Saturday, June 9, 2007

inaction alert! no $$ for dems!!


cross-posted at skippy and a veritable cornucopia of other community blogs.

steven d, writing over at booman last week, expressed some sentiments that have been roiling in our minds as of late:

half my spam these days comes from democratic politicians requesting my credit card number, or my check, preferably in an amount larger than $100. true, it does get worse during an election year, but since 2008 is the "big one" with the presidency up for grabs, the calls for cash have started earlier and earlier…

no, we are the free money people. our emails receive automated replies, not personal ones. our phone calls get stuck in easily deleted voice mail caches, or if we're lucky, half listened to by some young staffer who probably thinks what we have to say is a big fat waste of his or her time. and the reason is because we can't contribute enough money in our pay to play political system to earn us any real access…

the single biggest reason democrats won control of the house and senate was their pledge to change the direction of the war in iraq. well, they didn't change it, bush did with his "surge" plan which is now killing more american soldiers each month even as there is no let up (so far as we can tell from censored media reports) in the levels of death and destruction which the iraqi people are continuing to endure.

the democrats gleefully took our money. they gladly accepted our volunteer efforts. and they rejoiced in our votes which gave them control of both houses of congress for the first time in over a decade. then they slapped us in the face, told us to shut up, and tried to make lemonade out of the bags of stale urine they dumped on our heads after they voted to give bush every damn thing he wanted without a single relevant concession on his part.

okay, that's fine. nobody said politics wasn't a dirty game. but no one said we have to keep paying for being mistreated and abused by the party that putatively represents our interests, either. so here's my recommendation to you:

stop sending dems your money!

i mean it. stop all contributions. and after you do, send them emails or call them on the phone and tell them you will no longer contribute to any democrat or democratic organization or political action committee, ad nauseam, until they stop funding the iraq war. that's what i am going to do with respect to the democratic national committee, the only democratic organization i contribute to on a regular (i.e., monthly basis). i send them a monthly amount via my credit card every month. but no more.

look, i understand that democrats can't get much of their agenda, if anything, passed so long as george bush can veto their legislation. they can't pas universal health care, for example, or a bill to start limiting our use of fossil fuels by putting caps on carbon emissions. they don't have the votes to override a veto by bush. so i won't hold them accountable for not passing much needed progressive legislation.

but funding the iraq war doesn't require passing legislation. all it requires is not passing a bill to fund the war in iraq. or keep sending the same bill back to bush which mandates a withdrawal of us troops and make him blink first. but they couldn't do that, despite the fact that 70% of americans disapprove of both bush and his handling of the iraq war.

so let them drink tea and eat cake without my hard earned dollars paying for their privileges. and without yours, and yours, and yours ... etc. because maybe then they'll finally take us seriously and pay attention when we tell them to:

support the troops -- bring them home. now!
period. end of discussion.
we totally agree. and we have already begun to implement this policy.

both mr. and mrs. skippy have donated extensively (at least, for middle class people) to various dem candidates and organizations in the past. they have donated enough to be on several lists of suckers that give money which other organizations use to call and solicit funds.

just yesterday skippy received a call from the "democratic finance committee." once the caller identified whom he was representing, skippy told him in no uncertain terms, "you guys really screwed up on the iraq funding withdrawl vote. i'm not giving you guys another cent until you get that right."

and he hung up.

we strongly urge everyone to do the same. not only stop giving money to dem pols, like so many enablers spotting the drunk on the corner a dollar for "food," but also let the candidates and organizations know exactly why the teat of free currency has dried up.

who's with us?

ps. if you'd like the nifty "no $$ for dems" logo for your own blog, email skippy and he'll send you the code!

Desmond Tutu addresses G8 Leaders

I wish I had some insightful commentary to add here, but work's been getting in the way of my blogging (and my pre-blogging research) again. But I think this is important and should get wider attention...

From Ecumenical News International

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined other religious leaders and globalization critics in sending an anti-poverty message to leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations who are meeting in Germany.

"We can survive only together, we can be free only together, we can be prosperous only together, we can be human only together," said the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town to lively applause at a rally during the Kirchentag, the once-every-two-years German Protestant convention, meeting this year in Cologne.

The June 7 rally, outside the city's cathedral, took place the day before the heads of six African nations were due to join the leaders of the G8 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, German, Russia and the United States -- for the final day of their northern German summit.

"I want to say to the leaders of the G8, 'I am an African, I am a man, I am a human being ... I am not an object of pity, I am not an object of charity'," said Tutu. "I am an African, I am your brother."

The open-air gathering had a live video link to an anti-poverty concert in Rostock where rock stars were trying to put pressure on the G8 leaders meeting nearby in Heiligendamm, behind a 12-kilometer-long fence topped with razor-wire.

"The message of the Kirchentag is clear; we say: Pull down the barriers between those who decide and those who are affected by the decisions," the president of the Protestant convention, Reinhard Höppner, told the Cologne rally. "We say: Do not put your efforts into growth that violates the dignity of people."

More here.

Black Hate?

What is a hate crime?

Howard Witt, a Chicago Tribune senior correspondent has written another article involving the issue of race and hate crimes. This time he is covering the issue of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, a young Knoxville couple out on an ordinary Saturday night date, was undeniably brutal. He reports on how the pair were carjacked, kidnapped, raped and finally murdered during an ordeal of unimaginable terror last January. It’s another must read article regarding hate crimes, race, media and crime in America. Here is a link to the story. Photo of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom (below).

Defendants Cobbins, Coleman, Davidson and Thomas.

What is a hate crime?

Special Report: Some are asking why there has been no media outcry over murders in which victims were white and accused killers are black. More HERE

African American Opinion asks the same question. Why no media outcry? Why no Black blogger outcry? See our previous post regarding the Channon Christian-Christopher Newsom Murders.

Friday, June 8, 2007

People of the River, "If Fields Could Be Carried"

Hamatika School

Gwembe valley

October 4, 2002

Dear Aunty Grace

Thank you very much for the food that arrived yesterday. Mother was thrilled to see

it. She cried because she had not seen so much mealie meal for months.

Straightaway she cooked a really big meal of nshima. We ate really well last night

and I still feel full today.

Some days when I'm unable to write at home, too lazy to make breakfast, or just need a better cup of coffe than I make around here, I head for a local Internet Cafe. Java Street is a very pleasant spot run by a gracious friend named Stacy and habituated by a generally interesting and diverse group of people.

Yesterday as I settled in, plugged in the laptop and ordered breakfast I spoke to a couple of the regulars who play chess most mornings trading quick coffee house greetings. As I opened the morning paper I noticed at the next table a very pretty young woman (I'm a professional, a trained observer, it's my job) wearing a headset, engrossed in her work and seemingly oblivious to the coffee aromas mixed with the lingering memory of burnt toast and the low murmur of breakfast banter wafting in her vicinity.

I wonder where you managed to find all that food? There has been nothing in the

market here for weeks now and the last maize that came was so expensive that we

could not afford it. The harvest from our farm ran out in July, after only a few

weeks. Since then father has been walking to the next village to work as a brick

maker. He gets really tired with the long walk and the hard work but the boss pays

him in food so at least we have had something to eat, even if it is often only one

meal a day.

I decided when I got up yesterday, to not try to write and instead, take care of some of the administrative jobs on the website, fixing links, window dressing, doing a little promotion, responding to comments at other sites etc. I had written several short things in the last week and felt myself reaching, grasping for more, and knew that I should take a day off lest I succumb to my inner literary greed.

