Wednesday, December 22, 2004
A pastor in Raleigh, N.C. (Hi, Maggie!) has spearheaded a campaign to target stores who greet customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," threatening to take away their business. The church has taken out a full-page ad in the local newspaper urging Christians to boycott these stores.
This from the L.A. Times:
"Our position is, if they want the gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child," said Wooden, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.
Emboldened by their victories in November's elections, conservative Christians nationwide have converged around the topic of Christmas, contending that secularists and nonbelievers have tried to obliterate the holiday's religious meaning.
Conservative Americans feel ready to push back against what they deem "the secularists or the humanists or the elitists" who dominate popular culture, said the Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which is based in Raleigh.
"It's a cultural war. We are in the thick of it,"Creech said. "It's not so much an attack on us. It's an attack on Christ."
Wooden and his church - which has a cherry-red "Merry Christmas" banner hanging across its front, looking for all the world like a political slogan - aim to push back against that spirit of caution.
The paper ran a series of passionate letters, many critical of the advertisement. An Episcopal priest wrote to compare the campaign to the Nazi policy requiring Jews to identify themselves with yellow stars.
Wooden, 43, considers the campaign such a success that he has set aside money in the church budget - full-page ads cost about $7,600 - to buy a similar advertisement next year. Fresh off the fierce debate over same-sex marriage, which he opposes, condemnation from the left does not trouble him. On the contrary, he said: "It seems to me the greater the persecution, the stronger the church."
Monday, December 20, 2004
This latest news from Democracy Now reframes all of the war protesting as so much tempest in a teapot, signifying nothing. No wonder Bush didn't sweat the small stuff (like evidence or non-lying rhetoric).
Justice Dept. Okd Bush Having Unlimited War Power
Newsweek has obtained a secret Justice Department memo from 2001 that claims there are effectively "no limits" on presidential power to wage war -- with or without Congressional approval. The memo written two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks reads in part "The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the states that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of Sept. 11." Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports the memo seems to lay out a legal groundwork for the president to invade Iraq-without approval of Congress-long before the White House had publicly expressed any intent to do so. In regards to war, the memo claims "the president's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable."
I hate to bring the mood down again, but I feel pressed to introduce what should remain an underscore throughout this joyous holiday season.
I went to my liberal religious service yesterday morning where peace was the theme. Peace and goodwill toward men, right? That's supposed to be the moral of Christmas, even for us left-wing religiosos. Even though, I admit, I am especially emotional this week, I was surprised by my own teariness throughout the service. Every time she mentioned peace -- peace for the embattled Fallujians -- peace for entrenched politicians -- peace for angry Americans -- and reminded us that goodness is here, with us and in us, all the time -- that our sole responsibility is to recognize and appreciate the goodness here, in the people next to us in the long line at the malls, here in this Christmas season even when materialism seems to be the rule of the day -- here in this country where half of us support this President and his war and half of us stew in fury and despair -- I found myself struggling to quiet a rising panic at the vision of all the people in Iraq and elsewhere in the world that are drowning in fear of U.S. attack. Every day. Every day.
All I could pray for was one day of respite from fear of us. One day -- too much to hope for a whole holiday week -- where it would never cross their minds to fear for their lives if they leave their homes to buy food. Just one day where the love of their families and neighbors was more real to them, more present, than their fear and hatred of everything the U.S. has come to mean to the threats and dangers of their everyday lives. One day for the children growing up hungry and scared to be able to laugh as loud as they want and not be ashamed at their joy when so many around them are suffering. Just one day without fear for those we seek to "free" and a whole week of remembering for those of us here that our privilege and our distance and our ability to forget their suffering is bought at a much higer price than our global position and personal credit can sustain.
It wasn't until this morning that I learned 70 people lost their lives yesterday in Iraq. Seventy people. The tears that so embarrassed me at church, tears that seemingly came from nowhere, now seem piteously few and negligently inadequate. I am going to take the time today to write our fair Mr. W. Bush and his Pentagon and ask them for one day of peace. To do whatever we have to do not to shoot anyone or bomb anyone or scare anyone for one full day. It doesn't seem too much to ask. It's probably inhuman of me to ask for so little. May I be forgiven and my intentions understood.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Last night a group of us went downtown and were confronted by a line of hundreds of people trying to get into the opening night festivities of this new bar “The Library.” Downtown Albuquerque has been straddling a tenuous balance of coolness and Disneyland status for the last couple of years, and unfortunately I think The Library will cement downtown’s status as a fake place built for college kids and young professionals with cash, much to the delight of developers and shady groups like the Downtown Action Team. Never mind that some of the country’s most historic and culturally rich neighborhoods straddle downtown and their residents are still without a local grocery store or bookstore…
I may have to take a picture of this place and post it for non-locals. It’s a huge bar right on Central Ave. with gaudy paintings of books above the entrance with embarrassing titles such as “Tequila Mockingbird” and “Lord of the Onion Rings.” Talk about running a theme into the ground. And I haven’t even mentioned the half-naked "librarian" waitstaff yet. Here’s a brilliant quote from the manager regarding his scantily-clad table-dancing waitresses: “We actually really just want to appeal to women. We don’t want girls to feel put off or intimidated by the all-female staff.”
Give me a break. Places like this are exactly what sucks about so many bars and downtowns today. That this Las Vegas/Disneyland approach works while genuine bars like O’Neil’s in Nob Hill have to close their doors is terrible. I can’t help but feel suckered in places like this, like I’m selling out just by walking in the door and pretending to be a part of a fabricated experience.
Look for me at Pearl’s Dive down the street instead.
In the last two weeks I’ve seen “Closer” and “Sideways,” both movies I was really looking forward to seeing. And both of them I liked. But “Sideways” in particular has a rare quality for movies these days, one that’s even more striking when you see it right after “Closer.” The thing is, the characters in “Sideways” look like regular people, like we look and like people we know. What a refreshing concept.
The coldness of “Closer” (which again, I did like) was exacerbated by the remarkable beauty of everyone in it. The distance that Mike Nichols purposely creates between the audience and the characters’ experiences is even more pronounced because, simply put, the people in that movie don’t look like anyone I’ve ever seen in real life. We’re not supposed to really like the characters – and we don’t. But it seems to me that we especially don’t like them because they look plastic, untouchable, and again… unreal.
Enter “Sideways.” Okay, the women are beautiful. But they have an authentic beauty, not an untouchable one. The men look like guys you see every day. Even the “handsome” one channels that guy everyone liked in high school more than, say, the leading men in vanity projects like “Alexander” and “Troy.”
And I swear that their realness is what makes the movie. We care about the characters, even when they’re screwing up and/or screwing people over. There’s a sympathy there, an understanding, a connection that never happens in “Closer.” And come to think of it, my favorite recent movies besides “Sideways” – “Garden State,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “American Splendor” – all have normal-looking people in them, too.
So what do you think? Is this a new trend? Is it a coincidence that lots of recent acclaimed performances came with a drastic change in a star’s appearance, often through weight gain? Should beautiful movie stars be scared for their jobs? Is Paul Giamatti the new Brad Pitt?
Monday, December 13, 2004
Hi folks. We need to lighten up around here. So, in the spirit of Xmas, I thought I would post this Maureen Dowd commentary. Wow, various sisters certainly come to mind, on both sides of this sentiment. Sisters (and bro)...I am so looking forward to seeing y'all in just a few short days.
Jingle Bell Schlock (Dowd hates Christmas)
Maureen Dowd, in the NYT, 12/05/04
If I hear "Frosty the Snowman" one more time, I'll rip his frozen face off.
It's a scientific fact, or should be, that Christmas music can turn you into a fruitcake. It either sends you into a Pavlovian shopping trance, buying stupid things like the Robosapien, or, if you hear repeated Clockwork-Orange choruses of "Ring, Christmas Bells" drilling into your brain with that slasher-movie staccato, makes you feel as possessed with Christmas spirit as Norman Bates.
I've never said this out loud before, but I can't stand Christmas.
Everyone in my family loves it except me, and they can't fathom why I get the mullygrubs, as a Southern friend of mine used to call a low-level depression, from Thanksgiving straight through New Year.
"You're weird," my mom says. This from a woman who once left up our Christmas tree until April 3, and who listens to a radio station that plays carols 24/7 all month.
