s “go it alone” mentality is no longer viewed as a positive, but rather as a sign that he has become completely isolated and his determination to stay the course in Iraq is increasingly seen as delusional, a word I’ve been using to describe dear leader for a long time.  I never believed that he was “listening to the commanders on the ground” and now it is becoming clear that he wasn’t.  His plan to send more troops into Iraq in an effort to secure (at least) Baghdad is insane and criminal.  No one (except the President) thinks there is any winning in Iraq, and sending more of our young people to die for an effort that is already lost is the same as shooting them himself, and more and more Republicans are wary of being accomplices to that kind of crime.

It was Republicans that made it possible to rid our government of Nixon, and it will be Republicans that finally rid us of Bush.  It’s about time they opened their eyes to the horror that is the Bush presidency and I’m encouraged that they now seem to be as scared as I am by this president’s inability to listen to reason and his determination to listen only to the voices in his head.  If Bush does in fact decide to ignore the advice of his Joint Chiefs, commanders on the ground, former Secretary of State, Congress and 88% of the American people and send more troops into Iraq, will that finally be the last straw?  Please let it be, and let it also destroy the careers of all the politicians, public servants, pundits and “reporters” that refuse to take their fingers out of the holes in the damn.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Everybody’s Doing It

I had to laugh when I read the results of an exhaustive study on the sexual behavior of Americans. Can you believe it? 9 out of 10 Americans surveyed have engaged in premarital sex! It seems ludicrous that we would need to spend time and money to prove what most of us (9 out of 10 apparently) already know, but with the regressive Bush regime ramming abstinence only education down our throats, clearly spending the time and money was necessary.

I watched Tucker Carlson’s show on Wednesday and he led with a teaser on this story, asking the inane question, “What do these results tell us about our society?” I don’t know about you, but the first thing that occurred to me is that we apparently share this country with a bunch of hypocritical Christians. Speaking in round numbers, if approximately 90% of the American people consider themselves Christian, then at best, 80% of them are sinners in the eyes of their God. Forgive the rest of us for not wanting to legislate your particular brand of morality when you can’t even follow it yourselves.

I also heard Mr. Carlson on his show, pushing the meme that liberals hate abstinence education. We don’t hate abstinence education, what we hate is the head in the sand approach of “abstinence ONLY” education when dealing with our children. As a parent, I am all for teaching abstinence first to our teenagers, but ignoring the reality that they are hormonally charged little sex bandits is just plain stupid and we better arm them with as much information as we can about how to protect themselves if (or rather when) they do decide to have sex.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas, Consumerism And Consequences

This time of year is always a bit crazy and this year is no different. I haven’t had much of a chance to blog lately since I’ve been caught up in the Christmas rush. Both my husband and I come from families that love to celebrate Christmas and that love to give and receive presents and even though every year we swear we are going to downsize our next Christmas, it never seems to work out that way. So the last several weeks have been taken up with shopping, creating, wrapping and shipping gifts all across the country. We’re now done with that part, but since we have kids, there’s plenty left to do.

I try to live my life in a way that reflects my view of the world. I drive a biodiesel fueled VW bug that gets about 50 miles to the gallon, I give money to leftist organizations and local charities, I contribute time to causes that are important to me and I try not to consume too much in this consumer driven economy. That last one is the most difficult by far.

This year, we convinced our kids to give up their Christmas presents from us, and instead, use the money to buy gifts for children at their school that don’t have all that they need, let alone what they want. It wasn’t as hard a sell as I thought it was going to be and I was thrilled at the prospect of less shopping and less crap cluttering up my children’s rooms. But Santa Claus still comes to our house so I wasn’t let off the hook completely.

This past week has been crazy in Seattle. We had a major windstorm blow through and it caused damage and power outages all throughout the area. Living in a high-density area (not to mention an affluent zip code, which I hope doesn’t matter but I suspect it does), we were lucky to only be without power for a few hours, but the surrounding areas weren’t so lucky and many (200,000 at last count) are still without power and it’s damn cold here at night. I can’t help but think that the severe weather we’ve experienced this year in Seattle is related to global warming and I keep thinking about what Al Gore described as “the age of consequences” in his film An Inconvenient Truth. If fall is the new winter, I’m a little afraid of what tomorrow, the first day of winter, will bring.

Anyway, back to the Christmas stuff. I was running around, trying to finish up the Christmas shopping, which was a challenge with so many stores without power, and the one thing my kids wanted from Santa was the one thing the stores were out of. I called Man of American Dissent and had him check out what stores were open and what stores had the item in question and had him check the traffic situation as well. Having spent two hours stuck in traffic the night before in what should have been a ten-minute drive, I wasn’t eager to experience that again. When he called me back, the news wasn’t good. Wal-Mart had the item, in exactly the configuration we wanted, for $100 less than anyone else and it was a straight shot, no traffic. I could have killed him for even looking at Wal-Mart as an option.