Unfortunately he has been told there is no more work after next week

and so no more food. Mother says my brothers and I will probably have to leave

school for a few weeks to look for food in the bush and to help in our fields in the

hope that we get a harvest this April.

I'm not sure how but after breakfast, after the the checkmate at the next table, after the headset was removed, and my busywork was done I caught the eye of the lovely young woman (blue eyes filled with wit and humor, with intelligence, curiosity and charm) and asked her what she was working on.

I hope things are better for you in Lusaka. We always imagine the capital city will

be really rich, with plenty of food and it must be wonderful to be able to watch

television! Lots of my friends want to come there to get jobs and get rich, but I am

not sure, what do you think?

Please write soon

With love

Joy Mweeba

Her gaze was direct, her smile pleasant, if somewhat quizzical, and her tone frank as she explained that she was a graduate student in anthropology, preparing to leave in a few days for a summer research project in Africa.

I heard the roaring of lions, the gentle thrumming of rain on the jungle canopy, the rhythm of distant drums, I was smitten, smitten with Africa and of course, ancient though I am, with this, this, young lady, this girl really, younger than my shirt, so lovely and young so brave and earnest.

Half a century ago, when I was a boy, before high school, before John Kennedy, Vietnam, marriage, a dozen years before the birth of my son there was a great dam built in what once was Northern Rhodesia on the Zambezi River. Kariba Dam among the worlds largest was built to interrupt the flow and harness the power of the mighty river, power that was needed to run the colonial towns and cities in what would become Zambia and Zimbabwe.

As the river rose, foot by inexorable foot behind the dam, as the great fertile valley became Lake Kariba, now one of the worlds largest man made lakes, great efforts were made to save and relocate the wildlife of the area.

The wildlife of Zambia is the stuff of legend, of history merged with legend, Livingstone and Stanley, Great White hunters, safaris, a magnificent remnant of some ancient Eden.

Project Noah it was called, a great relocation of wild creatures which preserved untold thousands of wild and exotic animals who made their home in the Zambezi valley. They commemorated this rescue with a plaque in Kariba.

There were other residents of the valley of the Zambezi, the Tonga of the Gwembe valley, they called themselves "Basilwizi" the river people. They were the river, a part of the Zambezi and the river was part of them, flowing through them body and soul as surely as the blood that courses in their veins.

They had been there for centuries, living, farming in the rich alluvial soil along the banks of the Zambezi, year after year planting and tilling their crops and and erecting rain shrines all over the basin where they performed Mpande, ceremonial rites to ensure that the rains would come and the the harvest would be plentiful and there would be food to eat.

The Noah project neglected to treat the River people with the same care shown to the animals, the same sensitivity in their relocation. The British made promises, promises of good housing, of schools and roads and loan opportunities, their area, the new one that is, would be a showcase of clinics and wells and grinding mills.


Promises made to nearly sixty thousand who were relocated on higher ground where the sandy soil no longer supported their crops, where no amount of prayer and supplication or appeasement of the spirits would bring the rich harvest of the past or provide fodder for their cattle, their goats.

The Basilwizi, the River People describe now how their shrines are submerged by the waters, "there was no way the shrines and some of the spirits could be carried with us," they say.

"Life was very good in the Valley when I was growing up. We had more than enough food," they say.

"If fields could be carried, we could have carried them with us," they say.

I've had breakfast this morning and coffee and writing was easy with the grass and the rabbits, the leaning blue spruce and the breeze blowing through the window from the back yard.

I'm going to the coffee shop anyway this morning ,

I want to find that earnest and lovely and brave young woman.

I want to ask her to be my friend, to write to me and share what she finds in that place, that Africa.

I want a piece of the adventure she is about to embark upon and I want her to share with me,

to share, these Basilwizi,

her people of the river.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

Brits and their snooty healthcare!

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

I had the opportunity to have dinner with a living, breathing human who was a product of socialized medicine, otherwise known as the English Bloke.

Once a month, my car club gets together for a dinner and since it is a British car club, well, Brits attend. Usually we sing the glories of boots and bonnets, wings and sills but last night we chatted about socialized medicine.

According to him, anyone can get free medical care. He had a relative that fell off the top of his house and broke his hip. He had a replacement hip that night. Grand total? Nada. But if your hip was wearing out and needing replacing due to wear, it may take three months to get that done. Which was the two months shorter than what my Grandmother got here in the US with damn fine health insurance. Plus she had a huge bill afterward, plus a stroke during surgery (more cash) and some of the physical therapy wasn't covered. Our cost? Close to $10k with a 60 day longer wait.

The other issue that BushCo never brings up about socialized medicine is you can still have insurance. In Britain, most employers offer supplemental private insurance ON TOP of the regular socialized medical care. Think AFLAC.

Bottom line is this - Britain's National Health Service provides regular check-ups, emergency services and in-home care for free. Emergency things like broken bones, pediatric fevers and other issues like cancer that need immediate care gets immediate attention. Things that are not immediate medical threats like joint replacement, male pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction you will need to make an appointment, just like in the US.

Visit the NHS site or line up to watch SiCKO in the upcoming weeks. Either way, take a few minutes to leanr how much you are really being lied to about healthcare.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

How sunflowers helped me deal with the healthcare system.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

Years ago in 1993, I was in a car accident that put me out of work for about 5 years (God bless my wife for pulling BOTH of us through that). Above and beyond being angry for being hit by a half-drunk woman running a red light, I also had to contend with the healthcare system - or what passed for one.

I would be in agony and call up for a doc visit and could only get an appointment in 30 days. I would need painkillers and because of my demographic they would only give me NSAIDS (non-narcotic Tylenol and other similar drugs). Nope, nothing powerful for the white boy. The only option I had was self-medication - I grew pot on the back porch camouflaged by sunflowers. Although not a cure, but it helped relieve the muscular pain around my lumbar and neck (my neck still hurts every fucking day, including right this minute - but no where near as bad).

By my fourth year of treatment, my physical therapy consisted of not moving my lumbar (where the muscles detached from the spine) and to strengthen the area around it. So far, this path provided no relief and I am not going into the botched spinal nerve block where I coded on the table - yes friends, dead for a bit. You know it is bad when you wake up and you have 30 people in the room and the first thing out of the doctor's mouth is, "well, we won't try that again."

My exit out of the nightmare was switching hospitals and finding a new doctor. I learned of this doctor through an underground network of other disgruntled patients near my home and it was whispered he was a miracle worker. I can imagine this was analogous to finding an abortion doctor pre Rove V. Wade, but without the criminal aspects and high risk of mortality. So I made an appointment and waited the typical 30 days.

I arrived at the new docs office and he gave my a bucket of hydrocodone and told me to hit the gym EVERY DAY and begin exercising my lumbar area and to INCLUDE the dreaded torsion exercises!

About six months later, while sleeping late at night, I woke up with a start. Something was wrong - different somehow and after a few minutes of trying to untangle the fact that I was astonished at something but didn't know what, it hit me.

My back didn't hurt, but it hadn't hurt for weeks!

I told the physician the good news at the next visit. He scheduled a follow-up for the next month but in effect, the big source of pain had been healed.

The ironic thing, is the physician that fixed my back pain suffered from kyphosis - in layman's terms, he was a humpback.