My equally demonic sister has a whole collection of rodents dressed in holiday clothes that she puts up around her house. There's a mouse Santa Claus and mouse Mrs. Claus and mice elves and a miniature Christmas village with mice, and some rat Cinderella coachmen in pink waistcoats and rats in red velvet vests and more rats, wearing frilly red-and-white nightshirts and nightcaps and holding little candles, leading you up the steps to bed. It's beyond creepy. I keep fretting that it's going to be like "Willard" meets "The Nutcracker," where they come alive and eat her like a Christmas pudding.
My mom and sister both blissfully sat through "It's a Wonderful Life" again on Thanksgiving weekend, while even hearing a mere snatch of that movie makes me want to scarf down a fistful of antidepressants - and join all the other women in America who are on a holiday high - except our family doctor is a Scrooge about designer drugs, leaving me to self-medicate as Clarence gets his wings with extra brandy in the eggnog.
I've given a lot of thought to why others' season of joy is my season of doom - besides the obvious fact that yuppies have drenched the holidays in ever more absurd levels of consumerism.
I think it has to do with how stressed out my mom and sister would get on Christmas Day when I was little. I remember them snapping at me; they seemed tense because of all the aprons to be sashed and potatoes to be mashed. (In our traditional Irish household, women slaved and men were waited on.)
It might be exacerbated by the stress I feel when I think of all the money I've spent on lavishing boyfriends with presents over the years, guys who are now living with other women who are enjoying my lovingly picked out presents which I'm no doubt still paying for in credit card interest charges.
I was embracing my Christmas black dog the other day when I read a Times article so scary it made my hair - and my genes - curl.
It was about how severe stress can make a woman age very rapidly and prematurely, looking years older than her chronological age, because the stress causes the DNA in our cells to shrink, and sort of curl down on itself, until the cells can no longer replicate. "When people are under stress they look haggard, it's like they age before your eyes, and here's something going on at a molecular level" that reflects that impression, said one of the researchers, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California at San Francisco.
So now, on top of all the stress related to having a president and vice president who scared us to death about terrorists to get re-elected, I have to be stressed about the fact that my holiday stress might cause me to turn into an old bat - instantly, just like it happened in Grimm's fairy tales, when a girl would be cursed and suddenly become a crone. Or just like this Christmas doll my sister brought home once that had an apple for a head; her face looked all juicy and white at the start of the week and then by the end of the week, it was all discolored and puckered.
I flipped through the hot new self-help book by Gordon Livingston, a psychiatrist from Columbia, Md., "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now."
One of them is the cardinal rule of anxiety: Avoidance makes it worse; confrontation gradually improves it.
Yep. I definitely need to rip Frosty's face off.
Friday, December 10, 2004
“The U.S. population has a great mental failing. It is greater than its ignorance, which on many counts is profound. It is greater than its racism, which is often substantial. It is greater than its homophobia and sexism, which are substantial as well. This mental malady is that our population believes that nothing better than the corporate capitalist system is possible; that efforts at reform are largely fruitless—either these efforts are defeated or they are rapidly rolled back.” – Michael Albert, Z Magazine
This is a quote from Michael Albert’s election analysis article, which you can find on Znet’s top page. He suggests that what we often refer to as apathy is in fact this malady. I think he is right. And think about it – look back to the Clinton years, when large numbers of people voted for him in 1992 because they believed him when he said he would ensure that all people were provided with health care. And where were we at the end of his eight years? This malady was bolstered on lots of fronts by the Clinton years.
In order to transform a world that celebrates poverty, disenfranchisement, and environmental degradation, we have to change this belief that this is the only system that works. We have to get to the root. We have to be radical. This doesn’t mean we have to know what the next system is. It simply means that we believe that there are other, better ways of ordering our social, political, and economic lives. That another world is possible. If we don’t believe it, how can we possibly hope to affect just social change?
Albert also talks about elections as being only a small part of political life, and yet so many focus on them as their outlet for political expression. Being that he can be so articulate, I will quote him again: “Elections are not the whole of politics, only a tiny part. The whole is, or should be, the most widespread possible development of consciousness and commitment, the exercising of social pressure, the development of counter institutions, and finally, the winning of fundamental changes in defining structures.”
This is a theme I harp on a lot. The question I often have about the Greens is this: Why should folks vote green when the party itself is not present in day-to-day political and economic life, and is largely run by middleclass white enviro’s? Because on paper there are some nice platform issues? Where is the trust? And how do you build trust? Have any of the historic movements in this country ever been built through political parties alone, or were they under-girded by organizing on the ground for real, substantial change?
Since the election I have certainly been swept up right along with the talk about where we went wrong, the talk about how screwed the American people are, what is wrong with the Democratic party, etc. etc. And, of course, I wanted Kerry to win. Very much so.
But, really, a lot of this has to do with thinking of elections as the epitome of our political work. We have to look beyond the parties. Only with a solid, organized, progressive movement will we be able to really sway the Democratic Party to act in a progressive manner. Otherwise, that party will simply look to its moneybags for direction, which, let’s not forget, are generally the same moneybags as the Republicans. This is a clear lesson from the Clinton years.
Our actions in 2004 were only movement building in so far as all of those engaged people stay engaged during the next four years. It’s only real power if it is harnessed for ongoing battles, and built upon. The only way we can reach more people is to keep in touch with the folks we already know. We need ongoing organization. And we also need to look and think outside the box. We need to get past our labels. Maybe there is some real progressivism right beneath our noses…that exists in the rural areas, that is possibly being distorted and exploited by the Republicans. Food for thought.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
This David Sirota article “The Democrat’s DaVinci Code” is THE BEST analysis I’ve seen of how Democrats can reconnect with voters whose interests are Democratic ones but who voted for Bush. He uses progressive victories in Republican areas as examples of how some winning progressive candidates are connecting with conservative voters beyond the Democratic leadership party line. I cannot recommend this article enough. Here’s a recap of his seven lessons.
1. Fight the Class War. Sirota writes, “If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying ‘class warfare’ is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington.” He’s right. Democrats need to be connecting with voters in small towns whose economies have been destroyed by free trade policies that wiped out homegrown industries. This hits close to home for me and other North Carolinians, where the state’s textile industry has been decimated in the last few years. In a Senate race debate, Democratic candidate Erskine Bowles was silenced by Republican opponent Richard Burr with this line: “You negotiated the China trade agreement for President Clinton, which is the largest exporter of jobs not just in North Carolina but in this country.” Any surprise that Burr won the Senate race?
2. Champion Small Business Over Big Business. Sirota argues that although it’s assumed Republicans have the small business vote tied up, the tide has been turning as the conservative courting of corporations has become more obvious and more extreme. Lost jobs figure in here, as does Wal-mart and its tax breaks at the expense of local business. Sirota uses the Democratic gubernatorial campaign in Montana to show that this tactic can win.
3. Protect Tom Joad. I’m so happy that Sirota included family farming in his analysis. To me, this is an obvious area where progressives can connect with “values” voters. Modern politics have just obliterated family farming, and some key progressive voices are fighting back by protesting agribusiness mergers and not buying into the party line that bills such as the “Freedom to Farm Act” do anything at all to actually help family farmers. Farmers already know this, they live it every day. Imagine the difference if some candidates started really hearing them, and then actually fought for their interests. Pointing out that Republicans are the architects of agribusiness is a start, fighting against it will win us the farming vote.
4. Turn the Hunters and the Exurbs Green. This is Sirota’s weakest point, that the environment is something everyone cares about. I agree, but am less sure of how much people care in the voting booth. But anyway, food for thought.
5. Become a Teddy Roosevelt Clone. This is a great point, that fighting white-collar crime is something working class people love to see. Enron outraged the American public, and the perception that those folks are tied up with Republicans is there. So go after Enron types, take on Wall Street – middle America will cheer it on.
6. Clean up Government. The line that Democrats are big spenders doesn’t work anymore. Keep talking about how devastating Republican policies have been to our economy. Everyone appreciates good financial sense – make it clear that Republicans don’t have any.
7. Use the Values Prism. Moral values are really about cultural solidarity, about being “one of us.” Our candidates need to be real. This doesn’t mean selling out as Republican Lite – it means having local candidates connect with local values and local concerns, to being true to what they believe in. People can smell phoniness a mile away, and will usually vote against it.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
While the article explaining Bush's glee at the decline of the dollar mentioned in my post below gives credit where credit is due -- acknowledging the strategy apparent in the Bush administration's recent policy decisions -- another article on the same website glaringly and naively does not. Check out the article with the already-suspicious title, "Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Discipline."
