Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You NEED an independent news source

Mike Stark is my kind of Marine: a guy who understands the freedoms he fought to protect and won't back away from using and defending them as a citizen. By the video and accounts in Truthout or at Talking Point Memo, Stark did nothing different than what he's been doing: puting sharp questions to Senate candidate Allen. The video was shown on my local, Tribune-owned, station's ten oclock news. This tv coverage was not a Fox hatchet job, but just the usual MSM slop. According to them, a nameless "heckler caused a scare for the Allen campaign and had to be wrestled to the ground". They said this over the same video we all have seen...Stark was not the instigator and did not put up much of a fight either. He is the one who has a better case if it comes to charges but my TV station ended the piece with "charges have not yet been filed against the heckler".

The truth? You want the truth? Your TV network news can't handle the truth!

November 7th Surprise

Maybe this kind of stuff is what has Rove so cocky. Doubts about whether manipulation of vote counts have occured simply got to be tiresome to MSM but are still not resolved to my satisfaction.

Causes for Rove's show of smugness that I discount:

I can't imagine even the most desperate peace deal Bush dares to make would lead his new enemies in Iraq to let him claim a victory or even a truce...the insurgents are getting just what they want because the are dealing with an idiotic politician.

The Dow Jones topping 12000 in Octobor may look good to the people who fund the attack ads Rove et al have barraged us with but what does it mean to crowds of voters who used to work at GM an Ford just two years ago? The economic surprise the average american is far more concerned with a pink slip or an uninsured health problem.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The dirt.

Heeeerrrrrz Republicans!
Through the diligence [ not to mention the generosity] of Chris Bowers at myDD, a list of moderately to thoroughly damaging coverage of the sleazy club that call themselves Republican congress persons. These are links to stories published in mainstream news papers and written by MSM journalists, not KOSsacks. This is their dirt and no body made it up. They own the stink in this sore nation.

To the list compiled at myDD I add a link or two found in comments provided by readers at Majikthise. I will note those additions with a "my own due diligence" annotation.
--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

--WY-01: Barbara Cubin [my own due diligence]

have fun reading!

A great reckoning in a small place

Did you ever wonder where the Republican party got the hundreds of millions it will spend [so says Herr Rove] in the next week and a half to saturate the media with attacks on its many less wealthy opponents in many races and with appeals to your uncertainties and fears. It takes a lot of money to keep people thinking "If I don't vote Republican, Osama's gonna get me!" How much of that money will you take into the voting both with you? How much of it will you even be aware of as money lavished on you for influence sake?
got to the pages that track campaign finance.
identify all the donors is not possible but some huge ones are:

and where did they get their money?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My own Due Diligence: the making of a liberal voter

I am reading myDD more often and more thoroughly these days. I learn stuff that way.

Stoller and Bowers are experienced at sorting out the murk and mud of politics. They warn against trusting even the most cheerful of polls and they urge personal involvement and I have come a long way from my apolitical youth to agree with and endorse that approach. I don't think a person can justify blogging or otherwise complaining about how bad things [or certain politicians] are if they have only done the minimum, i.e. voting, or, god forbid, less than the minimum in supporting better alternatives either financially or by more active participation.

I don't know who reads this or what local campaigns they have to sort out but I'll describe what I do to get informed and get involved. myDD has a link to the blog of some liberal or Democrat affiliated blog for each state on its left side bar. For all my surfing and reading, I'd not run into bluemassgroup.org. That helps. For balance, I went to an official republican party blog to make sure I was getting my news spun in both directions. And then I read. As much as anything, the growth of my concern with politics might be characterized as an educational process, or thinking lessons. You have to do a lot of filtering. People get excited and talk mean but in the end what they say either stacks up against the facts or the average of the reporting you have gathered from all other sources...or it does not. This sort of reading tends to cause headaches but it also keeps you from taking anything for granted. I will have to write another post on the special perversity of politics as it is played on the internets...but for now, lets just say you'll often wonder if right wing and liberal blogs are actually written by people living in one and the same country.