The Diary of Rutka Laskier

This is an incredible, horrifying, and heartbreaking story that never happens in Hollywood, only in real life. After 60 years of secrecy, Stanislawa Sapinska, a Polish woman in her 80s, gave to the world a precious gift: a diary. The diary was written by a child she befriended decades ago; a Jewish teenager who later died in Auschwitz. "She wanted me to save the diary," Ms Sapinska remembered. "She said 'I don't know if I will survive, but I want the diary to live on, so that everyone will know what happened to the Jews'."

Polish girl's Holocaust diary unveiled after 60 years

Rutka Laskier, 14, the same age as the Dutch teenager Anne Frank, wrote the 60-page diary over a four-month period in Bedzin, Poland. The diary, published by Israel's Holocaust museum, documents the steady collapse of the ghetto under the weight of the Nazi occupation and deportations, as well as the first loves, friendships and jealousies of an adolescent girl growing up during the war.

News of the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and the brutal killings of Jews, filtered through to her.

Writing on February 5 1943, she said: "I simply can't believe that one day I will be allowed to leave this house without the yellow star. Or even that this war will end one day. If this happens I will probably lose my mind from joy.

"The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, he would have certainly not permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with the butt of guns or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death."

Later she wrote: "The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter. I'm turning into an animal waiting to die." Her final entry is brief: "I'm very bored. The entire day I'm walking around the room. I have nothing to do."

And then Rutka became nothing.

Neo-Nazis, members of the Aryan Brotherhood, anti-Semitic thugs, and other idiots who deny the Holocaust hate stories like this. They hate it when a dead 14-year-old Jewish girl rises from the still-smoldering ashes of the past and spits in their blind eyes.

Martyrs like Rutka Laskier make it hard to stay anonymous.

The Third Reich was a methodical killing machine that followed a simple principle: first it's murder, next it's genocide, and finally it's statistics. There's safety in numbers, after all. Rows and rows of numbers spiraling into infinity dulls the flesh and blood reality of vast, state-sanctioned slaughter. Behind the statistics and between the rows and rows of numbers is blood and the silent agony of mouths frozen in a rigor mortis scream. But curious outsiders who are wondering what the noise is all about can't get past the statistics. Trying to break the code and calculate the number of innocent victims would be as painful as trying to drink the ocean dry. So it's simpler for non-crazy people to pretend that nothing is happening.

Of course, homicidal lunatics like Nazis love turning people into statistics: it's easier to subtract.

But the diary of Rutka Laskier survived, and her tragic story tells us a simple but important truth: My friends, my family, my neighborhood, my country, my people, my history, and I died because the rest of the world stood by and did nothing.

And don't delude yourself into thinking it can't happen again. How long will it be before our grandchildren are reading the diary of a murdered 14-year-old African girl from Darfur?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bush Pardons Libby? Wouldn't We Be More Shocked If He Didn't?

There is an ad currently running on Comedy Central for David Spade's show in which the comic says that Michael Jackson is having a 50 foot robot of himself built which will roam the desert shooting laser beams from it's eyes. He then asks the viewer, "Wouldn't we be more shocked if he didn't?"

Looking around the net this morning and perusing a few of the thousands of "will Bush pardon Scooter?" stories, that ad kept popping into my mind.

I think that Bush will pardon Scooter, I will be shocked if he doesn't, the real question, for me, is when?

You can be sure the question is being discussed in hushed tones in the West Wing this morning, but the hand wringing is audible out here in the heartland.

"Obviously, there'd be a significant political price to pay," said William P. Barr, who as attorney general to President George H.W. Bush remembers the controversy raised by the post-election pardons for several Iran-contra figures in 1992. "I personally am very sympathetic to Scooter Libby. But it would be a tough call to do it at this stage."

In the West Wing, Pardon Is A Topic Too Sensitive to Mention
By Peter Baker - Washington Post

My guess is that the administration is at this very moment pulling out all the stops to gain bail for the poor abused family man and pillar of the community pending his appeal, which, with some luck, will take Cheney/Bush to the end of the term when Bush can issue the pardon just before the oval office door closes behind him.

If they don't succeed in influencing the court to allow bail, Bush will probably be forced to pardon him. I may be wrong but I don't think Scooter will remain silent through a long stay in prison.

At the same time, some White House advisers said the president's political troubles are already so deep that a pardon might not be so damaging. Those most upset by the CIA leak case that led to the Libby conviction already oppose Bush, they noted. "You can't hang a man twice for the same crime," a Republican close to the White House said.

In the West Wing, Pardon Is A Topic Too Sensitive to Mention
By Peter Baker - Washington Post

I like that kind of reasoning, it's just what I've learned to expect from this White House, indeed from government in general, the predictably pragmatic cynicism that these guys don every morning with their silk ties, expensive suits and anchorman hairpieces. It's never an issue of right or wrong, what matters is will we be damaged politically?...How badly?...Is it manageable?... How long will Scooter have to stay in Sicily before this blows over? Wait that was Pacino.

The reaction from the White House: Dana Perino told reporters that the president felt sad for Libby's family but would have no further comment about the case, the sentence or the possibility of a pardon at this time.

From the War Room by Tim Grieve at Salon

As I said there are thousands of articles this morning on the "Pardon, will he or won't he?" question, a Technorati blog search returned over 4800 and though I probably won't try to read them all but I'd like to share my two favorites so far. First from Booman:

Just what might justify pardoning Scooter Libby? I mean, if you are George W. Bush, what principles would you rely upon to rationalize the neutering of the judicial process? The jury was clear, the judge was clear, the case was clear...Scooter Libby intentionally and knowingly lied and obstructed an investigation, which is quite clearly a crime. The federal government payed a great deal of money to investigate the Plame Affair and jurors (grand, and otherwise) dedicated months of their lives to ascertaining the facts. The Justice system did its job and concluded that Scooter Libby deserves to do two and a half years in prison for the crimes that he committed. If you are going to wipe that away, you must have some theory about how, ultimately, this sentence is a miscarriage of justice.

From Booman Tribune by Booman

Booman makes a good argument that the government, having concluded that a crime was committed is going to expect someone to pay, if that person is not Scooter than the crime must lie at the feet of those he lied to protect, Cheney? Bush?

He concludes:

No matter how you look at it, there is no way to justify pardoning Scooter Libby without it being an admission of guilt by the President.

Any innocent President would be furious with Libby and wouldn't pardon him in a million years.

But Bush is not innocent. Libby lied for the President. And if Bush pardons Libby then we will know for certain that the President himself is the one that should be doing jail time for the crime that Libby covered up.

From Booman Tribune by Booman

I got my first good laugh of the day over Marty Kaplan's plaintive snarky plea for a pardon at Huffington Post:

I want Bush to pardon Libby.

I want every Republican candidate running for President and Congress to be forced to applaud Libby's pardon and to inscribe their names alongside Scooter's other distinguished defenders, from Rumsfeld to Bolton.

I want American history to possess forever a crystalline illustration of Cheney's whack-ball theory of the unitary executive exempt from the rule of law.

I want the persistent presidential nullification of the Constitution to be perpetually exemplified by an unambiguous act of unmistakable arrogance.

I want Scooter Libby's fate to be be ironically and irrevocably linked to Paris Hilton.

From Pardon Me by Marty Kaplan at Huff Post

In the grand scheme of things I don't know whether it matters but yes he should go to jail and the sentence should be significant, after all we like to discourage our senior people from lying to those who might have occasion to investigate their bosses, or do we?