The author exclaims with some alarm and indignation:
"If you look out beyond the next 10 years or so, there will be virtually no money for anything other than national defense, Social Security, Medicare and interest payments. So, unless you think that national parks are a waste, that we don't need interstate highways, that student loans should be eliminated, that we should shut down the Department of Education, and close NASA, there will indeed be some pain. And this pain will show up in our nation's economic performance as our national human and physical infrastructure goes into decline."
AND HE SAYS THAT LIKE REPUBLICANS WOULD AGREE THAT'S A BAD THING.
But I read it as a shopping list for the most conservative Republicans, who want to privatize everything and get the government out of everything but the military business (and even they are being privatized -- just look at all the mercenary "soldiers" in Iraq -- not to mention the Iraqi soldiers being trained to take over for American soldiers).
The author goes on to chastise the President's budget approach:
"If the administration ever takes off their rosy glasses, we will likely be told that we need to make 'tough choices' with the budget. However, the choices they offer will certainly not include any revenue increases – and thus not everyone will be asked to sacrifice equally.
To make their choices explicit, it's OK to cut research funding for the National Science Foundation, while just a couple months ago Congress managed to find over $100 billion worth of new tax breaks for corporations. We're being told to sacrifice student loans, and we do not have money for low-income heating assistance, but we can still phase in tax cuts that favor multimillionaires."
Again, the author makes the dangerous mistake of "misunderestimating" the President's policy approaches. It's not that his glasses are rosy; they're like night-vision goggles allowing him to see the future that his policy will conjure.
The rest of the article seems to miss the point entirely:
"And somehow we're expected to buy the line that we now need to sacrifice, that we now need to exert some budget discipline?
The current budget and deficit situation did not occur accidentally. Tax changes that provided cuts for the wealthy and little to nothing for everyone else have caused revenue to decline and the deficit to explode. At just 16.2 percent of gross domestic product, federal revenue is at its lowest level since the 1950s.
If there are sacrifices that need to be made, let us share them together – not increase the tax giveaways for some while asking the rest of us to pick up the slack. Already, those at the very top of the income distribution got the bulk of benefit from recent tax changes – do they really need more? Budget discipline means discipline on all sides, on spending and on taxes – not partisan politics using 'discipline' as an excuse to roll back society's gains."
It's not that those at the top need more tax cuts; the point is that there's nothing to stop them from getting them. They have the power; they have the money; they frame the issues.
Let's wake up. Leave off the incredulousness and call a spade a spade. If federal revenue is at its lowest level, it's because Bush wants it that way. We can trust that it plays into his hands in a dire and malicious way. What progressives laud as society's gains are Bush's first priority for budget cuts.
It's as if this author (and in a larger sense, most of the Left) is expecting Bush to change his policies when we point out the consequences of their enactment. "Mr. Bush, did you realize that your budget practices are leaving less money for the government and will lead to the end of social programs? You might want to do something about that."
How Karl Rove must laugh at us!
Little tidbit on NPR Friday morning that the Bush Whitehouse secretly wants the dollar to be de-valued to manipulate the price of imports & exports and counter inflation. That's one reason Bush has blithely rung up trillions in national deficit. Central banks in other countries have already begun to shift their holdings from the dollar to Euros. In the meantime, the plan is to continue to borrow from other countries, despite (and because of) the undermining of their belief in the dollar's value. While many would see this as a dire warning, Bush & Co. believe the resulting weakening of the dollar will help bring trade deficits down by making US exports cheaper and imports more expensive. Maybe Bush thinks this trend is enough to counter the price of outsourcing industry and manufacturing to other countries.
Whatever the details, the point for me is another clear indication that the Bush Whitehouse is nothing if not intentional. What I have taken to be mistakes or oversights in policy over the past four years are emerging as step-by-step strategies toward desired ends. I've heard so much about the hypocrisy of Bush as a conservative Republican wracking up debt; now it seems his advisors knew all along that debt could help them achieve their ends and aid US exporters.
What's the use in helping US exporters if the country's broke? Oh yeah, that's right. The only ones that matter are industrialists. The rest of us are just cannon fodder. And like all good Republicans want, the federal government will eventually only get enough money to support the military, and all social programs will have long since gone the way of the dodo bird.
So my question is, what's to stop them, and what's next?
More detail can be found on problems with the White House's intentional approach to the falling dollar at Center for American Progress.
Friday, December 03, 2004
So now Barry Bonds is officially implicated in this BALCO mess. And again, most people aren't surprised. But at least Giambi admitted fully to what he was doing, saying that while he and Anderson didn't specifically call the "clear" and "cream" steroids, they both knew what they were. Bonds' lame excuse that he thought they were nutritional supplements and an arthritis cream is a bunch of crap. It's embarrassing just to listen to.
So what to do? An ESPN analyst this morning made the point that at spring training last year lots of players were significantly smaller than the previous year in order to comply with the tougher MLB restrictions and punishments regarding steroids. So I guess some improvement is being made, but clearly not enough. I'd like to see Bud Selig come out strong on this and say it's completely unacceptable. His statements released so far have been more reminicient of a nervous schoolboy than commissioner of baseball.
What should be done about Bonds' records? There's no way any baseball fan can honestly applaud Bonds for breaking several MLB records - and probably breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record next season - when he's on steroids. I almost wonder if Bonds will go ahead and retire now. It'd be a shocker, but I'd be surprised if his immense ego could withstand the upcoming scrutiny and criticism. I can see him getting out early in hopes of preserving his legacy while he can. The thing is, I think it's already too late.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
In just-released grand jury testimony for the ongoing BALCO case, Yankees player Jason Giambi has admitted to using steroids for three seasons and to injecting himself with human growth hormone. This admission comes despite his repeated denials to skeptics that his magical body transformation was completely natural.
To me, the significance of this admission isn't really the steroid use - I can't imagine anyone being too surprised, because Giambi was a pretty obvious suspect. And I don't think anyone really believes steroid use in baseball isn't a problem. What's signficant to me is that Giambi actually admitted his crime. In an era when middle-aged Barry Bonds can suddenly take on the body of a 20-year old and break countless Major League Baseball records while owners and fans look the other way, Giambi's admission could be a rallying cry for major steroid investigations and major baseball reform.
The noose seems to be tightening around the neck of Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' personal trainer and the man accused of providing steroids to several high-profile players (including Giambi). Not to mention Bonds himself. We'll see how this story plays out, but I think Bonds' records will increasingly be seen as suspect in light of his connections to drug use (not to mention the way his body changed so dramatically late in his baseball career).
Something's gotta change here. I'm sure the players' union would pitch a fit, but I see public shame as one of the only ways to recapture some of baseball's integrity. When players are discovered of using steroids, I think their names should be released to the public. Why should their privacy be protected when they're the ones destroying the game?
And I love the fact that my team is a bunch of short, skinny, overweight, and basically less-than-perfect athletic specimens. Here's to beer guts and lack of muscle tone! Who says you need a six-pack to win the World Series, anyway?
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Naomi Klein has an interesting piece in The Nation this week looking at Americans’ psychological distance from the bloodshed in Iraq. Her symbolic example is James Blake Miller, the Marine now known as “The Marlboro Man” or, if you’re Robert Novak, “The Face of Fallujah.”
This famous photograph shows Miller fresh from battle with a cigarette dangling from his lip. Instead of being celebrated as an iconic image (which it was clearly intended to be), this photograph has instead infuriated much of the American public because he was photographed smoking. According to Klein, a Texas woman asked her local newspaper why the photo couldn’t have been taken of a non-smoking soldier. A man from New York suggested that the correct photo for the Post to carry would be one of “a Marine in a tank, helping another GI, or drinking water” because “it would have a more positive impact on your readers.”
What’s clear here is that much of this country is unable to accept or process anything but a benign cheerleading stance when it comes to our military in Iraq. The fact that Miller’s smoking habits have garnered more attention than that other Marine in Fallujah – you know, the one caught on tape killing a wounded and unarmed Iraqi – is a perfect example of how sometimes Americans would rather not know the truth, would rather not hear the details, and would rather not think too hard about what’s actually happening versus what they’re being told.
