It occurs to me that if you're on trial for child molestation and basically being a freak, it's probably not a great idea to show up to court wearing makeup and faux-military regalia. Just a thought...
Monday, January 31, 2005
A couple of weeks ago, an offhand comment I made about my support for Howard Dean as DNC chair provoked some good debate in that post's comments. After reading everyone’s thoughts (proving, I think, that Dean is nothing if not subject for a juicy debate) I did my homework and found out more about the other DNC candidates. Today, my support for Dean has only strengthened. Here’s why:
A close examination of Martin Frost – former rep from Texas and the other front-runner in the DNC race – reveals how much he embodies the “Republican lite” stance that in addition to turning my stomach, proved to be an un-winnable strategy for many Dems this year. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the basic strategies that I think Democrats have to draw upon are to be vocal, to offer an alternative, to get back to their progressive roots, and to fight back – especially against bogus attacks about values from the Karl Rove crowd. I don’t see Frost being able to do any of these things. In fact, he’s an impediment to any of them happening at all.
Frost is now famously vilified for an ad in which he proudly proclaimed himself an ally of Bush. This comment from blogger Markos Moulitsas sums up my thoughts exactly: "If you spend a year distancing yourself from the Democratic Party and sucking up to Bush, Hastert and Hutchinson, then you have no business trying to run the Democratic Party." Not only does Frost not believe in reconnecting Democratic, progressive values with swing voters who supported Bush, he was ashamed of those values in his own campaign. I don’t care if you’re campaigning in Texas or in Massachusetts, you can’t sell out the party’s values and then expect to lead the party.
More recently, Frost’s calls for Democrats to unite around Sen. Joseph Lieberman act as more proof that Frost isn’t the right man for the job. Last week Lieberman was urging Democrats to unite around Condoleeza Rice and deliver a “resounding vote” of confidence and unity. Give me a break! Lieberman is about the only person who I think would have made a worse choice for Minority Leader than Harry Reid, save for Zell Miller if he was still around. We need progressive backbone. Supporting folks without any is not the way to go.
So why Dean? As I said before, he gets it. Dean equates “moral values” with “telling the truth before sending young Americans to war, protecting the environment, building a better education system and not leaving a massive federal deficit for future generations. So let us be the party of moral values, let us be the party of economic opportunity, let us stand up for equality in this country again." I see no one else as taking on these issues more compellingly – or more effectively – than Dean.
Just as important, Dean knows how to do the nuts-and-bolts work of organizing, a crucial need for the Dems now. His organizing capabilities vaulted him to front-runner status in the primary when no one thought he had a chance. Now’s an opportunity to take those skills and use them for the good of the party. Rather than a sacrifice of his political ambitions, I think heading the DNC is a perfect match for his skills. He knows how to roll up his sleeves and get to work – look how hard he busted his ass for Kerry on the campaign trail, after a pretty humiliating defeat in Iowa and after.
One more thing: people like someone who knows what they stand for, who plainly speaks it, and who fights for those things. Too many folks thought that wasn't Kerry - but it is Dean, like it or not. Dean in charge would convey those things to the public about the Democratic party - they it knows what it stands for and is proud of it, that it offers a better alternative than what we have today, that it will fight for the American people (and not just the rich ones).
So for me, it’s still Howard Dean. Donnie Fowler and Simon Rosenberg seem like fine enough candidates, but I don’t think either combines the passion or skills of Dean. And if Frost gets the job, expect me to completely freak out.
The Washington Post's William Raspberry gives us more to think about in his article today about how the Bush administration's systematic dismantling of the federal government social programs are targeted to (and well on their way toward) cutting out the poor. As I've been lamenting, this is a strategy -- not such a subtle one -- toward a revamping of the very role of government, away from its role of providing for and protecting social, economic, and environmental equity to become merely a protectorate for capitalists.
Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law professor who is thoughtful, liberal, incredibly decent -- [is] alarmed over the national budget President Bush will shortly propose.