So I got in my bio-bug, and headed for the freeway. Traffic was at a standstill heading South, but I was heading North to the suburbs on my way to Wal-Mart. As I sat at the light waiting to get on the onramp, I thought about my kids and all that they have. I thought about them giving up their presents and what that meant to them and I thought about diminishing that by rewarding them with stuff purchased from a store that makes their money by crushing small businesses and denying their employees health benefits. And as the light turned green, I envisioned my bio-bug with its “dubya, dubya, dubya dot liar dot con” and “Bio-diesel: No War Required” bumper stickers sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot as I shopped for items my kids don’t need, and I just couldn’t do it. I turned left instead of right, waiting in the traffic with everyone else and slowly made my way to one last store in hopes of finding the one thing my kids wanted at a price that wasn’t so high.

I heard Thom Hartman say once on his radio show that we can’t shame the consumer for playing by the rules. I agree. We have to change the rules instead. We can’t allow the largest employer in the country to skate by not paying their fair share and we can’t continue to be a consumer-based economy, producing nothing, shipping our best jobs overseas and not protecting our workers here at home. It is Congress that needs to act, in providing universal healthcare, in enacting fair trade policy and in eliminating the corporate loopholes that allow corporations like Wal-Mart to thrive at the expense of the rest of us.

I decided a long time ago, never to shop at Wal-Mart again, but they make it so easy to say yes and so damn hard to say no. I almost shelved my principles for an evening because I was caught up in the Christmas consumption frenzy, the same frenzy I swear not to succumb to every year. I’m lucky though, choosing not to shop at Wal-Mart one night only cost me time and money that I could afford to give. If I’m a single mom, living paycheck-to-paycheck, trying to provide for my family on a shoestring budget with a 24 hour Wal-Mart right down the street, I don’t really have the luxury of shopping my principles.

As consumers, we can only do so much, but as citizens and voters we can hold our representatives accountable for what they do and what they don’t do. We can as individuals choose to consume less, but Congress needs to make sure that we, as a country, produce more. We must invest in this country, respect the American worker, enact fair tax policy and negotiate fair trade deals. Where we choose to spend our money matters, but it matters less than who we put in office and what they do once they get there. I won’t shop at Wal-Mart, but what I really want is for Congress to finally do their job and regulate how Wal-Mart does business. Only then will we see any real and lasting change.

Monday, December 18, 2006

You’re Not An Abused Puppy, You’re Majority Leader!

Why would Harry Reid, incoming Senate Majority Leader, even consider providing cover for President Bush? This administration is trying desperately to come up with a plan (any plan) that will allow them to continue to occupy Iraq under the guise of “spreading democracy” that doesn’t look to the public like “staying the course”. The newest idea floating out of the White House is sending more American troops into Baghdad to help quell the civil war that is now in full stride. Even if we had the troops to send, it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good, it would only result in more American lives lost. At this point we have few options left, we can either choose a side in Iraq’s civil war, leave our troops in the middle taking fire from both sides or get the hell out. The American people voted for getting the hell out when they put the Democrats in charge of Congress. Harry Reid better get that straight.

President Bush is floundering, he’s got little or no support from the American people, he’s lost his rubber stamp Congress, not to mention the firewall against investigation of the lead up and execution of this war that the GOP Congress provided. In short, Bush is in trouble and I can’t figure out what Harry Reid gets out of supporting yet another White House fantasy, especially one that includes putting more of our young men and women in harms way.

Even if we didn’t like it, we could at least understand why the Democrats didn’t stand up to the President when they were in the minority, but now that they’ve actually acquired some power, there’s no reason to continue to roll over for this President. Majority Leader Reid better shed his abused dog mentality quickly and get on with what the American people elected the Democrats to do. Force this administration to engage diplomatically with Iraq’s neighbors, negotiate a peace and get our troops out of Iraq! If that doesn’t work, impeach the bastard, but under no circumstances should any more of his hair-brained schemes be met with anything other than condescending laughter. Neuter him and get on with mopping up his mess, but do not pretend that he has anything constructive to contribute. Sending more troops to Iraq is as dumb as it sounds and Harry Reid shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Curious George Grows Curiouser and Curiouser

A guest post by Mark W. Bradley

Now that the arduously compiled findings of the Iraq Study Group have been presented to a grateful nation (and summarily discarded by our decider-in-chief), the American people find themselves eagerly anticipating the next glorious chapter in what is beginning to look like the 21st Century’s answer to the Hundred Years War. Aside from President Bush’s pessimistic projections as to the probable duration of the current conflict, however, it would be a mistake to draw further comparisons between it and the aforementioned medieval war between England and France. The “Dark Lord” Richard Cheney, for example, can hardly be compared to the 14th Century’s “Black Prince” Edward Plantagenet, who was probably responsible for the snuffing of no more than 12,000 innocent lives across the entire length and breadth of France. For the vice-president, that’s nothing more than a moderately successful holiday weekend.