Here are my questions to those folks: What, exactly, do you think Bush&Co were sending troops off to Iraq to do? And if you’d rather just rah-rah the effort and not think about the dirty details, what about at least acknowledging that war has a horrific effect on soldiers – seen today in Iraq through record-high suicide rates, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder?
Personally, I think that after asking James Blake Miller to go to Iraq on a lie, getting him stuck in an un-winnable war, and pretty much guaranteeing him depression if not a full-blown moral crisis, a cigarette is the least we can offer him.
Monday, November 29, 2004
I highly recommend this article about abortion and gender inequality in Latin America:
Abortion is illegal throughout Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and this report gives us some incredible numbers. There are over 5000 deaths per year due to botched abortions, and another 800,000 hospitalizations due to complications. In addition, there are an estimated 4 million abortions across the region every year. As an example of the high rate of abortion, the report notes that Chile has roughly 200,000 abortions per year, compared to 100,000 for Canada, which is twice its population size.
The report gives gender inequality as the most likely reason for the high rate of abortions, noting that the culture is such that men have strong inclinations to control female reproduction, not to mention the sexual double standard between men and women. We are all familiar with it – sex happens and women are the ones who bear the overwhelming responsibility as well as the stigma and poverty of single parenthood. The report notes that countries in which abortion is legal have a lower rate of abortion than Latin America probably due to the other services that come along with abortion provision: contraceptives, family planning, education and better public health services.
This article offers interesting data for our own debate about abortion here in the U.S. In the aftermath of the election, many have wondered where we have gone wrong in our discourse. I think this gets at what it means to be truly progressive, recognizing the intersection of race and gender with CLASS and not being afraid to talk about CLASS. I’m not interested in emphasizing the right to abortion so much as I am the right of women and children to live in a secure and stable environment. If we were to tackle the enormous problem of male violence towards and control of women as well as the fact that so many single mothers live in poverty, and also how these issues intersect, we would be truly promoting “family values” and making it easier for women to have their children. Of course, we should continue to emphasize the right of women to have an abortion. But being pro-choice is about the right of women to have their children as well and I don’t think the national women’s organizations emphasize this enough. If they did, they would have strong policy agendas focused on the desperation of poor single mothers and the stress suffered by poor children. We would hear about these things just as vociferously. But instead we let the right wing determine the discourse by spending all of our limited resources and energy reacting to their narrow framing of women’s issues in terms of whether or not abortion should be legal. Rather we should be throwing it in their face and saying that if they truly wanted there to be less abortions they would pay attention to these other issues rather than taking a punitive approach toward abortion.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
I just had one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had up in the Colorado mountains with Marjorie and Mikaela. It was an M3 holiday with (and I’m not making this up…) our trusty sidekicks J3. Lots of snow and even more food. And lots to be thankful about.
It sounds predictable and a little corny to say that us progressives should be thankful that we have each other. But it’s true. The combined brainpower and creativity of M3/J3 is nothing to dismiss, and it’s comforting to think that over the next four years the six of us (and millions more like us) will be out there doing our thing and making steps toward positive change.
For lots of reasons, I know this Thanksgiving will be one I’ll always remember. After all, good friends, good laughs, good food, and passion for what you believe in are all any of us really need, aren’t they?
Saturday, November 20, 2004
No, not that kind! This is the party with beer kind of politics.
On Friday night, I went to a friend's house for a little shindig and had an interesting conversation about public education (what's left of it). We started, of course, with No Child Left Behind, or as my friend Shelle calls it, No Teacher Left Standing. She was pointing out the inherent problem of an educational policy that mandates all schools to improve every year by a measurable standard, even if that school is doing well already. Bush said something idiotic (big surprise) about wanting every school in America to be "better than average." Okay, that's ... well ... impossible. By definition, there have to be some schools above and some schools below in order for ANY school to be "above average."
Okay, so far, none of this is news, right?
But that's when someone else (a hilarious gay chicano who jokingly referred to himself as a 'mujer de revolution' -- you get the idea of just how funny he was!) pointed out that the whole policy is set up to ensure that public schools fail. And if all public schools fail, guess what? That's the end of public education, a social program that some Republicans and most conservatives have been trying to do away with since its inception. Think about this. Education isn't a right; it's a privilege. You earn a scholarship to a good school if you happen to be poor and smart. Otherwise, why spend public money educating a bunch of poor dumb people? Why not just teach them as much as they need to know in the factory? The problem with this, of course, is that America soon won't have factory jobs. I guess Bush is banking on most of us flipping burgers, since all the computer jobs will be outsourced to India, anyway.
None of this was shocking to me, but it was a moment of clarity in reinforcing -- AGAIN -- just how strategic the Right is at the moment and how far ahead of us they are. We're ten years away from the end of public education. Think about that! We have to convince America -- AGAIN -- that education is a basic right, like health care, like voting, like free speech.
I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but these days, conspiracy theorists are the only ones thinking broadly enough to begin to see the extent of the Right's program.
I have to hand it to these people; they're revolutionizing America, alright.
It's time for the left to get real really fast. It's hard to overestimate what's at stake.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
This afternoon, House Republicans approved a change in their governing rules that allows members to retain leadership posts if indicted for crimes that carry a prison term of 2+ years. At the center of this decision is House Majority leader Tom DeLay, who is involved in a Texas political corruption case that already indicted three of his colleagues and who himself may soon face indictment. After all, who cares if the leader of your party may be carted off to prison soon? That doesn't take anything away from his great leadership skills and role as the face of the Republican Party!
It's probably too naive to expect the Republicans to blow steam at their own leader in self-righteous tirades similar to those they've targeted at Democratics for perceived ethics violations. It should probably be expected that they would protect their leader throughout his indiscretions, despite the outrageous hypocrisy of doing so given that they sell themselves as the protecting party of this country's delicate moral fiber. But incredulously, House Republicans are feigning outrage at anyone who claims there's a double standard on Capitol Hill. They say that defending DeLay's leadership post amounts to a protection of "partisan attacks" at those "scheming to make a name for themselves and destroy the name of the Majority Leader."
What's at stake here if the media does not take hold of this story (which I'm not holding my breath they will) is the unchallenged arrogance of Congressional Republicans who believe they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want... and that we shouldn't question any of it. Making them accountable to standards of common decency is harder than ever now, given what they believe is an electoral mandate to do whatever they please. Who cares about common decency, after all, when you actually believe your elected office was a gift from god to spread the word of "good values?" Give me a break.
The incredible Molly Ivins recently wrote “I can’t think of anything more likely to convince the people not to vote for Republicans again for a long, long time than four more years of George W. Bush.” This line of thought was paralleled by my dad right before the election, who wondered if a Kerry presidency would be doomed from the start by having to “clean up all of W’s mess.” Wouldn’t, my dad wondered, W’s fate as a miserable president be sealed if he was the one who had to answer for all the huge problems he’d created in the first place?
Obviously, this approach overlooks some of the practical dilemmas (and a possible apocalypse) we’re now faced with as Bush gears up for his second term. And they assume that there will in fact be a cleaning up or making amends of sorts, which this bullheaded administration has shown no signs of inching toward. But in between our hand-wringing about how much worse things might get, it is kind of refreshing to think that Republicans might be digging their own grave over the next four years. A bit morbid, maybe. But it sure would make things easier for us…
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
There's a really good article on the Center for American Progress site with statistics and facts that problematize the Right's claim that all Liberals are godless heathens.
The truth is that Christian traditions support more than one moral approach to the world and our fellow men. The Right has seized on the Old Testament damning sacrifice-loving God, while many Progressive Christians believe in loving our neighbors and living a life of service, not because "poor & weak" people (as the Right would say) deserve help simply by virtue of being "poor" and "weak," but because we are all equal. While the Right believes being poor proves some kind of inherent weakness in those individuals, Progressive Christians believe structural inequalities -- in economics and in the distribution of power -- account for differences in class status. According to these beliefs, Progressive politicians must address structural inequalities, while the Right works to maintain them, justifying their actions with the mantra, "Let the weak fall away; let the strong prosper."
We forget that religion is philosophy, and all philosophy contains inherent religious implications. It's all connected; follow the logic and find the ethics.
Monday, November 15, 2004
CIA plans to purge its agency
Sources say White House has ordered new chief to eliminate officers who were disloyal to Bush
BY KNUT ROYCE
November 14, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.
"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."
One of the first casualties appears to be Stephen R. Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, the CIA's most powerful division. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Kappes had tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Goss' chief of staff, Patrick Murray, but at the behest of the White House had agreed to delay his decision till tomorrow.