In my back yard,Massachusetts, the political climate is more progressive than in most areas of the country but that hardly means that politics can be safely left to others. We have a decades old habit of electing a Republican governor...with the usual result that the Democrats who generally take a majority of the legislative seats are in a stalemate with the executive on some important issues. Three of the last four governors, all GOP, used the office merely as a stepping stone to cushier jobs: Weld ducked out to take an appointment [he went on to demonstrate his business acumen], Cellucci is one of the few Republicans who felt a need to flee to Canada, where he is now safe from the backlash against his party's recent blunders, and now Romney who has all but declared a run for president in 2008 and is seldom seen in Boston. Jane Swift had to make a quick disappearance from politics after presiding while terrorists boarded planes a mile from her office. Right now we have an occasionally nasty governor's race . A desperate Lt Gov. Kerry Healy with a negligible record that amounts to taking credit for anything positive that happened in Romney's administration is trying to spin Daval Patrick's effectiveness as a lawyer and his ability to do even a distasteful job well into a "don't vote for the guy who likes cop killers" advertisement. Digging into these claims is unpleasant work but the alternative is America's worst disease: shallow voter complex. The positive must be examined as carefully as the negative. In her sound bites, Healy claims she will cut taxes, the Republican mantra, but the facts are that our bridges, roads, university system, police forces, health care and natural resource protection all suffer from financial problems that the recent administrations in this state have not addressed. To promise to cut taxes when the services we need are in disrepair is irresponsible, or just a cynical appeal to the selfish side of voters. In her detailed proposals, either the promises are empty or she has a billion dollars she means do donate.

Umm, did I say occasional? The Republican, still behind in the polls after [or maybe because of] some irrelevant disgrace about a relative of Deval Patrick was fed to the Boston Herald and Healy claimed no responsibility, stepped up the nasty and rumor is we will be carpet bombed with negative ads from the Republicans until election eve. What do you do? Do you turn off to one of the candidates? Start listening to a Muzak station, avoiding newspapers and polling places? What I have learned to is how to spin things myself: her first negative ad shaved off 1/3 of Patrick's lead in the polls and, being conservative, she is going to stick with what works ad nauseum. Other ways to look at her ads that say Patrick gets murderer's off the hook are (1) when he was a defense lawyer, he really did his job and (2) Healy really wants to play the fear card. Why the fear card? Looks like that is a Republican theme this season. But like they say "crazy is repeatedly doing the something that failed and expecting it to work". The negative advertising is a reflection on her character or her desperation and it has served to put a ceiling on her own popularity. And at least one commentator from the local MSM is coming to the same conclusion.

The start of my delving into this muck was just to feed my blog. The result is that I give more money and time to the good guys that I come across...and I keep digging. On some issues, I got beyond my intuition: I could do a lot better than my general distrust of the Bush administration in reaching the conclusion that their own National Intelligence Estimate eventually did: the Iraq war makes us less safe. My ease and pleasure at seeing the toxic folly in places like Townhall.com where fear is the ghost in their political machine is a nice byproduct of bearing down on a long reading list of diverse sources. My favorite is still NYTimes. Look, nobody, is neutral OK? You can get twisted facts and missed understandings from any source and the only cure is to read a lot of different ones and trust your own intelligence. I think the "Select" features are not a total rip off. The blogroll and the list of sources on campaign finance on The Caucus is a great starting place for a little self education in American politics. I'm not looking exclusively for writers that agree with me but its nice when they do:
It's time we start worrying about America's Orwell deficit. Too many people in public life lack George Orwell's talent for engaging with inconvenient facts. Instead partisanship rules. Any ideas and data points that challenge one's ideology are conveniently dismissed, while the partisan Other is demonized and considered stupid, criminal or worse.
I'm reading for things I would have been worried about but never heard of before. And just because a mainstream Democratic party strategist provides them is no reason to shun explanations of things I knew mattered but was unsure how they worked, like redistricting.
It's no accident that members of Congress caught up in scandal, such as former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, former Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana almost always come from safe districts where they know their actions will never face real scrutiny. In the hands of a Congressional majority that loses touch with the people, safe seats can lead to real danger.