Scooter is a big boy, a lawyer I believe. He knew every step of the way what he was doing, he was aware at once, while he did it, in real time, each time he lied, obstructed and worked to thwart the investigation.

He has not admitted guilt, nor has he offered to do what is the right thing for the country and tell the truth about the entire affair, the reasons for the character assassination of Joe Wilson and the outing of his wife and the various roles played by everyone involved including his bosses. The right thing for history would be to explain to the people who paid his not insignificant salary why he and his bosses felt that lies had to be told to insure our involvement in a war with Iraq.

It may be that Scooter will look at this as a post graduate course in being a stand up guy and despite the trauma to his family keep his chin up and do the time while preparing for a lucrative career on the wing nut lecture circuit or perhaps start a ministry of his own.

That approach seems to have panned out well for Charles Colson, Gordon Liddy and others convicted during the Watergate era.

He, like those before him will walk out of prison and into the arms of the largest and best funded of prison support groups. An entire wing of his party has dedicated itself to helping formerly incarcerated Republicans regain their rightful place in the halls of privilege and power.

These guys stick together.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

GOP = Get On Pot

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

After watching the GOP debate last night in New Hampshire, one must be chemically altered to believe anything coming out of the mouths of these people. The front runners would claim, especially Giuliani, they are not George Bush then turn right around and pronounce they love pre-emptive war, keeping troops in Iraq, they all embraced bombing the ever-lovin' crap out of Iran and pledged to cut back what is left of America's infrastructure in order to GROW the defense budget, which eats up more than half of all non-discretionary spending.

Another highlight included McCain advocating the teaching of all "creationist" theories in biology class. I hope that includes the Flying Spaghetti Monster - argh.


I was wrong about Alberto Gonzales.

Yes, he's a sleazy, arrogant son of a bitch who gleefully signed off on torture and has no conscience. Yes, he's an ass-kissing toady with a mediocre legal mind who doesn't deserve to be the Attorney General of the United States. Yes, he helped Bush become Governor of Texas in a too-close-to-call election by making a DWI go away. Yes, he made himself look like a fool by pretending to be a stuttering, absent-minded Sgt. Schultz while testifying before Congress.

But he isn't a punk.

I think Jon Stewart was closer to the truth when he compared Gonzales to the Henry Hill character in Goodfellas. Henry was a loyal mob mob guy who did whatever he was told and, when it was necessary, went to jail rather than testify against his bosses. Henry shut up and took his punishment like a man. So did Gonzales.

On the other hand, these guys folded like a cheap umbrella when they saw the skies grow dark and storm clouds ominously billow overhead. Think Progress has the word:

Conservatives Who Called For Gonzales’ Resignation Silent On No-Confidence Vote

If the Senate moves ahead with a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales next week as planned, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already made clear he will “tie up the Senate floor with all kinds of procedural mischief and introduce any number of amendments.”

McConnell has also cracked the whip and brought his caucus into line. Roll Call reports today that none of the six conservative senators who have called for Gonzales to resign have said they will vote for the measure.

Remember how tough these senators talked before?

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH): “The president should fire the attorney general and replace him as soon as possible with someone who can provide strong, aggressive leadership.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): “The American people deserve an Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I think that out of loyalty to the president that that [resignation] would probably be the best thing that he could do.”

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)- “For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful.”

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN): “I don’t believe that Gonzales has the type of leadership that the department needs.“

Now? In a shameless display of cowardice, they will most likely choose loyalty to the party instead of doing the right thing and demand that Gonzales show accountability and resign.


But no matter how bad it got, Gonzales kept his mouth shut. He stayed loyal to his boss. The other guys couldn't even take a beating. Once they saw Dad's belt waving around, they blubbered like kids being marched to the back of the woodshed. Incredible isn't it? These senators made Alberto Gonzales look good.

Ain't democracy wonderful?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How Scooter saved Halloween

One of the letters to the judge who was going to sentence Scooter Libby was sent by Mary Matalin, but also signed by her husband Skeletor. I mean Gollum. Oh, you know the one--the Democratic "pundit" who wanted Howard Dean ousted as chair of the DNC as punishment for the 2006 midterm elections. Anyway, Matalin and her main ghoul wanted the judge to know what a swell guy Scooter is. By way of illustration, she told the touching story of one time when the Scooter saved Halloween for the Cheney grandchildren at an "undisclosed location".

In a truly nausea-inducing segment of the letter, Matalin makes this case for the convicted felon who outed a CIA agent:

My lifelong view, which has only been validated in adulthood, is that kids are the most honest and true evaluators of people. Watching my children with Scooter, and all children with him, you'd think he hung the moon. He is gentle and caring. He is genuinely interested in others well being and still inspires me to this day. He is a compelling teacher and extraordinary role model for integrity and humility.

I have seen what this trial has done to my own kids, just their reading about it. I cannot imagine the toll on Scooter and Harriet's young ones. Setting aside the pain of the Libby family, my girls just don't understand. They are old enough to intellectually comprehend the facts of the case but associating these "facts" with "Mr. Scooter" remains a complete disconnect to them.

My family is praying the wisdom and mercy you bring to bear in determining Scooter's future will include a consideration of his family, the price they have already paid and what further justice would be served by additional devastation to them and the many other children who love Scooter.
I was going to comment on that, but at the moment I'm speechless. But I'm sure some of you can think of something to say, so I'll just open up the floor for comment on all of this.

More Stuff Our Children Isn't Learning

Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Bushisms- Good Question

Via David Sirota, a freshly minted article in the Financial Times provides still more evidence that what we learn isn't what we earn.

Here's the key excerpt:

"Earnings of the average U.S. worker with an undergraduate degree have not kept up with gains in productivity in recent decades, according to research by academics at MIT that challenges traditional explanations of why income inequality is rising...The average graduate failed to keep up with gains in economy-wide productivity, once those productivity gains are adjusted for the composition of the workforce...This casts doubt on the conventional argument that the solution to rising in-equality is to improve the standard of education across the workforce as a whole...The failure of workers even with undergraduate degrees to keep up with productivity is due to a change in labor market institutions and norms that reduced the bargaining power of most U.S. workers." (emphasis added)

That last line is particularly important, so let's unpack the euphemisms a little further. The "change in labor market institutions and norms that reduced bargaining power of most U.S. workers" is business rhetoric for the crushing of domestic unions and the passage of trade pacts that include no basic labor, environmental or human rights protections - trade pacts that force American workers into competition with workers who have no basic rights. Though the Financial Times seems to passively portray those changes as natural forces like, say, a passing thunderstorm or a beautiful sunset, they are anything but. The changes are very deliberate, very calculated and very artificial - they are the result of specific public policies bought by Wall Street and passed by a corrupt Congress.

This isn't exactly news, of course. It's just more evidence against the canard that has allowed free trade enthusiasts to put American workers in direct competition with third world employment markets.

BOB PORTER -- It looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.

-- I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob.

-- That's terrific, Peter. I, I, I'm sure you've, you've, you've heard some of the rumors around the hallway about how we're just going to do a little housecleaning with some of the software people.

-- Well, Bob, I have heard that and you gotta do what you gotta do.

-- Well, these people here. First, Mr. Samir Naga... Naga...

-- Naga...

-- Naga-worker here anyway!

-- Mr. Mike Bolton. We're certainly gonna miss him.