But the former senior CIA official said that the White House "doesn't want Steve Kappes to reconsider his resignation. That might be the spin they put on it, but they want him out." He said the job had already been offered to the former chief of the European Division who retired after a spat with then-CIA Director George Tenet.
Another recently retired top CIA official said he was unsure Kappes had "officially resigned, but I do know he was unhappy."
Without confirming or denying that the job offer had been made, a CIA spokesman asked Newsday to withhold naming the former officer because of his undercover role over the years. He said he had no comment about Goss' personnel plans, but he added that changes at the top are not unusual when new directors come in.
On Friday John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year veteran of the intelligence division who served as acting CIA director before Goss took over, announced that he was retiring. The spokesman said that the retirement had been planned and was unrelated to the Kappes resignation or to other morale problems inside the CIA.
It could not be learned yesterday if the White House had identified Kappes, a respected operations officer, as one of the officials "disloyal" to Bush."The president understands and appreciates the sacrifices made by the members of the intelligence community in the war against terrorism," said a White House official of the report that he was purging the CIA of "disloyal" officials. "The suggestion [that he ordered a purge] is inaccurate."
But another former CIA official who retains good contacts within the agency said that Goss and his top aides, who served on his staff when Goss was chairman of the House intelligence committee, believe the agency had relied too much over the years on liaison work with foreign intelligence agencies and had not done enough to develop its own intelligence collection system.
"Goss is not a believer in liaison work," said this retired official. But, he said, the CIA's "best intelligence really comes from liaison work. The CIA is simply not going to develop the assets [agents and case officers] that would meet the intelligence requirements."
Tensions between the White House and the CIA have been the talk of the town for at least a year, especially as leaks about the mishandling of the Iraq war have dominated front pages.
Some of the most damaging leaks came from Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, who wrote a book anonymously called "Imperial Hubris" that criticized what he said was the administration's lack of resolve in tracking down the al-Qaida chieftain and the reallocation of intelligence and military manpower from the war on terrorism to the war in Iraq. Scheuer announced Thursday that he was resigning from the agency.
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.
What to feel about Colin Powell today? The last four years I've felt a mixture of sympathy and anger for him. Sympathy because I felt that he was the only moderate in an administration full of extremists, that at every turn he was getting shutting down by Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld when he asked reasonable questions about the justification and plans for war in Iraq. But at the same time, I felt anger that Powell didn't take more of a stand - regardless of the costs - and speak out against administration policies he personally felt were wrong for the country and the world.
And now he's gone. Had he finally had enough? Was he pushed out by the Bush hawks? Time will tell. But what is clear is that this administration has a take-it-or-leave-it philosophy with regard to their approach to foreign policy that is only getting more dangerous. When Powell was in there, I couldn't help but be outraged at the way he let everyone step all over him. But now that he's gone, I'm wondering how much his quiet protests - however useless in the end - did amount to small pauses of thought and conscience by those who most needed to have them.
Friday, November 12, 2004
It's been a quiet week for me. As much as I'd like to, I'm not in the mental space to ponder capitalism and imperialism today. Maybe I'm finally feeling fallout from the election, or maybe I'm on a mental vacation. Whatever it is, I've been reading novels and listening to a lot of music this week - two things that seem to be increasingly rare for me these days.
My relationship with music is constantly changing. In the past five years, I've been more disconnected from it than ever before. The guy who cuts my hair and I were talking about music a couple of weeks ago - how being a teenager was all about closing yourself off in your bedroom and living in another world of lyrics and (almost always) depressing songs. I, for one, was deeply entrenched in that world. But, as David put it, "who has time to sit around and just listen to music anymore?"
Sadly, it's true. Times at home when I could be listening to music, I usually have talk radio or news on instead (perhaps contributing to my need for a mental vacation?). But things might be looking up for my shaky relationship with music. Two months ago, we bought a car with a CD player in it (I know, I know - just wait for the press release when I finally get a cell phone!). Since then, I've been doing exactly what David and I were lamenting the loss of: sitting and listening (admittedly, with minor traffic distractions), just being closed off all alone with a song. And from this, I've become obsessed with these three CDs:
1. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head. It's not new. It's not cutting edge. But it's beautiful. I could listen to it forever. "Green Eyes" and "Warning Sign" are my favorites.
2. "Garden State" soundtrack. Anyone who has not seen this movie is really missing out - it's my favorite in a really long time. And the music is such a part of it. I swear this CD is already almost worn out from being played so much. It introduced me to the Shins, who I now love, and never would have taken the time to listen to otherwise, even though they're from Albuquerque. The Shins' "New Slang" is one of the best songs ever written. I could talk about every song on here, but I'm currently replaying Remy Zero's "Fair" the most. It wraps you up as you listen to it.
3. Damien Rice, O. I finally bought this CD because every now and then I would hear his songs on Radio Free Santa Fe and would just be haunted by them. For those two songs alone - "Volcano" and "Cannonball," this CD is worth it. I feel like I'm in a small coffee house listening to him play when I have this CD on - his guitar sounds like it's right next to you. But it's his voice and his songwriting that are so amazing. The lyrics of "Cannonball" are some of the most clever and intimate I've heard. The perfect quiet rainy day CD.
So here's to my hopefully budding reconnection with music... let's just hope I'll pay attention to driving, too.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Thanks for bringing this up Mikaela! One of my fave topics. Here are my thoughts, briefly.
Power has always sought to expand through conquest - we can see this throughout history. This has been the case regardless of the economic system. Sometimes it’s been fueled by religion; but mostly through the impetus for more power and more riches.
I think capitalism serves as an engine to imperialism in an unprecedented fashion because it's inherently a growth machine. Without expansion and growth it stagnates. Therefore, it's inherently expansionist. That is why some view it as inherently imperialistic...because it isn’t an egalitarian system. For there to be winners there have to be losers. And those nations with more resources and more power are able to use the capitalist system to dominate others and enrich themselves. And it becomes a vicious cycle that never ends. The debt crisis is a perfect illustration of this.
We live in an overwhelmingly capitalist world. We don't know what works "better" (which is a quite value-laden word btw; who is to say that everything that came before was “worse”). I certainly hope we evolve towards something more humane. Capitalism evolved out of something else, it didn't happen overnight. And I bet no one could imagine what it would look like before it happened. To move on requires engagement in the world in which we live (as you suggest), agitation, struggle (a lot), and imagination.
For privileged U.S. citizens, particularly white folk, it can be profoundly difficult to stay on track with being anti-imperialist, and anti-racist. This is in large part due to the national discourse, which inculcates a sense of manifest destiny, of righteousness, into our psyche from very early years. A structural analysis of social, economic and political events and conditions can help us stay on track.
Marjorie, that website (http://www.underthesamesun.org/) is amazing! And scary. Did I mention scary?
I had breakfast with a friend this morning, and our conversation underscored your underlying message about there being a difference between the Democratic Party, who benefit from and work to champion imperialism, and Progressives, who by definition do not support and actively work to fight against imperialism.
At the same time, I think it's important to note that within progressives, there's a spectrum of belief about the cause of empire. As my mucho-wise friend pointed out to me, there’s a difference between capitalism and imperialism, although these days, it’s hard to see the seam. But I think that within Progressives, there are some of us who believe that capitalism itself inevitably leads to the program of empire, while others believe capitalism itself is not to blame for our present mess, but the lack of government regulation.
I've been reading Lakoff's book and trying to synthesize my own messy, ambiguous, and noncommittal political reveries into talking points that reflect my core values. In this case, I would say something like the following to locate myself on that spectrum:
As a progressive, I believe in the process of democracy, and I believe that checks and balances are the best way to ensure a democracy that’s fair and actually works for the benefit of all citizens.
Although there are many many problems with capitalism as a system and as a reality in the U.S., theoretically, I don’t know of an economic system that can better answer the question of incentive for hard work. My guess is that structural changes would have to happen socially, politically, and economically to allow a different system to work (a point I think Marjorie originally argued to me). As it is, I don’t think capitalism is going anywhere, and until it does, we have to do a better job of balancing corporate power, government, media, and citizens.
Corporations must be legally and financially liable for their impacts on communities and the environment. Government is responsible for regulating and watching them, and we the people are responsible for regulating and watching the government, with the help from a watchdog media. That’s the way I think it should work. For now.