One of the commonest accusations that crops up in the less formal political writing of blogs, right wing talk shows and once in a while a MSM piece is "drinking the Koolaid": the other side is stupidly sucking up lies. The imagery of political opponents as hapless wretches doing themselves in like the true believers in Jonestown is ugly and more often selfcongratulation than we admit: "we know better" is the unwritten rejoinder. Everyone with one or few sources of information is not playing politics with a full deck. My own due diligence samples everyone's Koolade and finds even the most severely distorted selections and interpretations at least tell me what their readers wanted to hear and what they need to deny. A liberal should be voter who does not need rumor or reputation [supplied by an antagonist ] of an opposing group to know who the opponent is: he or she will have the nerve and the sense to go meet a few from the other camps. I wonder if Air America's miscalculation of its market potential may include an expectation that liberals want outrage-peddlers as badly as the conservative audiences need their fix categoric thinking from the likes of Limbaugh. Nope, thats not us. People who don't know how things are going to turn out, people who get let down by the leaders they elect or, on the other hand, shocked that those leaders even got elected...neither of these categories of political herd can be said to have been realistic in informing themselves prior to the disappointment: that is koolaid poisoning for you but its more like a hangover and lots of people have had it in this country the last five years.

After all,how much due diligence could the average person who voted Republican in the last election have done? Did they get the promised security? No: referring to the Republicans as the party with the strong interest in security is like referring to pornographers as having a strong interest in anatomy: they are only interested in the parts that bring them money or votes and they appeal to people who don't want to consider the fuller context of what they so anxiously consume. Did they get fiscal responsibility after all the "tax and spend" accusations reflexively hurled at Democrats? No: we have so weakened ourselves with debt that schools, domestic infrastructure, environmental protection, basic science and even key medical research programs at NIH have all been flat funded or cut back. We are going broke making our country the most-hated-nation and have nothing to show for the spent money except Haliburton's bottom line. You see, I too have an abundance of discontents: the diligence doesn't dull one's edge or attenuate one's anger. But with so many targets on the political landscape and so few arrows in the average voter's quiver, the diligence keeps you from shooting decoys while worse menaces advance.

Anger is cheap fuel for politics, and it has worked well for the Republicans. But hope is a better fuel. We are not just against something but also for progress. If you haven't got those two in your tank, you will sputter out. Diligence, thorough reading lists and time to read, is how you get beyond the "rid us of tyrants and crooks" stage. That stage, even if it succeeds, only chops off the heads of the current crop of malfeasant fools, preparing the ground for the next crop...a guillotine ushering in a Bonaparte. The diligence should take you to the "building a better, cleaner government" stage. You need to inform and exercise your instincts about how the country could work and what would be the most beneficial order of priorities and intiatives if government was to enable us to improve our, all of our, lots rather than a few super-rich. Though many of the most liberal blogs fault DLC's sawmill for political planks, its not a bad start in forming opinions on what the positive side of one's politics should be. Just don't stop there. After all, anger may send you to the polls to oust fools but in fact a vote is cast for someone. You want candidates with constructive, inclusive and realistic plans. When and if politics gets healthy, we can again focus on the plans rather than the politicians.

My oldest impression, that politics is a dirty business full of distortions remains unchanged. But ever more clearly, US national politics and the local politics of which it is comprised, illustrate the old addage that all that is needed for evil to take root is for good men and women to do nothing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Conflict of disinterest: the fourth branch of government

Having forged a one-party government [not to mention a lot of evidence used to take us to war] has been a great boon to the fierce, though quiet, inclination toward venal and vengeful dictatorship that has plagued Republicans since the days when Nixon fired Archibald Cox. Their ham handed grasp of the reins of political power has led Bush and Cheney to effectively suspend the checks and balances between the three branches of government that our Constitution's drafters knew we needed. In an age when the Republicans have done their utmost [for instance] to break the constitution, what, beside kicking them out of office, has kept or will keep power in check?

Investigators and prosecutors, even though they are acting under the direction of DoJ or state Attorney's General or special legislative mandate, have shown a brave and commendable streak of independence.