"For virtually all of my adulthood," he said, "America has had a bipartisan agreement that we ought to provide some basic framework of programs and policies that provide a safety net, not just for the poor but for a large portion of the American people who need help to manage.... With this budget, the basic framework is being dismantled."
The basic structure of Social Security is under attack (on the grounds that the program is in crisis, though most respected economists say it isn't). Pell Grants for college tuition are on the cutting block. So are Section 8 housing vouchers (which started under Richard Nixon) and food stamps. Programs that have offered some protection for people in the lower third of the economy are under threat of evisceration.
And the rationale for the attack is a budgetary crisis created by the gift of $1.8 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
As Edelman and Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change (CCC), put it in a recent joint statement:
"The federal budget is not just an accounting tool. It is a statement about our priorities and our values as a nation. But because of decisions this president made to benefit an elite few -- at the expense of the rest of us -- we're now facing a set of budget choices that are unsupportable, immoral and dangerous."
Resistance won't be easy, since so many middle Americans see their interests as nearer those of the rich than of the poor.
"We're talking about tens of billions of dollars in cuts, including many programs that, like nutrition, are in-kind income for people," Edelman said. "We're talking about a severe blow for millions of Americans who are working as hard as they possibly can but still need some help."
Friday, January 28, 2005
Kudos to Salon, who busted the third journalist proven to have been paid off by the Bush administration to promote their policies. So now we have three journalists - Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Michael McManus - who were paid $271,000 in total to write bogus columns touting No Child Left Behind and Bush's marriage initative.
Apparently Bush just ordered his cabinet secretaries to stop this practice, so I guess we're all supposed to be appeased. But why aren't more people outraged about this? Whatever happened to journalists having respect for their profession, for the truth, and for themselves? Why is no one really apologizing for this, really understanding how wrong this is and why it's so wrong? And why aren't people pissed as hell that in a major recession and budget crisis, money is being spent on public information scams instead of social services or paying off our debts?
And p.s. to Gallagher: being paid off by Bush&Co to praise their marriage iniatives is not "taking part in a government-funded research project" - it's being a prostitute for the president and a traitor to your profession.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Today's news tells us that Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and most recently Bush's first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is coming out with a tell-all book that criticizes Bush leadership on environmental issues and its negative influence on the EPA's ability to be effective.
So this is great, right? Wrong.
The fact that Whitman is choosing to publish her book now, months after the election, is as good a sign as any that she is utterly weak and without conviction. Worse, she wants to make profits from a tell-all book, but doesn't want it to really create any change.
I have particular anger at Whitman over this issue. She went into the EPA as a very popular public figure, respected by both parties and considered a rising star in politics (for those who view moderate Republicans as rising stars, that is). And when she left the EPA, it was widely understood that she resigned because her views (actual respect for the environment) were incompatible with the Bush view of corporate control. So at that time, her brief Bush administration tenure had all the makings of a great story. Certainly, she had the star power to speak up then and be heard. But she didn't.
For years after she left (including during the election), Whitman was a frequent guest on the talk show circuit, always spouting nothing but praise for Bush and his policies. I saw her once on the Jon Stewart show going on and on about how Bush's hands-off approach would inspire corporations to innovate and become less polluting on their own, without the resentment that would be caused by regulations.
This book of hers is a nail in her coffin, in my view. In every instance, she has chosen the weakest path, the one without consequence, and also the one without impact. If Christine Todd Whitman really does believe in environmental protection and really was outraged at how she was manipulated by Bush&Co, we should've heard about it while the country was reconsidering his place as president.
Hearing this now, when all is said and done, amounts to little more than pointless gossip. And she amounts to little more than a political has-been who was too weak to make a difference when it counted.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
According to a Reuters article today:
"Guantanamo officials acknowledged this week there had been 460 "self-harm incidents" by prisoners in the past two years, including 120 "hanging gestures" with clothing or bedding. "
Now, folks, please note: these have not been SUICIDE attempts but, rather, simply SELF-HARM INCIDENTS. These people did NOT want to hang themselves FOR REAL. They were simply making gestures as a PROTEST.
Ahhh (big sigh) -- we can all be relieved. After all, protest and dissent is not only ok, it's protected, right?