-- You're gonna layoff Samir and Michael!?

-- We're gonna bring in some entry level graduates for us to work in Singapore, that's the usual deal.

-- Well, it's standard operating procedure.

As I wrote here, over a year ago, a good education is not a panacea for what ails our weakening job market. As per Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post.

Also dying, if not yet also kaput, is the comforting notion that a good education is the best defense against the ravages of globalization -- or, as Bill Clinton famously put it: What you earn is the result of what you learn. A study last year by economists J. Bradford Jensen of the Institute for International Economics and Lori Kletzer of the University of California at Santa Cruz demonstrates that it's the more highly skilled service-sector workers who are likely to have tradable jobs. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of jobs in the United States that require a college degree will rise by a measly one percentage point -- from 26.9 percent in 2002 to 27.9 percent in 2012 -- during this decade.

So what kinds of jobs will the global marketplace provide for America's college graduates? Again, from Meyerson:

In the new global order, Blinder writes, not just manufacturing jobs but a large number of service jobs will be performed in cheaper climes. Indeed, only hands-on or face-to-face services look safe.

STAN -- I need to talk about your flair.

JOANNA -- Really? I have 15 buttons on. I, uh...

STAN -- Well, ok, 15 is minimum, ok?


STAN -- Now, it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Well, like Brian, for example, has 37 pieces of flair. And a terrific smile.

JOANNA -- Ok. Ok, you want me to wear more?

STAN -- Look. Joanna.

JOANNA -- Yeah.

STAN -- People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, ok? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.

JOANNA -- Ok. So, more then?

STAN -- Look, we want you to express yourself, ok? If you think the bare minimum is enough, then ok. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, ok? You do want to express yourself, don't you?

JOANNA -- Yeah. Yeah.

STAN -- Great. Great. That's all I ask.


But a few studies by reputable researchers will not stop factually challenged, globalization apologists like Thomas Friedman from trotting out the education myth at every opportunity. It's far too useful as a tool for shutting down debate on outsourcing. And all this bloviating about the importance of education isn't slowing the erosion of an economy that now sees a decline in income for 90% of the populace. It's not doing a whole lot for our educational system either.

My daughter started kindergarten this year. She's lucky. She's in a top-rated school district; not one that has being punitively starved for being malnourished to begin with. I did learn, however, what accounts for a good education these days. It starts with homework for 5 year olds. It's not like the kindergarten of my memory. I colored and made macaroni necklaces. She has a math test every week. Did I mention that she's 5?

So, my husband and I did a little research and learned, to our horror, that 5 is really not an appropriate age for today's kindergarten, and that parents all over the country are pressing their school districts to hold their kids back a year, called "redshirting," so they can keep up with the rigorous demands of the kindergarten classroom.

Children who turn 5 even in June or earlier are sometimes considered not ready for kindergarten these days, as parents harbor an almost Darwinian desire to ensure that their own child is not the runt of the class. Although a spate of literature in the last few years about boys' academic difficulties helped prompt some parents to hold their sons back a year, girls, too, are being held back. Yet research on whether the extra year helps is inconclusive.

Fueled by the increasingly rigorous nature of kindergarten and a generation of parents intent on giving their children every edge, the practice is flourishing in New York City private schools and suburban public schools. A crop of 5-year-olds in nursery school and kindergartners pushing 7 are among the most striking results.

While the push to make our kids more "competitive" is resulting in grade school standards that are increasingly out of sync with normal, developmental stages, politician's and the corporations that pull their strings enjoy endless benefits.

The political emphasis on education does even more for corporate America than provide a fig leaf for outsourcing all our jobs to India and China. Long before "No Child Left Behind" started making millions for Neil Bush, pharmaceutical companies learned they could profit by medicating our "disruptive" kids. The problem traces back to a dubious study called "A Nation at Risk," which correlated our educational system with the ebb and flow of the greater economy. One result is an increase in diagnoses of ADD/ADHD and prescriptions for drugs like Ritalin.

Despite the unsoundness of the conceptual underpinnings of A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report led to a substantial rewriting of federal and state laws regarding education. Many states now employ "high stakes" testing, which, by definition, means that state funding is allocated preferentially to school districts showing the greatest improvement in test scores. Principals are hired or fired depending on their school's test score results. Superintendents are promised large bonuses if their school districts' test scores rise; if the scores fall, a superintendent will likely be sacked. School test scores now affect many aspects of a community's self-image, including property values. If your family has to choose between moving to town A or town B, and A's schools get higher test scores than B's, aren't you more likely to move to town A? Other things being equal, the town with higher scores will have higher property values.

Principals and teachers aren't stupid. Faced with pressure to raise test scores, they change the curriculum to increase the likelihood of students scoring high. Because standardized tests measure reading, writing, and math skills, more time will be devoted to reading, writing, and math. Because the tests do not measure skills in music, art, gym, or playground social skills such as learning to play fair in a game of kickball, less time will be devoted to music, art, gym, and recess. In some schools, recess is being eliminated altogether. After all, if your mandate is to raise test scores, what's the point of recess? Some superintendents are so intent on doing away with recess that they are building new elementary schools without a playground. "Many parents still don't quite get it," says Dr. Benjamin Canada, the Atlanta school superintendent. "They'll ask, 'so when are we getting a new playground?' And I'll say, 'There's not going to be a new playground."26

The elementary school curriculum has been speeded up. If you want your second-graders to excel on their standardized tests, then first grade is too late to start them reading. Start them in kindergarten. The result is that kindergarten, in the sense that it existed in the 1960s, no longer exists in most American school systems. The first-grade curriculum has been pushed down into kindergarten, which Time magazine wryly suggested should be renamed "kinder grind." "Forget blocks, dress-up, and show-and-tell," said Time. "Five-year-olds are now being pushed to read."27

My daughter can write her own name, now. Most of the time the letters are well-proportioned and face in the right direction. A few weeks ago, she finally grokked the relevance of "homework." Well, better late than never. At this rate, by the time she graduates from college she should be well prepared to compete for a job against a commensurately educated Vietnamese worker who will work for pennies on the dollar... Or she can always waitress. I think she has a real flair for "flair." She'll probably need it.

Bill Moyers, Cleaning Up Washington

Born on this day in 1934

America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own, they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits, the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.
Bill Moyers

I happened to be reading Moyer's Blog early this morning looking for his interview with Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook which I missed when it aired on PBS last Friday on "Bill Moyers Journal."

The subject of the segment was lobbying and lobbyists and their pervasive influence on our political system.

I have a large measure of respect for both Moyers and Claybrook and an enormous loathing for lobbyists and their destructive influence on MY country and I was disappointed to have missed the program.

Fortunately for me I learned from Karl Rove that Al Gore invented the internet a few years back, and that invention led to the discovery of You Tube where I found a clip of the segment and I feel very good about the modern world this morning.

If you are at all interested, as you should be, in the machinations and corruptions of our polical system by the Bob Neys, the Jack Abramoffs, the Billy Tauzins and other disreputable and criminal scum who infest our government and engage in buying and selling it these days I recommend that you watch the video.

Coincidentally, it seems like an appropriate time to once again ponder the the corruption in our government and to seriously consider, again, again... doing something to put an end to the revolving doors and corrupt and unethical congressional behavior, after yesterday's indictment of another sitting congressman (Louisiana's own William Jefferson .. hmmm... Billy Tauzin was from Louisiana too) on bribery and racketeering charges.