I would suggest their independence has often worked like a fourth branch of government to save us from pure despotism and corruption. But that independence is precarious and under great threat from the desperation of the culpable powerful. Do not sit by while the last hope of having a goverment that abides by its own laws is taken from you. Write the media editors who ignore the story, phone your congresspersons to complain their governing sleeps through corruption, blog, vote and support those who make sure your vote is not miscounted or discounted. If and when an honest vote count occurs and the one-party rule has ended, I will still prefer the watchful eye of a fourth branch of government to the roiling of laws and the mistrust that cramp our civil lives and discourse just now at this Republican-flavored juncture in our history. Republicans have demonstrated that they cannot rule democratically. But I trust no party any more, there are corrupt or suspected Democrats too.

There might be a fifth branch of government, while we are numbering them. It is the sad defualt, the desperate fall-back even though its power is claimed to be the source of all power: it is you and I. But how can we wield power if not through a government that was designed to express the collective will of us all? Shall we withold our taxes? Shall we take to the streets with pitchforks and placards? Shall we stay home in protest and do no work? None of these third world options is showing much sign of success where they have been tried so far. No, let us insist that our government be run as specified by its laws and let us keep an eye on it.

And who IS keeping an eye on things? Lewis fired 60 investigators, leaving only 16. By digging back through the attributions in TPM, TruthOut and Majikthise, I found two original $ources. Google news/US didn't have it anywhere in the top 20 stories and a general search only digs up stories about how investigations were starting to point toward Lewis. Maybe I should give Google a little more time to crawl for that story. I think there should be a more of a stink when you hear that Congressman Lewis has just shredded all pretense that he knows or cares what the term "conflict of interest" means. I don't understand the disinterest.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When powerful Republicans talk honestly...

...nobody else gets to listen. Its kinda like the tree falling in the forest. My theory is that they often talk about Dick because, though he's nowhere in sight, he scares them almost as much as he scares you and I.

If only they spent more time talking about [or even understood] foreign policy that would do what was promised for security. If only the values they have practiced matched their pompous talk. If only they knew or cared what their spending will do to our economy and what it already has done to our capacity to heal, house or rescue our own citizens. If only they asked the CIA for facts instead of telling them what the facts should be. If only Bush could tell competence from confidence. If only they listented to constituents instead of Jack Abramoff, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Dodson, Pat Robertson. If only they had done some of these basics of decent political leadership, they would not be having their heads handed to them on a poll. When the people talk, when will the Republicans get around to listening?

The more energetically you go about "solving" problems that are mostly imaginary, the more effectively you make problems that are real.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Aaw C'mon you guys!

I want to write a little essay, to set beside the hundreds of others, about how the "culture of corruption" is endemic to conservative politics...But oooh noooo,we can't have it that simple! Now we have dems sucking up lobbyist bucks. The Democrats are not exactly "my team". More of my animation as a political animal comes the fascist tendencies of the Republican party, their evil priorties, biggoted backers, transparent hypocrisy and corrupt doings. But let me tell you, I'd vote for McCain if he'd stuck by his campaign finance reform efforts. The guy who stood up to Hanoi's torturing can not stand up to the lure of money...and now we see, neither can some Democrats. Power corrupting? The prospect of rising power attracting influence seekers? It discomforts me.

I share the misgivings of Mr. Singer at myDD and he expresses them better than I could. It is naive to imagine politics can be done without cash for campaign advertising, traveling to the many rallies and other engagements and provisioning of phone and polling operations. And it is equally naive to hope that those who have paid the candidates bills will not have the candidates ear, will not have their wishes well known to the candidate. If there are as many liberal voters, or disgusted Repbulicans as we like to tell ourselves, then the little that we could each give to honest candidates who haven't screwed the country, and have sensible reforms they want to legislate would be enough. Every news source you check will tell you the Republicans are shaking down their donors in desperation. They will spend like crazy to stave off a congress that could mount investigations or impeach. We don't have to match the fat cats, just chip in enough to counter the expensive smears and scare tactics. Voting is not the only important thing I will do. I cracked open my little purse for Senator Bryd, and will do so for a few other candidates who need to put up a few ads. Don't let some industry own your representative or senator. In the present climate, an individual or PAC liberal donation probably enjoys a healthy multiple of effectiveness over the money of an oil or telecommunication or coal company or evangelical churh.