Thanks Maggie for your proposed definition of freedom. Of course, “freedom” is always relative, isn’t it? Not to mention that there are varying kinds of freedom. Kind of like other overused words, such as: “love” “democracy” “happiness”, etc., we never really know a persons meaning without plenty of supporting context. Given this, it’s demoralizing to realize the extent to which the carefully planned propaganda that spews forth on the airwaves finds such a receptive and uncritical audience, such that Bush II could be re-elected.
The doublespeak that is so rampant in our public discourse, embodied perfectly in the second inaugural address of Bush II, simultaneously disgusts me (beyond measure) and amuses me. I want to protest at the same time I want to laugh at the absurdity.
What do folks think? Is it possible that this administration will go so beyond the pale in their pronouncements that we will actually see real public philosophical discussion of the meaning of freedom, of the nature of our moral positions, and of our right or lack thereof to impose our conceptions of truth on the rest of the world?
I read an excellent commentary last year by the late Susan Sontag that I’d like to share. In "Regarding the Torture of Others”, Sontag explores how the use (or not) of certain words, in this case the word “torture”, and images affect our understanding of events. Sontag states that “To acknowledge that Americans torture their prisoners would contradict everything this administration has invited the public to believe about the virtue of American intentions and America's right, flowing from that virtue, to undertake unilateral action on the world stage.”
She is so right on, of course, but I don't think we need that much invitation. We live in a world of illusion (or some might say delusion), regarding ourselves as the moral center of the universe at the same time we are torturing human beings other than ourselves. The collective we is important here. Where do I as an individual draw the line regarding my responsibility for the society in which I live? Sontag questions the insistent public declarations of Bush et al that these were individual actions, not reflective of the morals of the “American people.” Of course, all acts are those of individuals, she notes, but the big question is, whether or not they are systemic as well.
This essay by Sontag is an incredibly strong indictment of our society, which not only tolerates but facilitates U.S. aggression and imperialism. Here are a few more excerpts:
“Considered in this light, the photographs are us. That is, they are representative of the fundamental corruptions of any foreign occupation together with the Bush adminstration's distinctive policies. The Belgians in the Congo, the French in Algeria, practiced torture and sexual humiliation on despised recalcitrant natives. Add to this generic corruption the mystifying, near-total unpreparedness of the American rulers of Iraq to deal with the complex realities of the country after its ''liberation.'' And add to that the overarching, distinctive doctrines of the Bush administration, namely that the United States has embarked on an endless war and that those detained in this war are, if the president so decides, ''unlawful combatants'' -- a policy enunciated by Donald Rumsfeld for Taliban and Qaeda prisoners as early as January 2002 -- and thus, as Rumsfeld said, ''technically'' they ''do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention,'' and you have a perfect recipe for the cruelties and crimes committed against the thousands incarcerated without charges or access to lawyers in American-run prisons that have been set up since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001….
“So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody? No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives…If there is something comparable to what these pictures show it would be some of the photographs of black victims of lynching taken between the 1880's and 1930's, which show Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done. So are the pictures from Abu Ghraib. …
“Looking at these photographs, you ask yourself, How can someone grin at the sufferings and humiliation of another human being? Set guard dogs at the genitals and legs of cowering naked prisoners? Force shackled, hooded prisoners to masturbate or simulate oral sex with one another? And you feel naive for asking, since the answer is, self-evidently, People do these things to other people. Rape and pain inflicted on the genitals are among the most common forms of torture. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, have done and do them when they are told, or made to feel, that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators apparently had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show. ...
“Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people: it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more -- contrary to what President Bush is telling the world -- part of ''the true nature and heart of America.'' It is hard to measure the increasing acceptance of brutality in American life, but its evidence is everywhere, starting with the video games of killing that are a principal entertainment of boys -- can the video game ''Interrogating the Terrorists'' really be far behind? -- and on to the violence that has become endemic in the group rites of youth on an exuberant kick. ...
“Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions. Soldiers now pose, thumbs up, before the atrocities they commit, and send off the pictures to their buddies. Secrets of private life that, formerly, you would have given nearly anything to conceal, you now clamor to be invited on a television show to reveal. What is illustrated by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality.”
We need to get over our righteousness, our sense of manifest destiny, and realize that we are as brutal as humans can be, and that unchecked power unleashes that brutality.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
This afternoon the ladies of m-pyre were interviewed by the Albuquerque Journal for an upcoming story on local bloggers. We had a great time and hopefully represented ourselves and the blog well. Look for it in a month or so - we'll put out on update when we hear an exact date.
Friday, January 21, 2005
In yesterday’s inauguration speech, Bush uttered the words “free,” “freedom,” and “liberty” 49 times. The catchword of the Bush administration, “freedom” was mentioned 25 times alone. This in a 17 minute speech.
This freedom thing really gets me. Some examples: during the USC-Oklahoma game a couple of weeks ago, country singer Toby Keith was interviewed and thanked U.S. troops for “keeping it free.” In today’s Daily Lobo, an ROTC student passing by the UNM Counter Inauguration Rally remarked that protesting Bush is self-defeating since “the troops are fighting so American people can retain their freedom and right to protest.”
Am I missing something? Can someone please explain what definition of freedom I’m not aware of? How are we “keeping it free” by bombing a country whose oil we want? And how do we protect freedom by forming close relationships with countries whose records are not “free” in the least, like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Pakistan? How are American lives improved and made more “free” by the massive debt and casualties resulting from our invasion, not to mention the devastation done to Iraq and Iraqi families?
Perhaps American dictionaries need to take note. I think the new definition of freedom – as used for political purposes, anyway – is something like this: The pursuit of U.S. expansion into new markets (countries) for economic and political gains, regardless of human casualties, financial costs, or opinion of the American people and global population.
I agree with Marjorie here, and surprise surprise, so do a couple staff writers for the Washington Post (who, by the way, finally admitted it gave $250,000 for Bush's inauguration). See excerpt of their article below:
Bush's Words On Liberty Don't Mesh With Policies
U.S. Maintains Close Ties With Repressive Nations
By Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A25
President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.
Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well.
President Bush declared: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." A critic said Bush mentioned "liberty" repeatedly but did not refer to "human rights" as an overriding goal.
Bush's speech "brought to a high level the gap between the rhetoric and reality in U.S. foreign policy," said Thomas Carothers, co-author of a new book, "Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East."
"The rhetoric is seamless, but the policy is very muddled. In fact, the war on terrorism has pushed the U.S. to be friendlier with nondemocratic regimes," said Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, was struck by the fact that Bush mentioned "liberty" repeatedly but did not use the phrase "human rights" as an overriding goal. "The decision to speak in terms of liberty instead of human rights was deliberate," Roth said.
"Liberty is an abstract concept, but human rights bind everyone, including the Bush administration. It's easy to say I'm for liberty but difficult to say I'm for human rights when he's overseeing what we know is a conscious policy of coercive interrogation, including inhuman treatment and sometimes torture."
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Well, it's hard to take, yes, the inaugaration of W a second time. If there is a silver lining to all of this it's that we get to have a public questioning of Condoleeza Rice. The transcript of her confirmation hearings is extensive, but I hope to read through it all myself at some point in the coming weeks. For now, I can thank others for pulling out little gems. The following is priceless, for those of us who follow the goings on in Venezuela, particularly the actions of our government towards that democracy. The following is from the show Democracy Now, and I have edited it a little for the sake of brevity. Still, it is long, but quite instructive. I have lots of comments about this interchange, but, primarily, I would say that Chafee is incorrect about one thing. U.S. Foreign Policy is consistent -- it's all about what is good for the U.S. The notion that our government really is interested in the sanctity of Democracy is a farce, illustrated by the current approach to Venezuela -- so, you see, we should not be surprised that in this area we are not "consistent."