(If someone can describe a better economic system that still offers incentive to work hard when survival is not a daily worry, I would really appreciate the education! I’m definitely feeling the pain of my ignorance. I can already feel the welts from the whipping I’m about to receive from all of those who’ve spent a lot more time thinking and studying this than me.)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
While most of us are still consumed by post-election stress disorder, the U.S. and its lapdog Britain continue to occupy and bomb Iraq. At this moment, the city of Fallujah is being bombed and destroyed.
A friend and I were wondering the other day whether or not the Iraqi people would look back on this historical moment and consider the Iraqi provisional regime as similar to the Vichy regime in France which collaborated with the Nazis. And this morning, I came across an article that describes the pull-out of the Sunni political party from that provisional government. The leader of that party, Abdul Hamid, said in a telephone interview with the San Francsico Chronicle that "After the attack on Fallujah, we decided to withdraw from the government because our presence in the government will be judged by history.”
Have any of you noticed a lack of reporting on what is going on in Fallujah? Talk about media propaganda and euphemistic verbiage of almost unparalleled proportions. I went looking for photos and real numbers of civilian casualties this morning and couldn’t find *anything* in the mainstream press. I read a lot about “fire” and targeted attacks, about how civilians would not be harmed, nothing about “bombing.” Aren’t we bombing the hell out of Fallujah? How can civilians not be killed in such conditions? So, I kept wandering around and finally made it into the blogosphere. Folks, this is where real news resides. And I found this blog that some of you might like to check out: http://www.underthesamesun.org/. Great analysis, great photos. Particularly, scroll down till you get to the photo of the handcuffed doctors and the destroyed hospital. I guess these doctors are our enemy. At one point, this blogger makes a point that some of us have made in the past, an important one for us to reflect on. He notes that the U.S. urged all civilians to leave Fallujah before the bombing began, except for males under the age of 45. No males under the age of 45 were allowed to leave. If we were citizens of Fallujah, would we leave our husbands, our sons, our brothers behind…simply because they were male? If no males under the age of 45 can leave, does that mean that we are at war with ALL males in Iraq? And why, again, are we occupying Iraq?
Speaking of morality and family values...within the context of U.S. power, and as U.S. citizens, where do each of us stand? Who are we?
In the context of the election, I suggest that neither party gives us options when it comes to imperialism. Both are imperialistic, both pursue U.S. hegemony, and both implicate their members in these pursuits.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle article at:
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
According to news reports, John Kerry is fired up about getting back to the Senate and becoming the Bush administration's #1 critic. I think this is great sign. The last thing we need is a defeated attitude heading into this (I'm shuddering...) second administration. We need to be organized, outspoken, and on the offense - starting NOW. Having nationally recognizable, charismatic critics of the Republican agenda who will not remain quiet and will not be walked all over is absolutely critical. I agree with Erik Loomis over at Alterdestiny, that having Nevada senator Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader is a terrible choice given how desperate the need is for strong, progressive leadership. Erik takes this thinking a step further, offering up Kerry himself as the next Senate Minority leader. Any thoughts?
I'm thrilled that Kerry isn't ready to slip into the shadows a la Gore and, as much as I love him, Dukakis. (Not that any Northeastern University polysci grad would ever consider Dukakis a man in the shadows...) We need to remember that Republican talk of a supposed mandate and an overwhelming defeat of progressive ideas is nothing more than an attempt to bring us down, to make us slip into the shadows. As I see it, our job is to ensure that never happens.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Friday, November 05, 2004
New Mexico started counting provisional ballots today ... and there are thousands of them. Kerry and Bush are very, very close right now, with Bush leading by roughly 3000 votes.
We can watch the vote tallies change almost in real time on the Secretary of State's website. It is being updated every 15 minutes. Here is the link: http://188.8.131.52/County0.htm
I don't about you all, but I will feel a lot better if NM goes blue.
Cassy Smith (Chicago) writes:
I voted for John Kerry and John Edwards. And today, two days after the election, I would like to thank both men and their families. Thank you for believing in us, and thank you for showing us what is possible. You are our heroes. On Tuesday November 2 2004, with a heart full of anticipation, I--as did more than 50 million other Americans--cast a ballot for hope. On that day, Americans came together and showed up to the polls in record numbers in order to elect a new President and Vice-President of the United States. Sadly, it was not to be, as we all found out early yesterday afternoon, our hearts broken.
We hoped things would turn out otherwise, and given the results of the many exit polls on Tuesday, we believed they would be. However, as we have all bitterly learned, the exit polls were wrong, and while exit polls may not provide the most accurate information for predicting the outcome of an election, they do provide other information for consideration. Many of the exit polls on Tuesday showed that one concern trumped all others in Americans' choice for President; above the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the economy, education, or health care, "moral values" was the reason given more often than any other by Americans in describing to the pollsters why they had voted for one candidate over another. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the voters who cited "moral values" as their primary concern in casting their ballots in this Presidential election voted to re-elect George W. Bush. I say "not surprisingly" not at all because I agree that President Bush embodies and acts upon a higher sense of moral conviction than does John Kerry, but because this is simply further proof of a trend that has been developing in country since the advent of the "culture wars" in the late 1960s, when terms like "moral majority" and "middle America" first began to be bantered about. Since that time, a peculiar and potent code has developed in which the fundamentalist, right-wing conservatives of our country have usurped and hijacked the "moral values" discourse as the exclusive domain of the Republicans, and most disturbingly, they seem to have done so with the apparent permission of the Democrats. As a culture, when we hear a term like "moral values" being used, we assume it to mean one very particular, very narrow set of conventions and ideas-a set of conventions and ideas that, at their core, are divisive, judgmental, and without mercy. How has this come to happen? Why have we allowed this? And what can we do to reverse this dangerous misuse of language? Is it not true that many of us who voted for John Kerry and John Edwards on Tuesday did so because of what we understood and knew and trusted and hoped to be their strong moral values? Did we not see grace and humility in their actions; did we not hear hope and mercy in their words?
The Republicans have won the Presidency. They have also won decisive majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and they are responsible for the appointment of a majority of the Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. They control all three branches of the federal government, and they want more. As early as yesterday morning, before John Kerry had even made the decision to concede the race, political pundits were speaking of the very clear possibility of the Republicans' plans to relegate the Democrats to the status of permanent minority political party. If this is to happen, they say, it is to be done without any substantial increase in the real number of Republicans versus the number of Democrats in this country, but rather with "the tools of government"-that is to say, through rezoning and other such deceptive methods. We cannot and will not let this happen, and one way of insuring that it does not is to remind the rest of America of who we are and what we stand for.
In his concession speech, John Kerry called on George W. Bush to unite America and to take it upon himself to help this country find a way to heal the deep fissures that have formed along partisan lines, and he called upon us, his supporters, to do the same. I am trying, and in my heart, I want to believe that at least some measure of healing and unity are possible over the next four years in this country. But I am afraid. I am afraid because when our President spoke yesterday afternoon and responded to John Kerry's plea, his talk of unity sounded perfunctory at best. When he spoke at his press conference today, again echoing the theme of unity and insisting that agreement across party lines was and will continue to be his goal as President, he sounded petulant, dismissive, and accusatory. I am afraid because this President seems to thrive on divisiveness; in his first term, George W. Bush has fostered a culture of divisiveness more dangerous than any I've known in my lifetime.
Looking ahead to the prospect of four more years with this President and the current White House administration is deeply concerning to me. George W. Bush and his surrogates have been speaking of nothing the last two days but a hypothetical "mandate" with which their margin of victory is supposed to have authorized them. Voter turn-out was extraordinary this year, and it is true that President Bush was re-elected to a second term with more votes recorded than any other candidate has received in the history of American presidential elections. However, the number of Americans voting for John Kerry and John Edwards was phenomenal, and they received the second-most votes in the history of American presidential elections-more than any other Democratic ticket before them, and more votes than their opponents received in the last election. All this is to say, the number of votes received by George W. Bush does not give him a clear "mandate." George W. Bush would like to have the rest of the world believe that my vote was his and that he speaks for me. But the fact is, my vote was not his, it has never been his, and he has not yet spoken for me. What he fails to understand-in fact, what I fear he has no interest in even beginning to understand-is that it is his job, as President of our country, to listen to me.