Yet inasmuch as our court-appointed war president is determined to seek any and all expert advice that bolsters his predetermined course of action in the Middle East, it is clearly the patriotic duty of every American to fall-in-line behind the administration and help provide the necessary “facts on the ground” to justify this policy as expeditiously as possible, so that our government can get on with the difficult work of killing everyone in the world who disagrees with it.

With this can-do spirit in mind, I recently asked the 8th graders at the middle school where I teach to come up with as many “facts” as possible to support the president’s strategery in Iraq. I assured the students from the outset that no idea, regardless of how ludicrous it appeared on the surface, would be rejected out-of-hand. I encouraged them to “think outside the box”, and promised extra credit for those who came up with ideas that transcended the bounds of conventional reality.

So without further ado, here are the results of our school’s exhaustive search for a “New Way Forward” in Iraq. A sampling of the proposed solutions contained in this historic document are presented below in simple “Q and A” format, which the children felt would be most user-friendly to the president. Since the spelling and syntax of junior high students tends to be a bit confusing to the uninitiated, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing a few excerpts from the report:

“How to Win the War in Iraq Without Loosing it at the Same Time”
The Students of James Buchanan Middle School
(excerpt from page 7):

Q: The results of the 2006 elections strongly indicate that the American people are in favor of withdrawing our troops from Iraq as soon as possible. How can the president accomplish this goal without seeming to reverse his ongoing policy?

A: President Bush can withdraw any number of troops he chooses from Iraq and still have a force large enough to kill everybody in the country. In fact, the more troops he withdraws, the more he’ll have there! All he has to do is make sure that when he subtracts troops from the total, he subtracts a negative number. For example, if he starts out with a force level of 150,000 troops and then subtracts (-50,000), he’ll still have 200,000 in Iraq! (Thanks to Mrs. Probity’s algebra class for a very creative solution to this thorny problem.)

(excerpt from page 9):

Q: Some people say that the armed forces of the United States just can’t sustain current force levels without resorting to a military draft. If that’s true, who should be the first in line to serve?

A: One of the biggest obstacles to victory our country faces in Iraq is the so-called “peace movement” here at home. What with all the defeat-o-crat candidates swept into office during the recent elections, it’s a wonder our president can accomplish anything at all. In order to prevent similar outcomes in future elections, we propose that single women should be the first demographic targeted by any conscription effort. After all, they constitute the largest and most reliable voting block the Democrat Party has in its “cut and run” arsenal. The more of them you send to Iraq, the fewer will be left behind to undermine the war effort at home. (Kudos to Coach Dunderhead and the Boys’ Wrestling Team for this excellent suggestion.)

(excerpt from page 14):

Q: What innovative military strategies should the Pentagon adopt to insure a positive outcome for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan?

A: The real problem here has been that the generals in charge keep looking for a “new” military solution in the Middle East, when they should be looking at an “old” one. Let’s face it, the last successful invasion of Afghanistan by Westerners was accomplished by Alexander the Great of Macedon in 330 B.C. Why not employ (with certain modifications) the tactics he used? Imagine a twelve-mile long phalanx of female aerobics instructors dressed in horsehair-crested helmets, leotards and leather shields advancing with their finely-honed javelins on a defenseless army of bewildered Talibani. What could the misogynistic miscreants do but flee in terror? In all likelihood, the entire country would be pacified in a matter of weeks, and we would be free to redeploy our Amazon Warriors to out-terrorize the terroristic enemies of freedom on the rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad. (Answer courtesy of Mrs. Petulana Bellacosa’s world history class.)

If you (or any member of your family) find these arguments compelling, perhaps you (or they) should consider a career with the State Department or the DOD. To obtain copies of the complete report, please contact our new vice-principal, Mr. John Bolton, c/o James Buchanan Middle School, 911 Deadend Street, Carthage, TX.

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What’s This War Doing Here?