Just about a year ago, around the time that the Feds were breaking down Jefferson's office door, I wrote a somewhat awkwardly titled and probably, awkwardly written piece The Mother Of All Public Airings Of The Dirty Skivvies, in which I ranted briefly about the corruption in Washington. I reread it this morning after reading accounts of "Dollar Bill's" indictment and marveled that I had, at that time, a somewhat hopeful tone, because I fully expected the Democrats to sweep back into Washington at mid term, surfing on a tidal wave of the foul detritus of Republican corruption and really polish up the Washington Monument and everything else in sight.

Those were heady and optimistic days for me, I had survived a heart attack, learned that I would likely survive to a decently old age, Abramoff was singing his heart out, Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney were preparing musical arrangements of their own and it looked like the lid was going to blow right off the old Washington sewer.

I gushed:

Democrats do not wait, do not falter, this day, this very day begin to cleanse your ranks of the filth, of the rot, of all those unworthy to serve the public trust. You know them well, you have ignored and protected and excused them far too long, and they have held us back like a great sea anchor, made from the mainsail of our Ship of State and torn from it's proud and proper place flying high and boldly before the winds of history.

Take the lead Democrats and do it this day, the gods and the people wait and watch.

I blush as I read it this morning but I was so much younger and idealistic a year ago, and this morning after the last months of watching my Democratic leadership fold on nearly all fronts, from health care and pharmaceuticals to Iraq and ethics reform, watching their cowardly accommodations and their lust for the largesse of the lizards of K Street, I am much older.

The Democrats were voted back into Washington and the several statehouses by the people, to do the work of the people, to put a stop to the corruption, an end to the war, to renew our economy, and return us to a position of respect in the eyes of the world, not to do the bidding of the Big Oil Trust, Big Pharm, the National Association of Manufacturers or the defense industry.

They were elected to throw the moneylenders out of the temple not to grovel by their side and worship Mammon with them.

I'm straying a bit here from "Happy Birthday Bill" I suppose but I set out to pen a small tribute to his work in past years of exposing the kind of corporate and governmental collusion that I believe is at the heart of our public malaise as well as to express my respect for the work of Public Citizen.

From Ms Claybrook:

When corporate lobbyists raise campaign cash or help lawmakers get lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving office, the democratic system is corrupted. It's also expensive. Lobbyists throw their financial weight around Congress to get tax breaks, contracts, loan guarantees, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks for their corporate clients. Meanwhile, those of us with legitimate concerns about drug safety, global warming and high gas prices have trouble being heard at all.
Joan Claybrook from Public Citizen

The scandals brought on by the criminal relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress * like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney * toppled Republicans in 2006. The Democrats came to power on the promise of draining the swamp and ending the culture of corruption.

So where are we now?

We are still fighting for some very modest reforms for transparency in the way that lobbyists and members of Congress conduct business.

See Watchdog Blog

The lobby and ethics reform bills passed by the Senate and House will be joined in a conference committee when Congress returns to work next week. At least one critical reform found in the stronger Senate bill may be in jeopardy: slowing the "revolving door." This refers to the practice of former lawmakers taking high-paying lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, hired because they know the system and have special access to ask former colleagues for favors.

Under the current law, public officials are prohibited only from "direct" lobbying * and only for one year after office. This means that former lawmakers can run lobbying campaigns for clients as soon as they leave Congress * as long as they don't pick up the phone or meet personally with a lawmaker. This is completely inadequate.

If I have a point here aside from birthday greetings it is this, the only thing that will save our Democratic Party is extreme pressure from you and I, we, after all are the base, the core and the soul of the party and we must not allow it to become another tool co -opted by the theo - plutocracy.

Write to the Party leadership, piss and moan in the media and in print, loudly, boldly and clearly.

My America, our America, cannot survive without a Democratic Party.

Oh yeah, donate to Public Citizen and to Bill Moyers Journal, it's his birthday you know.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

Harry Potter and the Blue Dog Democrats

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

Lycanthropy as defined my Wikipedia:
In folklore, lycanthropy is the ability or power of a human being to undergo transformation into a wolf.

There is no better definition for our conservative democrats than that of lycanthropy. You never know when they will explode into a ball of fur, claws and dimwitted logic in the halls of Congress. They are extremely undependable and definitely against the progressive agenda.

It was also obvious that he full moon was out when the war funding bill passed recently and we also discovered a lot more of the dogs were blue than we previously expected.

Do we do as Harry Potter does, embrace the inner good of the werewolf and help them overcome their issues or should we follow the path of the "all-out" Van Helsing and relegate the blue dogs back to the unemployment line?

On The Wrong End of The Scapel

The doctor was a line of machines with a conveyor belt running through them. When the organlegger's body temperature reached a certain point, the belt started.

The first machine made a series of incisions in his chest. Skillfully and mechanically, the doctor performed a cardiectomy.

The organlegger was officially dead.

His heart went into storage immediately. His skin followed, most of it in one piece, all of it still living. The doctor took him apart with exquisite care, like disassembling a flexible, fragile, tremendously complex jigsaw puzzle. The brain was flashburned and the ashes saved for urn burial; but all the rest of the body, in slabs and small blobs and parchment-thin layers and lengths of tubing, went into storage in the hospital's organ banks. Any one of these units could be packed in a travel case at a moment's notice and flown to anywhere in the world in not much more than an hour. If the odds broke right, if the right people came down with the right diseases at the right time, the organlegger might save more lives than he had taken.

Which was the whole point.

"The Jigsaw Man", by Larry Niven

I'm glad this turned out to be a joke, because when I first read it, I wasn't sure:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) -- A Dutch reality television show in which a supposedly dying woman had to pick one of three contestants to whom she would donate a kidney was revealed as an elaborate hoax on Friday.

The show, which the broadcaster had said aimed to focus attention on a shortage of donor organs in the Netherlands, was condemned by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende before broadcast Friday night and sparked controversy worldwide.

Identified only as "Lisa," the 37-year-old woman who had been said to be suffering from a brain tumor was to base her selection on the person's history and conversations with the candidates' families and friends.

In the last minutes of the program, she was revealed as a healthy actress and producers stunned viewers by saying "The Big Donorshow" was a hoax.

The contestants were also part of the deception, although all three are genuine kidney patients.

"Their life is bitter reality," the host said after revealing the deception, just at the moment at which Lisa was to have stated her choice.

Dutch Education Minister Ronald Plasterk hailed the show as a "fantastic stunt" and an intelligent way to draw attention to the shortage of donor organs.

As P.T. Barnum famously remarked, "There's a sucker born every minute", and I got fooled this time. I believed this bizarre stunt because, horrifying as it sounded, it also seemed disturbingly plausible. When it comes to wallowing in tasteless vulgarity, these programs have no moral checks and balances. There is no bottom. Remember Who's Your Daddy? The producers of this garbage don't ask themselves "Is this wrong?", but "Is this legal?"

But there was another reason why I believed this hoax. I was afraid that the world had finally caught up to Larry Niven.

In Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison's controversial science-fiction anthology, Larry Niven wrote "The Jigsaw Man". In his story, criminals convicted of capital offenses are forced to donate all of their organs to medicine, so that their body parts can be used to save lives and thus repay society for their crimes. Disposing of a convicted felon's body after death was found to be too wasteful. However, the ever-increasing demand for organs has compelled lawmakers to lower the bar for execution. Before, murder or kidnapping would put a criminal on the wrong end on the scapel. Now? A parking ticket.