I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who listens. I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who understands what it is to listen to another and to hear what is being said. I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who understands the complexities involved in committing oneself to speak for another, to act on behalf of another. I voted for John Kerry because he understands that this, above all else, is what forms leadership and that this responsibility to listen first and to listen well is both the great duty and the great privilege of all leaders. I voted for John Kerry because he is a leader. Let's pray that George W. Bush, in his second term, can learn to lead our country in this way.
(Written on Thursday, November 4, 2004 in Response to Marjorie's Nov. 3 post)
Thursday, November 04, 2004
I don't want to bash the Kerry campaign. I don't feel up to it, I don't feel that that's the point this week. I think the Kerry campaign should be proud. We lost, but could Kerry have possibly fought harder in Ohio? I don't think so. This was a hard-working campaign that fought until the end. And I don't want to waste time wondering if another candidate could've done better. I don't want to buy into conspiracy theories, either. It seems seductively easy to think that the Republican-created voting machines were rigged. Maybe they were. But how does that help us now? All votes deserve to be counted, and all rumors about voting machines need to be investigated to reassure the public that the system actually works. But I don't think this line of debate helps us - it only plays into the hands of Republicans who want to label us as desperate, crazy, and out of touch with reality. I think that the independent voting commission will be taking another look at all these machines, anyway, and hopefully making some major changes.
But I do want to pick apart some other campaigns. This year's crop of prospective Democratic senators is a clear example of why our message has got to change. To me, these losing candidates represent how much we've got to shift our approach to middle America voters.
For a series of Sundays this fall, "Meet the Press" featured debates between Senate
opponents in various tight races. I saw the debates between the South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and South Dakota candidates. In all four cases, the Democratic candidate often sounded more conservative than their opponent. And on Tuesday, we saw how miserably that tactic failed: Democratic candidates lost to Republicans in Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Dakota (and those are only the ones I remember…). Two Democrats did win Senate seats this week: Colorado's Ken Salazar (the only of the group to win using these Republican copycat tactics) and Illinois's Barack Obama, the single Democratic Senate candidate who actually sounded like a Democrat this year.
By trying to play right, these candidates not only completely ignored their base of voters, but they sold out the very ideals those voters stand for. On "Meet the Press," some of these Dems were offering better reasons than their opponents for why Kerry is "too liberal." I mean, what is the point? Why, after all, would someone vote for an imitation of a conservative ideology when they can just vote for the real thing?
In so many ways, I see Obama as the future of the party. Here's a guy who's probably the most popular Democrat in politics right now - and he just walked onto the scene. Here's a guy who is everything we believe in - and who's not ashamed to say it. Here's a guy who can win.
Now we're stuck with a very Republican Congress. But we also have an opportunity. I really think that getting Tom Daschle out of office was key to us moving forward in Congress. I know - that gives us a lot of time with this terrifying Republican majority. But to make gains, we're going to have to be outnumbered for a while. We need better leadership than Daschle, stronger, truly progressive voices there who won’t be shamed into thinking their values aren’t mainstream. This Senate loss gives Democrats everywhere time to reorganize, rethink, and reenergize. It gives them time to reclaim their progressive souls. It gives them time to remember how to win again, to win the right way.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I woke up this morning dejected. I rolled over and stared out my window and didn’t want to get up. And, my friends, I knew I was in good company. The day has taken me along, through several stages. This morning, I wasn’t analyzing it all that much. Rather, I was just being with my feelings, of having lost, of what an emotional letdown it was, and feeling a little silly too. Silly, because why did I have so much of my emotions invested in the first place? I have often said that the electoral arena wasn’t the place for me, and here I had gone and gotten all caught up in it. Well, I guess I do that a lot. The electoral process often feels like a diversion to me, although I do understand that engagement with it is important. It’s just that so often it feels like a big merry-go-round that never ends, and the difference in the options isn’t always that great.
Much of my life has been about feeling ok with being an underdog, of various sorts. This has taken a long time to understand on a personal level. Until we live in a cooperative and egalitarian future I will be ok being on the outside of power. I’m not talking about trying to affect structural change, to increase the ability of the poor and disenfranchised to control their environment, to be in struggle. These are good things. I’m talking about being ok with being outside the historic and omnipresent center of power. That is good and ok. Today has been one of those days for reaffirming this sentiment, for myself.
Today, many of my friends and co-workers have been expressing that they are so disgusted that they are going to look for ways to move out of this country, this awful country that is full of Christian evangelicals who are evil. I also have seen this sentiment all over the internet. I have to admit that it is a compelling thought…who wouldn’t want some relief, after all? We all want to be with fellow travelers – that’s why I left Texas. But having left Texas, I’ve often reflected that life is more complex than this. People are more complex, and many of these right-wingers are people I love. I can’t leave them, and I can’t leave this U.S. political environment. I am here for good or worse, because I was born here and I am of here. This might seem like a misfortune at times, just like other unavoidable facts about the position in life I was born to. But there is a lot of good here, and I can’t deny that my environment, my family, and my religious childhood have provided a lot of positive aspects to the foundation that my life is built on.
I think that if folks want to leave, it is ok. You should do so. But do it for something positive, that you are moving towards, rather than as an escape. I don’t think you can escape who you are or where you are from. And we should recognize the struggle of the people who stay, who have to be content with finding solace right here in the middle of the crud, and who fight their own internal battles to stay engaged in the face of the consumerist, militarist, evangelical onslaught.
Finally, regarding the Democrats, there have been problems for a long time. When I think about the so-called "moral" Republican base, many of them working class folks, I don’t see people all that different from myself. I’ve noticed many times that conversations with these folks outside a political context can veer into topics that show a lot of common beliefs. But when it comes to the parties, people are increasingly entrenched. Ultimately, I think the Dems need to get back to the basics and shore up a core progressive base. And then build on it with a long-term view. Find a way to connect on values that the vast majority of us hold. The Republicans have done a great job of dividing and conquering with a values-based agenda. As a friend noted this morning, the Dems have rolled over on the values topic…it just doesn’t come up. We need to be forthright and unashamed about our values. Our trepidation doesn’t allow us to shift the national discourse on these issues. And we need to find a common way to talk about them. We did a great job of increasing enormously the numbers that turned out...we just didn't communicate with the folks we were turning out.
So...onward we go, friends. Onward we go.
So after a morning spent with my head under the covers in total denial, I've made one small step toward outrage (better than depression because outrage can lead to positive change). I had been thinking that if W won, I really wanted a "Not my President" bumper sticker. But I couldn't find one. So I made one on Cafe Press, along with shirts and coffee mugs. Check it out and let's all start expressing our outrage on our chests and bumpers. The shop is called MagMae Merchandise. (They get the $$$, not me!)
Analysis to come... but for now I'm too pissed off and shell-shocked.
The following link is the first article I've seen today that begins to talk about what the hell Democrats have to do to scrape together what's left of their party.
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Living Poor, Voting Rich
Watching the election returns last night, I kept wondering how I could be so out of touch with 51% of America to the extent that I'm honestly baffled about what the average voter thinks will be gained by voting Republican for any office. I'm not sure the above Op-Ed piece is right, but it's a start, and I think the basic assertion that Democrats and liberals are seen as elitist and condescending has the ring of truth to it.
If it's true, how do we argue for the positions we believe in without replicating the arrogance of Social Reformer, liberal planner types, such as those arguing for Unification of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, who ask fellow voters to trust them and swallow the bitter pill for their own good? This attitude of we-know-better-because-we're-smarter-and-better-educated may make many of us feel smugly superior, but it's cost us almost every contested seat in Congress and possibly the Presidency.
So how do we change our approach and begin to reconnect to working-class America? Whether we like it or not, the Christian base is not going away, and if this election taught me anything, it's that the only message Democrats are conveying successfully is the importance of getting out to vote. We got them to the polls; we just didn't get their votes.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
After crunching the numbers one last time, I'm ready to make a final prediction: Kerry 311 - Bush 212. Getting to that number involved grimacing as I colored NC and CO red on a map and crossing my fingers as I colored almost all the swing states blue, but I'm going with my gut. Let's hope I'm right!
Monday, November 01, 2004
In what might be perceived as a sign of doom for the election tomorrow, some pro-Bush vandals paintballed our car and our Kerry bumper stickers while we were gone. No big deal or anything - the paint wipes right off. But I refuse to take it as a bad sign. Here are some other non-practical, superstitious items that I believe cancel out this negative one and are helping me to stay optimistic about our chances tomorrow:
1. The Red Sox just won the World Series. I mean, come on! If that can happen, anything can happen. They won it during a lunar eclipse and everything - how's that for destiny? To me, this is proof of the power in believing anything is possible.