Bush talked with reporters yesterday about “how to win a war that we now find ourselves in” as if we just “happened” to stumble upon a war while we were out minding our own business. It seems that even the President, the “decider” that took us to war with manufactured evidence and lies, is attempting to run away from his disastrous war of choice. No wonder he’s postponed his big speech on Iraq, he and his political advisors need more time to figure out how to outrun the stink hovering around him.

The Washington Post reported a few weeks ago that Dick Cheney was effectively summoned to Saudi Arabia to receive a stern warning that if the US pulls out of Iraq, the Saudis will go in to protect the Sunnis. The trip was originally billed as Cheney on a diplomatic mission (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) to get the Saudis to cough up money for the reconstruction effort in Iraq, but a few days later the story changed to Dick having to sit still for a dressing down by the Saudis. Better watch out Dick, I haven’t seen the President hold your hand in public, but we’ve all seen him holding hands with then Prince (now King) Abdullah as they strolled along the shady lanes of Crawford.

I’m disappointed that we’ll have to wait until the new year to hear Bush’s “new way forward” in Iraq, but it’s not at all surprising that he needs more time to put together a campaign to market staying the course as something new. He bristled yesterday that he “won’t be rushed” into making a decision on Iraq, after all, he has many interests to consider, the Saudi interests, the American oil company interests, the neo-con interest and most of all his personal interest in remaining disconnected from anything resembling reality. Whatever substance his puncture proof bubble is made of, he should consider using it to surround Baghdad. Not even an RPG could penetrate that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No More Treading Water, It’s Time To Swim

I’ve got a lot on my plate today and may not get a chance to blog until later (if at all), but I wanted to direct you to a great essay from one of my new favorite blogs, The English Teacher.  In his post The Mothers of Democracy: Progressives, Activists, and the Future of the Party, he takes on the “liberal” versus “progressive” debate and encourages us to look back at our history in order to strengthen the movement as we prepare to take action in creating a better future for our country.

During the Bush years, we have expended so much energy in just trying to hold on that we haven’t had the luxury of looking ahead, let alone planning action that could make a positive difference in the continuing development of our country.  Liberalism is not about maintaining the status quo and now that we finally have some breathing room with Congress no longer completely in the hands of the GOP, it’s time to start moving forward.  We must begin the necessary process of realigning our thinking in a way that both honors the tradition of liberalism and that will make us more effective in instituting real and lasting change.  I found The English Teacher’s essay to be the perfect starting point.  I hope you do too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

“A New Way Forward” Is Just Orwellian Speak For Window Dressing

With President Bush set to give a major speech on Iraq sometime before Christmas, we could be much closer to real talk of impeachment than ever before. Nancy Pelosi said before the midterm elections that impeachment was “off the table” but even she may not be able to stop the process from starting if the public reacts badly to the “new direction” the President is set to propose for Iraq. With only 21% of the public still supporting a continuation of the occupation of Iraq, the stage is set for a revolt within the Republican ranks if what the President proposes appears to be nothing more than window dressing.

All news out of the White House suggests that “staying the course” is exactly what the President intends to do. The Iraq Study Group’s report has sparked a new campaign in the White House, not to implement substantive changes to the policy, but rather to re-sell the Iraq War to the American people. Bush seems to still believe his own rhetoric and he gives every indication that he’s still convinced of the rightness of his mission and remains confident, despite all evidence to the contrary, that given enough time, he can make it work. Anyone with half a brain can see that winning in Iraq is no longer an option and if the Bush administration’s attempts to re-package the occupation fail, his fellow Republicans will pay the price. No one can win an election with only the support of the brain addled 21 percenters.

The case for impeachment has been made repeatedly and the illegal NSA domestic eavesdropping program authorized by the President is probably the best option on which to base a case, but in practice, impeachment isn’t a legal remedy, it’s a political one. Up to this point, talk of impeachment has been confined to the Left with legal scholars, constitutional lawyers and a few brave members of Congress weighing in, but the real threat to President Bush, is his own Party. This President will be impeached only if it becomes politically expedient for Republicans to support it, and if Bush chooses to stay the course while calling it a “new direction” and the American people don’t buy it, we may start to hear the “I” word tumbling out of the mouths of Republicans. Breaking the law, lying to Congress and the American people, and thwarting the constitution may not be compelling enough reasons for Republicans to consider impeaching this President, but breaking the Republican Party, well, that’s a whole other story.

Friday, December 08, 2006

George Bush Is A Failure Like No Other

For anyone who’s read my blog before, the title of this post is redundant, I know, but now, for the first time since Bush was selected President in 2000, the country, the press and even most of the members of his own Party agree that not only have his policies failed, but that he himself is a failure as well. All we had to do was look at his track record to see that this was surely coming. He has failed at everything he’s attempted to do in his life, why would running (ruining?) this country be any different?