GOP Sen. Chafee to Rice: Bush Administration"Disrespectful to the Venezuelan People"
Wednesday, January 19th, 2005
AMY GOODMAN: At her confirmation hearings yesterday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice reserved some of her harshest languagefor Chavez, calling his rule, quote, "very deeply troubling." While a number of Senate democrats questioned Rice about Venezuela, the most interesting exchange came from republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
----------[Transcript of confirmation hearing]
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: It seems to be a hypocritical approach to our foreign policy in some ways, in particular how we deal with some of those democracies such as Russia, Senator Biden said, uneven or undemocratic or some of theTurkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, even Musharraf, President Musharraf, and then on the other hand have a completely different view of, say, Iran, as Senator Biden was saying. It seems to magnify our differences on one hand and on the other hand, we magnify our similarities. In particular after having just come back from South America and meeting with President Chavez. Here he has gone before his people, high, high turnout. Just had a referendum, and as one of the people from our embassy said, they cleaned their clocks and kicked their butts. It seems to me to say derogatory things about him may be disrespectful to him, but also to the Venezuelan people. How do you react to that?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, I have nothing but good things to say about the Venezuelan people. They are a remarkable people, and if you notice, Senator Chafee, I was not making derogatory comments, I was simply recognizing that there are unhelpful and unconstructive trends going on inVenezuelan policies. This is not personal.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: And there aren’t in Tajikistan,Uzbekistan --
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: And we --
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: -- and Russia and --
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: And we speak out about those.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: Pakistan?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We speak out about those as well, but some of this is a matter of trend lines and where countries have been, and where they are now going.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: Are their governments unconstructive?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, the Russian government is not unconstructive in a lot of areas. It's quite constructivein many areas. It's been more constructive on Iran in recent years.
(----section on Russia cut----)
I would just note that Ukraine, I visited in 2001, not long after I had become National Security Adviser, and I frankly when this happened inUkraine was pretty stunned by how effective civil society was and how effective the Ukrainian people were in making their voices known.
(----section cut here----)
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: You and Senator Boxer were having a little bit of a debate over credibility, and to me, it seems as though trust is built with consistency. Is it possible for you to say something positive about the Chavez administration?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It's pretty hard, Senator, to find something positive. Let me say this.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: I don't understand that, after Tajikistan --
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Let me say this.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: -- Pakistan, Russia. It seems as though, as I say, magnifying our differences to some countries and magnifying our similarities with others. And as I said, I think trust is built with consistency, and I don't see consistency in some of your comments.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The state of behavior in the western hemisphere, the state of affairs in the western hemisphere, is such that we have had democratic revolutions in all of these places, and we don't want to see them go back. We have some places where the democratic revolution is still to take place. We just have to understand that there are differences in that regard. But I have said, we hope that the government of Venezuela will continue to recognize what has been a mutually beneficial relationship on energy and that we can continue to pursue that. We certainly hope that we can continue to pursue counter-drug activities in the Andean region, and Venezuela participates in that. ButI have to say that for the most part, the activities of the Venezuelan government in the last couple of years have been pretty unconstructive.
SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE: Well, thank you very much. I'll go back to what I said earlier. It seems disrespectful to theVenezuelan people. They have spoken.----------
AMY GOODMAN: That was republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island questioning Condoleezza Rice at her confirmation hearings as Secretary of State. Joining us in the studio is Larry Birns. He is director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, based in Washington, D.C., here in New York today. --- Larry Birns, as we listen to a representative of the Bush administration explaining Venezuela policy, and her response to questions of a republican senator on Venezuela, your response?
LARRY BIRNS: Well, not only has the United States -- theBush administration -- been disrespectful, it abetted a coup (in Venezuela). I think that you can't be much more disrespectful than that. Also, it's had a policy of glaring double standards and misrepresentation of the facts. The fact is that President Chavez, no matter how noisy and ravish he might be, has pretty much been a constitutional president.There have been minor human rights violations, if you take the opposition's charges seriously. But they're minor. He has respected free press, freedom of opinion. What nettles the opposition and the United States is he has got the numbers. That is, 90% of the Venezuelans are poor. That's his constituency. 10%, the middle class and the upperclass, have most of the consecrated wealth of the country, but they don't have the votes. And the middle class is becoming increasingly frustrated over this, and in fact, a former democratic president of Venezuela recently said that this isn't a matter of discussion.