UPDATE: I just saw the TPM and TPMCafe posts on the topic of coughing up some change to make a change. YES, NOW! And my claim that a vote for good new directions won't cost as much as a vote to stay the curse gets some factual support:
Much of what Dean is trying to do through the DNC comprehends how you build an organization like, or similar to the Wellstone Org that afterall knocked off a two term Republican Senator who had Eleven Million to spend, while Wellstone spent totally just a little over a million.

Remember: the question is not "How can we win?" but "What will we let ourselves become in order to win?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What if they torture people and nobody cared?

Blogging the vigil for a lost freedom...

Today, there were to be demonstrations against the "military commissions" act signed by a man who probably hasn't even read what he signed let alone read the constitution it violates. On NPR I heard report of the Washington DC protest...google news knows nothing of it at this hour.

Four of us made it to the post office on a busy street out in a "metro west" Boston suburb. Last minute messages to several area churches and the mosque were probably too late for anyone to respond. Nobody called us any names, 6 people signed the National Religious Campaign Against Torture petition. A small number until you know that was around 50% of the people we actually got to talk to in the parking lot of the post office. We tried to take up more visible spots but people in cars should not be mistaken for people who are actually present. A cop [the police station was just across the street] chased us away from the intersection. His gruff "I know what's good for you" mien probably meant he figured we'd get run over trying to talk to people stopped for the light. What?! A professor of computer science and a software engineer can't handle a situation hundreds of homeless people hawking papers and flowers do every day?
On second thought, don't answer that. You are all a bunch smartasses and I don't want to hear it.
One of us is quite resourceful and whipped my "holloween costume" into a proper placard:

Some people did read the sign if the traffic slowed but all the rest had a phone or a cup of coffee in hand and remain, even now, doggedly unaware the world is going to hell around them. Being ignored, I discover, is much scarier than being called names. After an hour, the P.O. manager came out and told us we were on government property and would have to leave. No lawyers here, just tax payers, end of vigil.

How do you tell a nation it no longer wears the crown of "conscience of the world" and is in fact, far from it? What a change there has been here, even in my lifetime.

The data entry from the petition, which I also signed, is world class and I got an email back from them by the time I got to work:
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Dear [did you think I was going to dooce myself?],

Thank you for endorsing the NRCAT Statement. Your name has been
added to our growing list of supporters. Please add
nrcatlist@nrcat.org to your friends list so we may keep you
informed about the campaigns progress.

Thank You,
National Religious Campaing Against Torture

Monday, October 16, 2006

(not) Becoming the Enemy

What spares a group who see themselves pitted against an enemy (some other group) from becoming just like that enemy in order to win? What spares them is the questions they ask themselves. Because answers arrived at by partisans generally are predetermined from their questions, it is the questions that should be drawn up with care.

I sit for several hours a week in poorly airconditioned MoveOn.org office space crammed with phones, rickety chairs and tables and determined volunteers. One call at a time, we are finding the seven to ten percent of all MoveOn members who think its so important to get out the vote that they will put aside a few hours of their week, brave the interesting wierdness of calling strangers and help us make the calls. There are few lulls so we don't spend much time chatting with each other but we can't help but try our pet slogans and pitches out on each other. That is how I have come to trust these volunteers have asked "What should we be fighting for?" rather than "How can we win?" In that choice is an opporunity to make a seductive mistake. Even at this foot soldier level, you can see that opposition to the corrupt and cowardly congress and the bush regime is spontaneous and multifacited. There are college kids here, a few gray heads such as mine and 30-somethings.

We now witness in the newspapers the unraveling of the unwholesome coalition of neoconservative and cryptofascist theorizers, corporate influence marketers and the narrow and biggoted excesses of the religious right wing. What put that tacky marriage together in the first place? Though that wedding of antidemocratic factions seemed to work, the source of their fears and desperation were distinct. It was brokered by folks like Karl Rove who would only ask this question: "how can we win?" There must be a war or some other metaphor that revolves around winning. No principle comes before winning. And so "winning" comes first and all its costs come later. Mr. Rove, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush: history has presented you with your tab and its time to pay up. You have taken far more freedom from us than Osama Bin Laden ever dreamed of. You have become the enemy and even your admirers see it.