I’m struck, daily, by the change in tone of the discussions about Iraq and about Bush’s job performance in general. A few short months ago, Bush had his allies, on the Hill and in the press, on television every single day talking up the war and propping up this administration. Since the midterm elections, they all seem to have gone into their holes, hiding from their own lies that they willingly showered on the public. Many of us in the blogisphere have been screaming at the top of our lungs for the past year that this war is lost, but consensus takes time and even if it did take too long in my opinion, I’m glad to see the country unified in our distrust of, and disgust with, this President.

My gut tells me that the course in Iraq is set and Bush will not change his mind. He’s an obstinate, delusional boy with a dream and this boy has no regard for the fact that his dream has unleashed a nightmare on the rest of the world. This boy lives in his own reality (remember, according to them, the Bush administration creates their own reality) and his goal is at odds with what is best for this country as well as the one he has chosen to occupy. There may be a showdown in Congress and perhaps even within the Republican Party, but unless Bush is forced to accept defeat, he will continue to plug away at his plan to bring democracy to the Middle East at the barrel of a gun (and he’s not afraid to use it) leaving blood, death, mutilated bodies and devastated families in his wake.

The Iraq Study Group has presented its findings and charted a course for the President to follow. James Baker in testimony on the Hill yesterday said, "I hope we don't treat this as a fruit salad, and say, 'I like this but I don't like that.’" But with this President’s penchant for cherry picking, I think that is exactly what he will do with this report. Bush said as much yesterday in his press conference with Tony “lap dog” Blair. He will look at the report, pick just enough recommendations to implement in order to give the appearance that he’s listening to reason, and then go on his merry way shoveling more of our treasure into the sinkhole of Iraq in a quixotic attempt to save his legacy.

I’m having a hard time watching Republican Senators and Congressmen feign angst in front of the cameras as they pretend to come to terms with the devastating reality of what they have supported over the last few years. I don’t buy it for a second. Nothing in the Baker-Hamilton Report is news to them, they have known that this war is lost for a very long time, they just didn’t know that they’d be caught with their pants down and be forced to explain why they’ve been lying to the American people. Senator Gordon Smith, Republican from Oregon, gave a speech yesterday (TPM Muckraker has the transcript) in which he laments his collision with reality. He explains his silence regarding his concerns in how the Iraq occupation has been handled by quoting (several times) a soldier he met in Iraq who apparently told him, “Senator, don't tell me you support the troops and not our mission.”

Well Senator, if that is the logic that works for you, that makes such an impression as to silence you completely and prohibit you from voicing concerns about how this war has been handled, then try this one on for size. Don’t tell me you support this President and not “staying the course”. If you are going to stand on the floor of the Senate and support withdrawing our troops from Iraq (what those of us on the left have been advocating for all along), you don’t get to defend this President at the same time. You lament our having to pull our troops out of Iraq before the job is done, well you can lay this defeat squarely at the feet of President Bush. He failed in Iraq. He lied in order to get our troops there, he has lied every single day since in order to keep them there and you’d be hard pressed to cite one thing he’s done right in the execution of this war.

However bad an idea it was to go into Iraq in the first place, there were plenty of opportunities to make it turn out all right. This president could have studied history, he could have armed himself with knowledge of the region, he could have put the Iraqi people first and put them to work rebuilding their country, but instead he opened the doors to that country, invited his friends in to steal their resources while simultaneously collecting American taxpayer dollars for jobs not done. The premise was flawed and the execution was disastrous. While George Bush is no stranger to failure, I doubt even he knew he was capable of fucking up quite this badly. Anyone willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point is as obstinate and delusional as he is.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Having It All

Don’t worry, I’m not going to suddenly shift gears and become a feminist blog (there are plenty of great ones already out there) and I will get back to the politics soon, but my own personal struggle with trying to organize my life in a way that satisfies my needs while simultaneously allowing me to contribute financially to my family and be there for my kids, has brought up a lot of issues that are worth exploring so I’m going to toss it out there today, just for fun.  

I am a feminist and while my generation has benefited greatly from the movement, it is far from over and we have to find a way to provide further benefits to the generation behind us.  Choice is a huge part of the feminist agenda, choice of school, choice of career, choice of partner and of course, choice in whether or not we continue a pregnancy, but one thing that is less discussed, is the means to put our choices in a context that empowers us rather than simply leaves us feeling as if we must justify our choices.