(----section of Birns comments cut----)
AMY GOODMAN: And the evidence that the U.S. was involved in the attempted coup against Chavez?
LARRY BIRNS: It is beyond dispute. What happened was a delegation of the Venezuelan middle class, including the man who eventually became the president for some hours, came to Washington, met with Otto Reich. Otto Reich --they started talking about the coup, according to Reich. Reich winks, and says to --
AMY GOODMAN: And Reich's position?
LARRY BIRNS: At the time he was Assistant Secretary ofState, Interim, because the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to vote on his nomination, including Senator Lugar, because he was considered to be too controversial. That's the point. That it's not what Rice has done, it's the fact that both Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice essentially cashiered out the inter-American bureau to a group of right wing ideologues, like Roger Noriega, who is currently the Assistant Secretary of State, John Bolton, who is a madman, certifiably, and Otto Reich. Policy-making was transferred to them, and so Bush --Powell and Rice would make ceremonial statements, but didn't have really operational control. They permitted these groups of ideological gangsters to formulate policies that essentially were on their agenda towards Haiti, towards Venezuela, towards Cuba.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Here is what Bush actually said, when questioned about his most pressing need:
"The human intelligence, the ability to get inside somebody's mind, ability to
read somebody's mail, the abilty to listen to somebody's phone call, that
somebody being the enemy."
The big question of course is, who gets to decide who is the enemy? Simply looking to the recent past, we have perfect illustrations, in the McCarthy inquisition and the Cointelpro destruction of legitimate people's movements, that profoundly contradict the prevailing notion in this country that we live in a tolerant society with a government that welcomes and protects dissent.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
At 11:30 p.m., the front page of cnn.com says:
Bush: Better Human Intelligence Needed
Is anyone else laughing as hard as I am?
I just heard about two local events for progressives this Inauguration Day. If your plans for the Inauguration ceremonies include throwing up or crawling into a hole, you might want to consider bonding with other Blues at local events in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, thanks to sponsor organization I'm Blue. In Albuquerque, check out the I'm Blue Mobilization Event from 6-9 in the La Posada ballrooms. The Santa Fe event is the Funeral for Democracy, which begins at noon at the Roundhouse.
Here's an excerpt from the I'm Blue Manifesto: "We have declared Inauguration Day as a National Day of Mourning and Solidarity. We mourn the loss of civil discourse in elections, the loss of a fair, balanced and questioning mass media, the defeat of common sense by ideology, the loss of constitutional rights, the defeat of truth by lies, the absence of a verifiable and reliable election system, and most importantly, the loss of our brave soldiers in Iraq in a war whose justifications keep changing every day. We celebrate an election that brought together 57 million people who still stand for civil rights, civil liberties, human rights, tolerance, free speech, freedom from religion in the political realm, freedom to practice religion in the private realm, spiritual values, secular values, family values that include all families, and helping those living the American nightmare to achieve the American Dream. We honor those who believe that avenging 9/11 did not involve attacking a country that had nothing to do with that horrific event. We respect those who do not think killing innocent Iraqi civilians is the way to save them. We pray for our young soldiers thrust into a hell not of their making. We celebrate protecting the environment for future generations, putting the interest of people over the interest of corporations, making sure seniors can retire in peace without worrying about Social Security and health insurance, and creating a peaceful world for our children."
Their slogan? "We will be vigilant."
Any questions as to how Martin Luther King Jr. would respond to Iraq today?
"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." - MLK
Monday, January 17, 2005
Marjorie and I had an interesting conversation Friday night about the extent to which Bush's agenda is a strategy to dismantle government on all levels. She mentioned something I didn't know -- that Bush is looking at "reorganizing" HUD to become part of two other agencies, Commerce and Labor (read: hack it apart and bury the pieces) and slashing Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds by as much as half.