The crush of things that must be done this month leave me little time to blog but there appears to be a theme so bear with a post that wads together what might better have been two or three short reads. My friend Shokai finds synchronicities but for me the coincidence of the several occasions for blogging is to be understood as arising from a common cause: the poisoning of many aspects of our lives by the pervasive reach of neoconservative policy: the starved arts and sciences, the life-wasting and money-wasting foreign policy, the pall of fear that dims political vision...all these taint a life we used to enjoy living. Everywhere, like rising vomit, we are soon going to try and heave out the poison.

Late last night [why oh why do such good authors get shunted to the deadest time slots] on C-SPAN bookenotes, I caught a wonderful talk by Thom Hartmann promoting his book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- And What We Can Do About It". The guy taught more insight in to history in 40 minutes than Bush slept through in his years at Yale. It bothers me to be reminded that over 30% of my income is taken by the IRS because I work for a living while the dividend-funded lifestyle parts with only about 15% of its income...not to mention what obscene things are done and what vital things NOT done with that money.

The musical 1776 has just completed a run at the Lyric Stage in Boston. When we took in the show Saturday, the producer introduced the show with the news that it was the best attended performance this company's 32 year history. Ben Franklin's punchlines adorn a serious struggle to get the declaration of independence written by a bunch of men who could easily [and some did] have hoped to keep their comfortable station in life by appeasing King George. The audience gave it a standing ovation. It was not anti-war [probably why it beat out HAIR for the Tony award in 1969] but not too subtly anti-conservative. It sang of how the conservative urges among the continental congress provided all the resistance to declaring our independence. And then last night I was hearing Hartmann reminding me that G. Washington and Thom Jefferson were self identified liberals: the cummulative result of all this stimulation is that I awake this morning aware that our history is still alive, our great experiment is neither dead yet nor forgotten but needs to be defended from its internal enemies, the sightless selfish who find in true democracy a chaotic threat to their priveleges.

The time of separation between moral pondering and political action has passed. For too many of us that separation has meant that uninhibited greed, fear and xenophobia have worked their will on the character, policy and enterprises of our nation. We now witness the stinking debris in the wake of that will. Act. Act now. Get your face down to the party meetings, the candidate coffees, put a sign on your lawn and support the Get Out The Vote efforts. Act even though mistakes may be made, because systematic destruction of lives, human rights and the environment are not likely to be among those mistakes.

Yesterday I got an email via a fellow congregant from a group of rabbis against torture.

Vigil Mourning the Death of Our Most Cherished Values

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 9 a.m.

Lafayette Square or at a Post Office Near You

"Don't mourn -- organize!" It's time to do both. On Tuesday, October 17, at 9:00 a.m., President Bush is scheduled to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This is the much-opposed bill which eliminates the right to habeas corpus for detainees, allows them to be tried without access to evidence against them and places decisions about interrogation methods solely under the President's control. The Washington Regional Religious Campaign Against Torture (WRRCAT) is calling for a "vigil mourning the death of our most cherished values" and for signing a counter-statement to the one that President Bush will sign that day. Vigil participants will attempt to get this statement to the President.

RHR-NA is a proud co-sponsor of this event and we are writing to urge you to participate in this event or in solidarity events in your local area.

How frightfully inured we have become to Bush wiping his ass with the constitution. The dubious points in support of this act raised by Bush apologists would not be relevant even if they were legally sound: the man already pays far less attention to the laws than his enemies or even his toadies do. This one gives him further latittude.
Sad to report only a few of us from the congregation are willing to show up in with signs on a work day morning. It does benefit the Bush league that being in the middle class now means "working too many hours to show up for a protest". Sick as we are of Bush, it would benefit us all if a few more were ready to have America puke him and his congress out of office. We are looking to other synagogues and a local mosque for some show of solidarity. I have a costume in mind, if I can figure out how to hold my arms out straight for an hour:

I expect a few idiots to lean out of their pickups and yell "traitor" or such at us Tuesday. For them I have the same answer as for the question that begins this post:

Don't get mad. Ask questions.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Timely bit of sociology research

This is one of those findings that mostly make you think "they got grant money to discover something obvious again". But if you think about what a load of grief has come to us because one or two percent of voters did not go to the polls for Gore or Kerry...maybe you'll read this and see if it can be applied in your efforts to get out the vote. The problem isn't that the category of "shy people" [my term] the Ohio State U. researchers identified don't vote...they may or may not. The problem is they don't talk about politics and avoid situations where they might have to talk about politics. In a word, these people are unplugged from the two-way communication that keeps political beliefs from being an untested or completely indefensible mishmosh of recieved notions.
Hayes said... the local political climate for individuals may be more important than the national climate. Self-censors probably are more concerned about how their opinions will be viewed by their immediate friends, neighbors and co-workers
If you are afraid to express your opinion, what makes you so sure you really have one?