One of the problems is that, as young women, we are taught that we can do anything in this country, but we are rarely given the whole picture much less the tools necessary to order our lives in a way that makes room for the things we must do, along with the things we choose to do.  Even if we believe in our ability to pursue any career we want, we are constantly reminded of the barriers we face.  There are aspects of women’s lives that are unique to our gender and while we have made great strides in transferring some of those responsibilities to the men in our lives, more men are taking on the day to day tasks of parenthood for example, we may never be able to transfer all of them, so instead, we must find a way to adjust our expectations of ourselves and accept that we simply start out with a lot on our plates.  We are important as mothers and caregivers and we cannot be replaced, so that leaves us trying to find a way to deal with the reality that we can only have it all, if we are willing and able to do it all.

Striking the right balance is the constant struggle of the American woman, but as I mentioned in a previous post, it's a high-class problem compared to what other women around the world face, but that fact makes it all the more difficult to discuss openly and honestly without feeling like we're whining.  I think many of us that grew up with feminist parents and influences have a difficult time ever feeling like we’re doing enough.  It was instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I simply worked hard, so I thought I’d be a lawyer (of course for the ACLU or The Southern Poverty Law Center) but I never contemplated how that would work with a family.  The reality is, I could become a lawyer, but at what cost to my family?  Obviously there are many women lawyers that are also fantastic wives and mothers, but that can’t be an easy life to manage and I’ve come to the conclusion that my own personal limitations prevent me from being able to do both well.

Choosing to be a stay at home mom in the post-feminist world, is a tricky bitch, and it took me years to be okay with being financially dependent on a man.  In fact, now that I’m finally making my own money, I’ve realized that I was never really that okay with it, I just learned to deal with the anger, frustration and powerlessness that came along with being in that situation.  In a country where our value is determined by our paychecks, it is difficult to feel valued without one, especially when you do it by choice.  I felt like I had to start from scratch in finding a way to reconcile my feminist ideals with my choice to be, essentially, a 50s housewife, the most reviled example of the oppressed female.  Nobody made me feel inferior for choosing not to return to work and instead staying home to raise my children, but I felt that way nonetheless.  We can tell women until we’re blue in the face that raising children is the most important job they will ever do and that we value their choice, but until we can help them find a way to believe it and provide an environment that proves we value motherhood through action rather than simply paying lip service to the idea, the compulsion to do too much, to be too much, to spread ourselves too thin, will continue to consume us.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Geniuses All

Well, the Iraq Study Group finally presents their findings and what do you know, it turns out that Bush’s strategy in Iraq isn’t working and the situation there is dangerous and deteriorating.   I’m so glad we put our best minds on the case.  We could have saved a lot of time and money and asked my ten year old daughter how things are going in Iraq, she would have said the same thing, and a year ago at that!  Unbelievable.

Even more unbelievable is the very real possibility that Bush still won’t listen (reason not being his strong suit and all) and this disastrous occupation will continue through the rest of his term (and if John McCain has his way, through eight years of a McCain presidency as well).  This president is stubborn, obstinate and unable to get outside his own head enough to allow for the possibility that he isn’t the legend he thinks himself to be.  This is a pivotal point, not to the extent that it matters what Bush decides to do with the information presented to him today, but insofar as his response to this report will make clear to the American people whether we as a country can survive the continuation of a Bush presidency.  If he chooses to stay the course in Iraq, I don’t see how we can choose to do the same here at home.  The cost is just too high.

An American Girl Trying To Find Her Way

I have been a stay at home for the last ten years, not a job I ever envisioned myself doing, but a job I have done pretty well and have taken great pride in.  Financially speaking, choosing to stay at home and not go back to work after my daughter was born was a tough call and we definitely had to make sacrifices in order to make it work.  Through the Clinton years, we were able to take advantage of government programs that enabled us to claw our way into the middle class, even if it did take 10 years to get there.  I was able to go back to college, and by scrimping and saving, we were able to take some of my student loan money and pay for computer classes for my husband so that he could get a job that would support our growing family.  

Things were tough back then, but we knew there was a way to make it though and there was even hope that we could come out the other end better off than before.  While I’m thankful that we were able to reach the promised land of middle class America, I can’t help but think of all the families that have had the bad luck to be struggling while George W. Bush is President.  Over the last six years, those programs that helped us find our way have been slashed or done away with completely and hope for a better future is in short supply.  Walking a tightrope without a net has a way of wearing you down and the stress of it all can eat you alive.  We had a net, young families today are not quite so lucky.

GOP domestic policies have not only made upward mobility virtually impossible, they have also made hanging on to middle class a constant struggle.  Like most good Americans, once we had enough money, we moved out of our rented apartment and bought a house of our own.  It’s great to have a home and a yard for the kids to play in, but holding onto it (again, without a net) is a whole other story.  One income is barely enough to get by, forget about putting money into a college fund for the kids, or luxury of luxuries, a retirement fund.  Good thing we’ve got Social Security right?!  Man, the future looks bleak.