And living in a era where, for example, the War on Drugs exists only to enrich the penal industry, who's to say Niven's premise is wrong? As Niven wrote in his afterword, "Someone has to start thinking about this. We haven't much time. It's only an accident of history that Red Cross blood banks aren't supplied by the death house. Think of the advantages--and worry."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bloggers, it's time to lead!

Also posted at My Left Wing and Booman Tribune

I've got a bit of a confession to make. I like the top 40 music from the 80s. Yes, it was fluffy and bouncy and silly, and, as far as artistic quality goes, could probably be considered the junk food of music. But I think it comes down to basic classical conditioning--I was at college getting good grades while still having plenty of time to play. And I was falling in love with the man who is now my husband. So, for me, life was good. And that's part of why songs like "Holding out for a hero" hold a special place in my heart.

The purpose of this essay, however, is to announce  that I am officially not "holding out for a hero" in the 2008 election.

Like a lot of people I know from around the internets, I would love to support Al Gore for president in 2008. I hope he runs. But...more and more it feels bad to ask that of him. Would you get in the snake pit for us, Al? Pretty please?

He's doing some real good right now, spreading the word about global warming, and inspiring people to take action on that issue. While, yeah, I want him to BE president, the truth is that actually running for president in this day and age really sucks. You're under constant scrutiny by 24 hour channels, who never just report the news, but will package you as some "type"--a caricature that bears almost no resemblence to who you really are. They will ignore the substantive things you say, but spend countless hours obsessing about your hair, your weight, or something equally pointless.

And in addition to all of that, there's the nonstop fundraising for months on end. So, he'd have to divert a fair amound of his energies away from global warming in order to be put through the wringer just for the chance to be president. I don't want to do that to Al. I like Al. He's a nice guy.

Of course, the reason I even consider asking such a thing of him is that I'm just not all that impressed with the field so far.

Almost a month ago, I wrote about "prophets and kingmakers", concluding that, while there's more money in the kingmaking gig, that role is not a very good fit for people who are mainly concerned about bringing about positive social change. A couple weeks later, in response to a diary about "the real gatecrashers", it struck me that the big problem with the whole "crashing the gates" model is, in fact, those damn gates.

I never consented to gates.

And it's become really clear to me over the past few years that we're not going to make anything better simply by installing a different group of people inside the castle. Trusting that they will "remember who got them there"--when the truth is, everything changes once they get inside those gates.
So I really take issue with the whole set-up where few are on the inside and many are on the outside. Similarly, one of the main drawbacks to being a "kingmaker" is that somebody is being made king.

I know these are metaphors, but there's something I think we forget too often... When we elect a president, we're not choosing someone to be our boss. We're hiring an employee. So we are the ones who tell them what the job entails, and what characteristics and values we consider most important.

I remember when Jim Wallis came to Columbus last spring, he said something about Martin Luther King that really stuck with me. King never endorsed a candidate for political office, but was able to get candidates to endorse his agenda.

Hell, yeah! That's what we need to be doing, brothers and sisters! We need to take the lead, and anyone who wants to get elected will need to get on board.

Space Travel And Truth In Bumper Stickers

The Sun

Former Sen. John Edwards, left, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Manchester, N.H., June 3, 2007.

I sort of watched last night's debate, when the bloviation reached the painfully embarrassing level I would switch channels in favor of a program about the physics of the Sun, about which it may not be possible to bloviate.

Switching back and forth between those two particular shows created a kind of auditory strobe effect, in one moment the undeniable reality of the physical processes taking place on the Sun, in the next the equally undeniable bullshit taking place in a suburb of our solar system known as New Hampshire.

One self serving statement followed another, charges of timidity and lack of leadership leveled by Edwards against Clinton and Obama, charges of being 41/2 years late with leadership leveled against Edwards by Obama.

I had just returned from the Sun when those barbs were hurled and it struck me that it was possible that no one on the stage possessed the ability to lead a rifle squad down the street to buy a newspaper.

They all had their moments I suppose but during one orbit I heard Clinton say:

"The differences among us are minor, the differences between us and the Republicans are major. And I don't want anybody in America to be confused."

From "Democrats Focus on Iraq In Contentious Second Debate" by  Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz at The Washington Post

That was a bit of truth because, although I might have to hold my nose to vote for her and others on the stage last night, I am not capable of the kind of confusion that would lead me to vote Republican.

In her truthiness however, Ms Clinton neglected to mention the incredible similarities between the Democrats and the Republicans in their insatiable eagerness to sell out to the highest corporate bidder.

Iraq and health care seemed to take up most of the debate and I don't remember hearing a word about campaign and ethics reform, no mention of the lizards of K Street and their influence in preventing the delivery of Health care and prescription drugs as well as their influence in going to war and prolonging it.

To be fair though, it may have come up while I was eight light minutes away.

Another bit of truth that I caught as I whizzed by on one orbit was Edwards declaring Bush's global war on terror to be nothing but a bumper sticker slogan:

"That's all it is, all it's ever been -- was intended to do was for George Bush to use it to justify everything he does: the ongoing war in Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, torture," Edwards said. "None of those things are okay. They are not the United States of America."

From "Democrats Focus on Iraq In Contentious Second Debate" by Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz at The Washington Post

Now that is something that I have been saying for years, so it must be true.

Reports that I read this morning have Obama as "commanding and confidant" whatever that means and five of the candidates are left almost unmentioned, mere also-rans playing the role of a "Greek chorus:

"Reduced to the status of a Greek chorus, the five Democratic also-rans had a difficult time breaking through the clutter. Joe Biden did have a strong moment when he challenged the growing panic over the threat of Iran producing nuclear weapons. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said bluntly, "Understand how weak Iran is. They are not a year away or two years away. They are a decade away from being able to ... put a nuclear weapon on top of a missile that can strike. They are far away from that." But Biden also blustered in the same answer when he said defiantly, "At the end of the day, if they posed a missile, stuck it on a pad, I'd take it out."

From "In New Hampshire, the Democrats play a little rougher" by Walter Shapiro at Salon

I don't know who won, and I suppose I could surf from one blog to another, or one candidate's web site to another all day and read arguments why each supposedly prevailed, but I think I'll resist the urge.

At the end I gave a split decision to Edwards because he said that he was wrong to have voted to authorize the war. Maybe if he and the rest who voted for this insanity start writing notes of condolence to all who have suffered the pain and death of this war they can finish before the Sun cools and dies.

Did you know that photons emitted in fusion reactions at the center of the Sun can take hundreds of thousands of years to reach the surface and then travel to earth in just a few minutes?

I learned that during last night's debate as well as learning the fact that the only thing in our solar system that may outlast the Sun will be this interminable campaign.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

John Edwards Clearly Has Lost His Mind

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

For me, Edwards really stepped up and out at the debate last night and it was mostly due to the fact he took responsibility for his war vote. Obama got off one zinger but zingers only zing ONCE. Edwards has kept a steady pace of "I was wrong on the war" meme and I think that will pay off more in the long run than Obama will get for his "4 and half years is too late to show leadership" sound bite.

Here's why. Bush never apologizes for jack shit. Even when it came to Katrina, it was never his fault directly. He always danced around the issue of personal responsibility and muddied the water of an apology better than anyone else I have ever seen. But a politician, especially a PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE that comes clean and admits he was wrong and repeats it at every appropriate opportunity, will seem more the polar opposite of Bush than the rest of the crowd.