For these shy people the first ammendment is already half dead. By citing the rancorous incivility that increasingly characterizes political speech, the research makes me wonder if a larger than ever before and a growing segment sit out the game, as if determining our nation's leadership had become a spectator sport only played by mean, overendowed professionals. The lack of particpation in political debate on the part of individuals impoverishes the election results even if this silenced minority does vote. Nominally, we are citizens by merely having been born here. But the laws affect every one. I don't grant the title "citizen" to any who have not worked to affect the laws through the democratic channels of vote and free speech. "Citizen" is a rank above any office but only if one does the work of citizenship. If you vote like cattle, you get a cowboy for president.

Note: According to the top US law enforcement official, A. Gonzales, doing the job he was appointed by the president to do, the laws do not apply to the president. The congress has put up with this state of affairs. That really ought to get you off your butts to do something about this congress.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Flee Enterprise

Who figured out that you could sell crap? Some genius got the idea that you could have a free enterprise solution for getting rid of pollution, stuff with definitely negative worth. We have, for instance, a market in GHG "credits" created out of thin air by just allowing every one to foul up the environment a little and then letting those who don't pollute sell their "credits" to the greedy, negligent industries who can go on adulterating our air and water for a small added cost of doing business.

I suggest the GOP put its love of free enterprise to good use in their hour [well two months would be better ] of need. They should posit that everybody with any power on capitol hill has an "indiscretion allowance" that permits them to nail exactly one page with impunity..no one will tell on them and no one will confront them: business as usual and as it has been for at least the last 5 years. Let them choose the gender of the page...we aren't hypocrits here! For those who find power to be too much of an aphrodesiac ( and what a powerful one it must be if the man with the congressional specialty of protecting underage people from sexual preditors cast caution to the wind more lustily than a sailor on leave?), there would be a market in "congressional lust and cover-up credits" whereby representatives and staffers who keep their pants on and their keyboards pristinely businesslike can sell their allowances to the Lascivious Legislators in return for a favorable vote [but that requires the Lascivious Legislator to actually show up in the House during business hours, bummer!] or a negotiable sum of unused campaign monies if the Lascivious Legislator is so endowed. Now there may not have been enough money and votes for the Republican Foley* to buy his way out but at least Hastert [a name I have labored in vain to not use in the same sentence with the word "sex" as it will surely cause nightmares] could buy a cover-up credit from the staffers from whom he is now fixing to steal those credits. See how free enterprise works?

Oh. Yeah. Well, strictly speaking you are right, we still have pollution. But its paid for! Free enterprise cleaned up the environment, surely it can clean up the House of Representatives!

*note, it is necessary to correctly label all lascivious legislators as to party affiliation in order to correct someone at Fox News who just can't stand it that their favorite party puts sexual predators in congress...so they misreport the guy's party in their coverage!

On a slightly less snarky note, does anyone have the data on whether Foley only went for pages of Republican Representatives? I could be mistaken but since both Democrats and Repulicans have been with us for more than one generation they both manage to procreate. Thus it seems likely libido could be found on either side of the isle. If sex isn't an equal opportunity sin, the Republicans have only their up tight religious backers to blame. [Gawd, can't you just hear Bill Clinton smiling and saying to himself "what goes around.."?]

[Have I been reading too much Wonkette?]