So here I am, at the end of my stay at home mom years, at least as a full time gig, and I’m an unpaid blogger.  Not exactly an ideal situation.  I need to make money, but I also need to do something that I feel makes a difference in this world.  I’m struggling with trying to figure out how to make it all work.    Since there’s no money in blogging (at least not yet), I’ve had to start my own business.  Getting a job after being out of the workforce for 10 years, especially in this economy, simply wasn’t an option and the amount of money I would have had to make in order to pay for before and after school care for my kids and still come out ahead just wasn’t going to happen.  Besides, I want to be here when my kids get home, it’s hard to stay relevant in their lives as they get older and the best way I know to do that, is to be in their face as much as possible.  If they’re tripping over me, it’s harder for them to forget I’m here.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because what I have is a high-class problem and as much of a struggle as middle class is these days, at least I made it, and all because I had the benefit of a government that worked at a critical time in my life.  Without it, I honestly don’t know where I’d be.  

As much as the GOP likes to trash government, it has a role to play in our lives.  When government works properly and when it works for the people, it can mean the difference between hope and despair.  The Bush administration and the corrupt GOP controlled Congress have broken our government, just as they intended to.  It is bloated, inefficient and ineffective.  This administration has reorganized our government in the most dangerous of ways.  George Bush’s government has more authority than is legal in monitoring and restricting the rights of the American people while simultaneously giving up authority to regulate business (can you say Enron), protect the environment and serve the people of this country.  I hope we never again give the keys to our Capitol and our White House to men and women that have no respect for our government.  We’ve seen the damage they can do, I just hope we’ve learned from this horrific mistake.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Three Branches Of Government, Two Parties, One Decider

The Bush administration is so corrupt and in such disarray that all this new Congress will be able to do is contain the damage and follow the ugly, sordid truth of the last six years.  Obviously, Iraq will be the main item on their agenda and all indications are that the President will continue to dig in his heels and press forward in his ill fated mission to “democratize” (read, turn over the management of Iraqi oil supplies over to American interests) Iraq.  His daddy’s pals may be trying to provide Junior with an out, but if he thinks that his legacy depends on “winning” in Iraq, he very well may stay the course.  What in his presidency would suggest “the decider” would do anything else?

The discredited neo-cons are whining that Bush took their great idea and messed it up, but that is just ass covering of the highest order.  The neo-cons simply don’t know what to do when their fantasy world collides with reality and we should make sure that they are forever branded with a scarlet N to signify the nutjobs they have proved themselves to be.

The Bush administration’s Holy War has spun out of control and the damage will last for generations, how many generations exactly will be determined by how quickly they can be forced to accept their failure in Iraq, because there is no winning and mitigating any further damage will only be possible once this obstinate administration is put down.  That can happen while Bush is still in office, but only if the Democrats are willing to flip the switch and take control, at the very least, of the public debate.

There are signs that traditional media may be ready to provide a forum for the Democrats to do just that.  Hell, even Tim Russert is trying to save face with his audiences by (finally) challenging the architects and executors of the Bush administration’s failed foreign policy.  As far as I’m concerned, Russert has already lost all credibility, but that he sees an opportunity to convince some of the American people that he is still relevant may prove to be a good thing.  After six years of a free pass, Russert’s attempts at confrontation of Bush administration officials may seem jarring enough to his audience to actually make an impression.

The reality on the ground in Iraq has made it impossible for anyone outside the Bush administration to continue to defend anything resembling a stay the course strategy.  Even John Bolton can recognize a lost cause when he sees one and now that he’s out as Ambassador to the UN, Bush is left holding the bag.  Our President can’t even convince his own Party that his policy in Iraq will work, so how in the hell could he possibly believe there is any way to convince the rest of the world?  Does he think he can manage that with his superior diplomatic skills?  I think not.

I like the synchronicity of finally being rid of John Bolton on the same day that Augusto Pinochet has a massive heart attack.  Both men have black hearts that appear to protect them from anything resembling introspection, remorse or empathy for their fellow (wo)man.  It’s true that power corrupts, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of evil rising to the top.  I don’t think these men were corrupted by the power they wielded, but rather sought power because they had an unquenchable desire to spread their vile ideology and conquer their corner of the world.  We’ll all be better off once men such as these are permanently denied any avenue to power or influence on world events.  That list is unfortunately, pretty long, but luckily many of them currently work in the Bush administration so they’ll be easy enough to find and neuter so they won’t be able to propagate their special brand of evil in the future.  Nature will take care of some of them, but political pressure and public action will be required to make sure the rest of them pay their debt to society and serve as a warning to future “public servants” with a desire to obtain power for the sole purpose of abusing that power for personal gain.