Biden's rant on Dafur was good and probably his best moment, but alas, it is about 4 and half years too late.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

No More Honeymoon

The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal and crossposted at The Peace Tree.

Election night 2006 was a satisfying result after the calamity of one party reactionary rule. On a personal level, I juggled my day job and after hours phone banking to help in the effort. Many other activists did the same out of patriotism and desire to establish a bulwark against the corporate theocrats in Washington. It feels like another lifetime and as The Nation duly noted in their latest edition, “The Honeymoon Is Over”:

“As Congress left town for its Memorial Day recess, the euphoria cast by the 2006 election victories was gone. Disappointed by the Democrats' inability to force a withdrawal timeline into the war-funding bill, angered by a trade deal hatched in secret, dismayed at backsliding on cleaning up Capitol Hill, progressives were faced with the unpleasant reality of the new Congress, warts and all.

The slim Democratic majority in both Houses is not a progressive majority. Just as distressing as the cave-in on war funding was the continued power of the bipartisan money party. Beyond ending the war, Democrats were elected because of popular rejection of corporate trade policies and the stench of corruption in Washington. Tom DeLay is gone, but the corporate lobbies just reloaded with Democrats. When the House leadership announced a trade accord that the Chamber of Commerce celebrated as a model for giving Bush renewed fast-track authority, hopes for a new economic course were punctured. Then, House Democrats wouldn't support even a two-year hiatus that would slow the revolving door between Congress and the lobby world. (‘That's our retirement plan,’ complained anonymous legislators.)”
I largely agree with that assessment about the Democratic majority’s corporatist leanings and sympathy for the K-Street industry. As for the war, even before Democrats assumed control, I advocated for either invoking the War Powers Act or cutting off funding. Timid and feckless, the Democrats were more concerned with implementing a political strategy of bleed and win. While the ongoing war continued to bleed Bush and the GOP, the Democrats were content to pass bills that scored political points and accomplished very little. The so-called benchmarks the Bush Administration agreed to is window dressing.

Ultimately, the plug will be pulled on this war by the GOP in September. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his party doesn’t want another election campaign about Iraq. All that remains is for some more soldiers to “die for a mistake” as the young John Kerry once put it, while the Iraqis continue to kill each other. Bush had hoped to hand off the war to his successor so defeat would not happen on his watch. How ironic that Bush's fellow Republicans who enabled him to pursue this immoral and diastrous war of choice, will have their fingerprints on our withdrawal.

But the overall problem of combating radical Islam with a foreign policy based on international cooperation and strategic logic remains. We're losing Afghanistan and getting little value from our support of Musharaff in Pakistan. Democrats deliver platitudes about sending more troops to Afghanistan after we leave Iraq. Yet they don't explain why an escalation in Afghanistan would be any more successful than the current surge in Iraq.

Meanwhile, an economic policy guided by corporatism at the expense of working people struggling to keep up with the cost of living is not being reversed. Why don’t they pass a bill overturning the hideous Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 passed by the Republican majority? Or make a push for reforming healthcare?

Granted, President Bush remains an obstacle to enacting a progressive program and more can be accomplished if the right person is elected to the White House next year. But that is no excuse for not maximizing their majority platform today to build public support and educate the citizenry. Congressional Democrats have wasted five months. Precious time that could’ve been used to aggressively advocate for replacing this insipid era of deranged privatization and cronyism, with bold initiatives designed to lift the working poor, nurture a vibrant middle class and yes provide healthcare for all.

However, the elections of 2006 were simply a first step in a long journey. Expecting a progressive reformation after one midterm election cycle was never realistic. Progressive activists, bloggers and citizens nationwide need to put their cynicism aside and remain engaged. The Nation put it best in their editorial’s closing paragraph:
“Democratic majorities have provided us with relatively progressive leaders in both houses of Congress and several aggressive committee chairs who are beginning to unearth the hidden horrors of this rogue Administration. But we still don't have the progressive strength in Congress or the leadership in the White House that can change this country's course. The serial disappointments of recent weeks are but a reminder that we've got work to do.”
We’ve only begun to fight for what is right.

Alan Ginsberg, Howl and Moloch Live On

June 3, 1926  April 5, 1997

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats

floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

From Howl by Alan Ginsberg

I went to high school in Dayton, Ohio from 1958 through 1962. There was a period during this time, I think it was my Sophomore year that several of us discovered the book "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac and the poetry and writings of Fernlinghetti, Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Diane DiPrima, William Borroughs, etal.

I forget which one of our group of pegged levis, duck ass hair cut, teenage angst ridden, James Dean cigarette hanging from arrogance without a cause mouth children discovered the Beat Generation first but a dozen of us took to the anger and alienation and not so subtle sexual references that we read in those works like ducks to water.

For months we carried in our insolent hip pockets a paper back copy of an anthology titled "The Beats" which held some of the writings of that post WW2 period, a story about saxophonist Gerry Mulligan which led me to a life long love of Jazz and a bibliography which led all of us to the library looking for more.

We collectively and publicly referred to the book as our "Bible," which in those days, in Dayton, in Ohio was seditious, blasphemous and instantly branded us as "juvenile delinquents" which was a distinction we had only dreamed of gaining up to that point.

I remember skipping school to go to the library to check out a copy of "Howl," by Ginsberg which due to it's involvment in an obscenity trial was on the "restricted list" as I was informed by a disapproving librarian down her nose through frightening black horn rims.

Her respect for all literature, I suppose, even the obscene variety allowed her to put me on the list and when a few weeks later I was able to procure this magnum opus I was completely smitten.

What I read in that small anthology, the entire genre, and especially "Howl," most especially the prolonged rant against "Moloch" in Part two, somehow codified in my young mind a stance that I had consciously felt developing between myself and the world of adults and authority and my abused teenage desire for personal freedom.

Ginsberg and most of the others of the genre, although members of my parents generation spoke directly to "me." I felt their anger and alienation from the world of the A bomb, the insecurity of the Cold War, and their disgust and horror at the carnage of the wars in Europe and the Pacific and the more recent debacle in Korea.

There are few things that I read in those early years that had such a profound affect on me and although I haven't thought about the poem in a long time, this morning when I read that today was Ginsberg's birthday, I looked it up and read it again.

It was like revisiting a lover from a distant past, the familiar angry staccato rhythms of Part two were the rediscovery of a courageous old friend.

Over the years I have from time to time written to thank authors and writers who moved me, or of whom I was jealous because they had penned something that I wished I had written, but for some reason I never wrote to thank Ginsberg.

Maybe it's because I'm still somewhat afraid of what I discovered in him and what he led me to discover in myself, I don't know.

I do know that Howl became a sort of anthem for me and I suspect for others of my generation as we faced the postwar development of the madness of modern technological market driven society with its greed for profits, its cold calculating dispassionate lust for territory and resources, and its evil thirst for the bodies of our children to feed to its wars.

Ginsberg died just over ten years ago. Moloch lives on and thrives.

Ginsberg's words live on as well:

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi- nation?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob tainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys

sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose

buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun- ned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies!

Moloch whose breast is a canni- bal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless

Jehovahs! Moloch whose fac- tories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the


Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the

specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

From Howl by Alan Ginsberg part 2

Bob Higgins

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