I'm not anywhere near an expert on these funds, but I do have a strong sense of how pivotal they have been in reinvesting money in our country's poorest inner-city neighborhoods and rural communities. These funds have allowed local governments to direct federal funds to the projects they deem most necessary, including public works projects, affordable housing developments, social programs (clinics, recreation centers, day-care facilities, literacy programs) and economic development (including community credit unions and business incubators). Sounds like just the thing to cut if you want to disenfranchise poor, minority, and largely-democratic voters, doesn't it?
Why else would the administration gut a successful department? Friday's article in the Washington Post makes this pretty clear: "HUD has evolved into an agency designed to support urban interests and low-income citizens, while Commerce and Labor are more receptive to business needs. " Could it be any less subtle?
Indeed, community development programs at HUD are far larger than those at Commerce and Labor, said Saul Ramirez Jr., executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials and a former deputy secretary of housing. The Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration has a $320 million budget, a fraction of CDBG's allocation.
"If there are any programs in Commerce that encourage direct economic development to some of the most disadvantaged and blighted areas, those programs are dwarfed by these programs," he said. "If [consolidation] is what they want, the reverse should be proposed."
One White House official agreed that HUD programs have more of a community focus, while the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration is more interested in economic growth. But, he said, "they're funding a lot of the same things."
HUD's city focus may be why the White House is dismantling the HUD programs, Frank charged. "HUD is the place where mayors and urban interests can put up the strongest fight," he said.
I guess outdated voting machines and scrubbed voter rolls don't do enough to disenfranchise our city folk according to our fair President.
Social Security is yet another battlefront for this war on social programs.
Democracy Now had a great interview on Friday with Roger Hickey, Co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, part of a coalition to protect Social Security, who laid out how the privatization of Social Security is but one critical piece in Bush's strategy to dismantle government:
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk a little bit about why this is happening, why Bush and the Republican party are so hell-bent on pressing this campaign forward? I know in the Wall Street Journal in the days after the election in November said that one of the -- one of the industries most expecting to benefit from the new administration was going to be the Wall Street firms that would be in essence managing all of these private -- private retirement accounts that the President hopes to be able to get for the American people. Are there any estimates of how much of a boon this would be to Wall Street?
ROGER HICKEY: Well, it would mean trillions of dollars in terms of management fees that would erode small accounts that would be set up under this plan. So, yes, Wall Street has a motivation, but I think that really, it's broader than that.
The Bush administration and the people around them really are out on an ideological mission to dismantle affirmative government. And therefore, they know that if they can get away with dismantling the Social Security system, the very, very popular retirement social insurance system that Americans have supported for decades, if they can dismantle that and privatize it as part of their “ownership society,” the slogan of which ought to be: “You're on your own, buddy,” that means that they can get away with practically anything. They can dismantle regulation. They can really go about the -- their whole agenda of dismantling government. It's an ideological fixation with them, and it's going to be an epic test with the very wealthy corporate America and Bush supporters on one side, and on the other side, the organizations that represent the American people. Labor, women's organizations, retiree groups around the country, AARP has just gotten into this battle. We have got a sizable coalition on the other side which is going to be very, very active at the grassroots level talking to members of Congress, and there are a lot of Republican members of Congress who are caught in the middle. They are very, very worried about the fiscal irresponsibility of this plan, about the idea of cutting benefits for their constituents, and I think that this is a battle that Americans, not the Bush administration, are going to win.
AMY GOODMAN: The other day we called the Social Security hotline to get some information. When you're put on hold, this is what you hear:
SOCIAL SECURITY HOTLINE: Thanks for holding. A representative will be with you shortly. Did you know that the 76 million strong baby boom generation will begin to retire in about 10 years? When that happens, changes will be need to be made to Social Security, changes to make sure there's enough money to continue paying full benefits, and most experts agree, the sooner those changes are made, the less they are going to cost.
They went on to point out that this is yet another example of the kind of manipulation of the bureacracy to propogandize for the current policy push that Bush's Administration showed in buying-off the minority support for No Child Left Behind with personal payments to the conservative commentator.