The Bush administration and Congressional Republicans hate government, it’s a cornerstone of their ideology, and they have had great success in destroying the institutions they were entrusted to protect and short changing the people they were sworn to serve.  The damage is so big and so deep and so wide that it will take many, many years to rebuild the many agencies and programs they infected.  Government is meant to serve the people and now that we have a Congress that at least believes in the government’s ability to do that, we should be on our way to a better day.  How good things get and how quickly that happens will still depend on how much effort we the people are willing to put into making that happen.  

We can hope that the Democrats in the Senate and House provide a vision for a better future and we can even hope that a Presidential candidate emerges that will present a path that will take us there, but we must never again detach from our responsibilities as citizens the way we have in the recent past.  To make this country work, we must vote, we must educate ourselves on the issues and we absolutely must engage.  We have seen first hand the damage unchecked power can do and we must never again allow one branch of government to cede its power to another.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Common Sense Eludes The Talibangelicals Yet Again

The American Family Association is shoveling a bunch of horseshit to their members and encouraging them to “take action” against Congressman Elect Keith Ellison for the simple act of daring to prefer to take his oath of office using the Koran instead of the Bible.  For a Muslim to take the oath of office by placing his hand on the Koran makes a hell of a lot more sense than him swearing on a Bible to uphold the Constitution.  It makes no sense at all, as far as I’m concerned, to bring religion into the swearing in process at all, but if we insist on continuing this outdated practice, we sure as hell better include all Holy Books as well as the option for none at all.

It’s not so much a question of fairness or an attempt to promote multiculturalism, which might as well be a four-letter word as far as the Christo-fascist brigade is concerned, but it is a matter of common sense.  If the purpose of using a Holy Book in the swearing in process is to use a member’s religious faith to further bind them to their promise to uphold the constitution and fulfill the duties of their office, then I sure as hell don’t want a Muslim placing his hand on the Bible while he’s sworn in.  If anything, that undermines his oath.

The whack-nut Right really must get over their obsession with America as a Christian nation.  It never has been and it never will be, and to advocate for it is quite literally un-American.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Public Suffers Whiplash As The Media Turns On A Dime

I’ve been having a hard time getting my bearings lately, partially due to the shift in the public debate that has been so sharp as to leave me reeling.  A mere month ago, the debate about Iraq was simplified by traditional media as “stay the course” versus “cut and run” with the Democrats playing the coward to Bush’s war hero.  What a difference a month makes.  Now, suddenly there is frank discussion by traditional media and the American people are finally being presented with the truth of just how bad things are in Iraq.  It must be a shock to those who don’t regularly get their news online, those of us that do have been aware of the scope of the disaster for some time.  For years, traditional media has all but ignored the reality of this Presidents failure in Iraq in favor of playing up the Bush administration’s false rosy picture of their democracy spreading.  When did it become the media’s job to insulate politicians from the effects of world events and the fallout from their own bad decisions?

It’s infuriating that honesty in reporting is dependent on where we are in the election cycle.  In the weeks leading up to the election, the violence in Iraq was attributed to terrorists, but in the weeks after the election, it is due to an escalating civil war.  Did the reality on the ground in Iraq change so dramatically over those weeks as to radically shift the debate, or was it simply that the corporate owned media held off on revealing the truth in an attempt to help the GOP, sorry, I mean not influence the outcome of the election?  Again, when did it become the job of the media to hold off bad news so as not to “influence” an election?  

Aren’t we supposed to have access to accurate and reliable information so that we can make an educated decision when it comes to choosing our leaders?  Isn’t the press supposed to be the conduit for that information?  That we are seeing a more honest discussion about Iraq on television and in our newspapers now, after the election, just highlights the lack of an honest debate beforehand.  While I’m glad to see a more accurate picture of Iraq being presented to more people, I’m angry that so many were left out of the discussion, simply because they still trust that corporate “news” is an accurate, unbiased source of information.  Traditional media may provide that service sometimes, but that they don’t at critical times (arguably when it matters most), makes them unreliable and manipulative at best.  At worst, traditional media is simply a tool for powerful interests that have a dog in the fight, which leaves us to play the sheep.  If that’s the case, I’d almost prefer Fox News, at least they don’t bother with the sheep’s clothing.  I’d rather be driven off the cliff by a wolf than a wolf pretending to be one of us.