2. Every time the Redskins have lost the last home game before the election, Democrats have won. When the Redskins win the last home game before the election, Republicans have won. On Sunday, the Redskins lost at home.
3. When we landed in Albuquerque this afternoon, snow was falling from the sky. Snow in New Mexico on November 1 - that's a good sign if I've ever heard of one.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Boston is still celebrating. And rightfully so.
When I get back I'll post a few pictures. But it's been crazy.
Watching Game 4 at a bar beside Fenway Park, being locked in by the cops after we won, watching thousands of fans right outside get doused with pepper spray by the riot police, finally making our way out but not being allowed back to our car until 3:30 a.m., seeing insane things on the street in the crowds and being completely appalled at the cops' overreactions to everyone (including throwing pepper spray bombs at people's feet, making Kenmore Square sound like Baghdad)...
Being in Boston for the victory parade with millions of fans, watching the players go by and screaming our heads off, smiles everywhere... Celebrating afterwards at a bar where everyone was out of their minds with happiness, singing, cheering, chanting, the win still not really sinking in. Hugs all around.
This is Boston at its best (minus the cops, of course).
Thursday, October 28, 2004
So yesterday, I exercised my rights as a citizen of a (gasp!) barely-surviving democracy (can't you see my rights' bulging muscles??).
Here in Albuquerque, there are something like 10 early-voting locations around the city. I went to the one I thought would be the least-used. I was expecting to dash in to a hole-in-the-wall, strip-mall ex-store, cast my vote in relative isolation, and feel vaguely and smugly superior.
Instead, although the location itself conformed to my low expectations, I was met with the sight of a line of about 75 citizens, waiting patiently and downright cheerfully for their chance to vote. The line -- at least two people wide -- stretched past at least 6 storefronts. An hour after arriving, when I finally made it inside, the poll worker said they'd had at least 400 voters a day since the first day of early voting -- October 6 -- and each day the line got longer. The day before, they'd had 635 voters. I don't want to do the math, and without comparisons from years before, there's no real reason to. I bring it up mostly to share just how buoyed my spirits were to see all these people, who clearly care deeply about the fate of their country, believe enough in the system to participate and cast a vote.
The atmosphere was festive. People were careful to treat each other respectfully and a bit delicately, as you weren't sure if the person you were talking to was voting 'your way' or not. Even so, people did not hesitate to share their positions on specific issues, when an opportunity came up. Mostly, people talked about the activity of voting -- the prohibition on partisan pins or campaign material, the presence of poll monitors, etc. At some point, sarcastically, I mentioned to a friend standing in line with me that all we need to do to solve America's problems is to militarize this country. The woman standing behind us didn't bat an eye before telling me, in no uncertain terms, "Ma'am, I was in the military for 30 years, and I can tell you the LAST thing we need to do is to militarize this country. We don't want to end up like Russia." We all had a good laugh once I explained that I was mocking the Bush mentality, not advocating for expanding the military-industrial complex.
But people smiled. People talked. People said excuse me and please and thank you. There was a palpable sense of shared stakes -- in democracy, if not in a particular outcome of this particular election. And I suddenly gained the perspective that even if the worst of the worst happens and Bush prevails, our democracy will not be lost. Bush may try, and empire may do its best to undermine the power of the people, but there is still a vocal populace who believe in their right to determine the best government.
Like Maggie, I am an eternal optimist, and I may look too hard for the scraps of sunshine that signal a change in the weather, but as long as the people believe in the PROCESS of democracy itself and are willing to fight for their rights, the days of leaders like Bush & Co. are numbered. I have to believe that.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
It's been a busy time. I feel like I've been over-stimulated by current events almost daily for months now. It's been a barrage of breaking news, updated poll numbers, deciding games, debates, and constant analysis in the worlds of politics and sports. Not that I'm complaining... it's great to have more and bigger things to follow rather than less and smaller things. It's been so long coming it suddenly seems abrupt that these twists and turns in the world of news will be said and done in just a week's time. There will be a different kind of news then - not this breathless anticipation toward a deciding moment in history (like, I hope, a Kerry win on Nov2 or the Red Sox winning the World Series). Some thoughts on the week to come:
- Polls are overrated. They just are. First, these over-hyped new national numbers coming out each day don’t mean anything given the Electoral College. So rather than freaking out by a national poll showing Bush up by 3%, go to the state polls instead, which will decide the outcome of this thing. As of today, Kerry is ahead in every single tossup state except Nevada. Given my prediction of awhile back that whoever takes two out of three in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio will win it all, I’m feeling pretty great that Kerry is currently winning all three. Also, there are two major problems with these polls: first, they’re not capturing the primarily young block of voters who only have a cell phone rather than a land line (who I imagine would more likely be Kerry voters than Bush voters) and they’re not accounting for the huge number of newly registered voters (which again, are much more likely to be in Kerry’s corner). I think it's fair to say that most polls are favoring Bush by 1-2% more than they should, given these factors. But voter turnout is going to be the real wildcard here, and I think it’ll go in our favor.
- This is the year. Since 1918, Sox fans have been saying that “there’s always next year.” Well, we’re not going to have to say that this time around. The level of confidence the players have on the field is unparalleled. I mean, coming from 0-3 behind the Yankees to win the ALCS and now they’re 3-0 against St. Louis in the World Series? Sure, the Cardinals could come from behind just like we did. But I don’t see it happening. I don’t think anyone does. This is the year. And Boston deserves it.
- Unification and Paseo: No Means No! For the second year in a row, local voters are faced with two very important votes on this year’s ballot – whether to unify the city and county governments and whether to put a road through the Petroglyph National Monument (both of which were turned down last year). Defeating both these measures is crucial to maintaining the sense of place and cultural importance that is so strong and unique here in the Albuquerque area. There are mountains of things to say on both of these issues, but if anyone was lucky enough to attend Teresa Córdova’s presentation against unification Monday night (sponsored in part by your favorite M trio), you got a sense of the passion that goes into these fights. I’ll be thinking of Marjorie and Mikaela this weekend as they help out with the last-minute push to publicize why unification would be devastating to Bernalillo County’s rural communities.
Good luck to everyone in the final week of campaigning and obsessive poll-watching. I’ll try and blog from Boston (in between raucous Red Sox celebrations, that is!).
Monday, October 25, 2004
The Yam fest, as ever, was a whirlwind three days of non-stop visiting. It's a great time to go home because relatives from all sides of my family are out and about...we don't have to arrange visits - we just run into each other. It's multi-generational - my mom randomly met her first cousins (a couple I met for the first time) and I randomly met mine (all of whom my folks know!). I'm not sure what outsiders make of the Yamboree. I always think of it as full of activity - too much to do in a long weekend and each year I tend to focus on one or two events more than others. At one point I was taking a break with my folks on a picnic table at the fairgrounds, in the part that has the arts and crafts booths. There was a couple with their baby sharing the table and they asked us if the fairgrounds and the carnival on the square was "all there was." They're from a neighboring, much larger town and had finally decided to check out the Yamboree, which they had always heard so much about. I think all three of us were a little stumped at first, because it seems like a big weekend...well, yes, I guess for folks who come from other areas those two places are mainly "all there is." But for the town, and all the little hamlets and villages around Gilmer, it's a weekend full of meeting and greeting, dancing and eating, livestock showing and competing, parading and carnival riding. And for me and others who make a point of going home at that time of year its an opportunity to reconnect with our families and history in a major way.
We live in a rapidly changing world, and things in Gilmer are changing too. There is a demographic shift happening there, and lots of young people are leaving the town for larger cities. But I hope the Yamboree, which is one of the oldest festivals in Texas, keeps on happening for the folks there, and for those of us who left long ago as well.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
While Marjorie's yamming it up in East Texas, Mikaela and I will try to go on without her. In the meantime, folks should seriously check out the link to the world famous Yamboree festival. Check out the picture of this year's Yam Queen, who Marjorie says is always the richest girl in town. How's that for tradition?
Why aren't there more Yamborees left today? There's nothing quite like local traditions still hanging on in the age of Wal-Mart. All power to them, and to Marjorie as she goes on location in Gilmer, Texas.