And, all snark aside, I agree with every liberal commentator who finds it somewhere between ironic an truly sick that a pattern of sexual misconduct and coverup brings down an administration when any amount of thoroughly exposed
  1. lying to precipitate a mistaken and badly run war,
  2. violating human rights,
  3. abrogating the constitution,
  4. letting civilians die horribly for want of competant emergency management,
  5. vetoing a law passed to express the nation's wish to investigate stem cell based medicine,
  6. putting the nation in ruinous debt,
  7. botching the diplomacy needed to isolate the countries that really were developing WMD and
  8. possibly tampering with vote counts
left that administration so unmoved that it was still mulling plans to bomb or invade Iran.

...preserve, protect and defend...

the Constitution of the United States.

Would you recognize that phrase? Bush, not one for details, seems to have forgotten that oath.
If voters don't fight for it, and the president and his party fight against it, soon it will fail to protect the average citizen from his own government. That document was drafted with that very protection foremost in the minds of the the nation's founders based on bitter lessons. Will we now have to relearn those lessons?

[updates will dribble in here as I recount for you all the ways the neocon agenda has been a program for the dismantling of the rights that made this a uniquely felicitous country for the growth and prosperity of the individual citizen.]

Monday, October 09, 2006

Return Key

If you read this, I have hit the return key. It was not so much depression or fatugue or even my usual misgivings about the vanity of blogging as it was a suspicion that I could do something more effective with my time that has kept me from the keyboard.

I am having a bit of a crisis. Mediocre complaining to no-one-in-particular about what dreadful f--kups run things is garden variety, no not even that, is a weed of discourse to be heard in every barroom, truckstop, writhewing talk show or anywhere ignorant gossip and insecurity flow unchecked. I berate us all and myself in particular for getting angrily self indulgent rather than engaging as personally as possible all the wrong headed persons who have assented to the several poisonous lines of policy this administration follows. I did not want to waste any more time chiseling sentences out of feckless anguish. I went back to using my spare minutes to design software and buildings and fix up the house as I did in days gone by. I never had time for blogging, I stole it. I am not a blogger, just an old guy with a job, a family, a house and too much to do. I quit reading TPM and Atrios and well, just about everything.

As this silence wore on, I came to feel vaguely estranged and disconnected from life. Though my role and station in life do not require me to voice anything, not outrage, not insight, nor drivel, something about me has changed so that it feels natural and necessary to bear witness to the folly of our nation and join those who speak against it. I know in my bones I only exist so that my children will succeed me. To let my country lose its bearings and to let our economy and our ecology fall apart for the benefit of a few thousand very wealthy and selfish companies and individuals and their media lackies is to leave my children a hopeless and impoverished world. I cannot detach that much no matter how distasteful involvement in politics may be. Making phone calls to strangers is the last thing I would have imagined doing...yet I do it now. Blogging too is a way to reach a few more people so it is back on my rioting to-do list. Not only is my disengagement from determining the leadership of the US unacceptable, NOBODY has an excuse even though it is a dirty and trying business. The alternative is to leave it to yet dirtier and more selfish parties. The alternative is to abandon your own future to the entropy of greed.

And then I voted in the primary election. I am so lucky. I actually had some choices.
And I still read my science magazines. Even from that corner, I feel scorn for my apathy. Screw Bush and all who go about on his behalf saying scientists are cassandras in search of a budget: There is so much to know and it will help us slow the damage we do if we learn how the world operates. Yes, I grow angry. So what?! I am angry because common sense and simple ideas of right and fair are being systematically violated and I am less of a good neighbor, less of a human being for shirking my job to not let the world remain broken. I am damned if I will let it get more broken than it already is.

--------- Blogging Resumed ----------

Back on the 21st of Sept, when doubts quite unplugged my keyboard, accidents of timing and miscued car repairs put me in earshot of Open Source. Lydon was wrapping up an interview with Niall Furguson. It was so easy, so unhesitatingly easy for this historian to run down a checklist of why empires lose wars...their military equipment hardly matters, but "legitimacy" of the claims made to support the war, the causes, is paramount. Why is it so hard for so many of my fellow citizens to see what others can see so readily? Why are we in Iraq? Well, if we had only understood Bush's campaign promises, we would have known why from the very start:

Candidates like this can only win by default: VOTE!

I promised a series of homespun white papers on all the issues I personally found important. That is forthcoming. I have been supplied with a constant stream of what is wrong with the polices and practices of the currently powerful...more difficult to suggest what would be right but I will take a stab.