So my question is, now that we get their agenda -- it's out there big and bold for anyone to see -- what will we be willing to do to stop it?
I never thought I'd find myself in the position of waiving my right to privacy to make things convenient for the government to do its job (ahem -- I'm talking about all those Patriot Act supporters out there), but this morning's NPR story about Oregon's latest plan to assess road taxes got me thinking.
So Oregon is thinking ahead (gotta love planning, right??) to the possible budget shortfall when hybrids and more gas-efficient vehicles generate less revenue from gas taxes (which currently pay for most infrastructure costs). University professors have come up with a GPS system that would track how many miles you drive in certain zones at certain times (a different charge would be assessed for rush-hour miles versus late-night miles, etc.), calculate your tax, and charge you for it the next time you gas up (you can even put it on your credit card!!!).
A great idea in theory, right? Taxpayers would be paying to maintain the roads they actually use, with a direct correlation to when and how they use them. The GPS technology would be able to differentiate between miles driven in Oregon versus outside Oregon, and you would not be charged once you crossed outside the state line.
But it does raise privacy issues. While the government says it won't keep track of individuals' movement, in theory, it could. Drivers would be allowing a tracking device inside their cars, and how would they know how the government was using it?
But it's a good idea, and I'd hate to do the whole baby with the bathwater thing.
So what do you think? What safeguards would have to be in place before a system like this (a system with really smart, progressive intentions) would be acceptable to you?
It is interesting that before I checked myself, I was annoyed at the privacy flag. Civil rights are civil rights, but I found the chink in my privacy armor when my little liberal heart saw a good environmental idea.
Congratulations to Teresa Cordova as she begins her term as the Bernalillo County District 2 Commissioner. As a student and employee of Teresa's, I can't be more optimistic about the progressive viewpoint and remarkable experience she brings to Bernalillo County. If the first Commission meeting is any indication, Teresa's term will be marked by her passion for her community and her dedication to its future. Her victory was a bright spot in a dismal election season for many of us, and her timing is perfect for communities like the South Valley, where she'll be integral on several important upcoming planning and development decisions. And how fun it'll be to watch her in action!
We salute you, Teresa!
I’m back after a month in North Carolina (kudos to Mikaela, by the way, for keeping m-pyre going strong over the holidays), where politics and the future of humanity were very much on my mind. Back in town and back to blogging, I offer some recollections and observations on the eve of Bush2:
- How ironic that Bush & Co. just formally ended their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But wait… they didn’t find any? Wow, the mainstream press must have reported that with lots of outrage and sarcasm. Wishful thinking! This story seemed to be hidden pretty deeply and wasn’t presented as ironic in the least. And a big caption saying, “Isn’t that why we went to war, you idiot?” did not follow the report.
- When I saw pickup trucks with Kerry/Edwards stickers on them in NC, it made me really, really happy. I did an informal study of political bumper stickers while I was home, and these are the unscientific results: Small Cars – predominantly Kerry stickers; Minivans – Kerry 60%, Bush 40%; Pickups – Kerry 45%, Bush 55% (closer than you’d think, right?); SUVs – predominantly Bush stickers. Fascinating!
- We all agree that the Iraqi prison abuse scandal was terrible, but it seems we agree less about the abusers themselves. This was a topic of debate between my dad and I during our 1,800-mile drive back to Albuquerque. I say that Charles Graner is a monster and made a personal choice to do what he did, despite the obvious structural problems that exist in the military setup there (which should also be cause for a tribunal of their own). My dad says that personal choice is less important than the chain of command, that Graner is a fall guy for the top brass who designed these humiliation schemes in the first place, that he’s paying the price for the administration’s dirty secrets. I agree with the heart of my dad’s argument, but I also have to believe that not everyone would do what Graner did. But having no experience in the military (unlike my dad), and definitely not wanting any, my guess is as good as anyone’s.
- On the drive out to NC, we drove past all kinds of billboards on I-40. Somewhere in Tennessee, it hit me: the Democratic National Committee (with Dean in charge, I hope) should start putting up billboards all across America. Each one would be short and memorable. I’m imagining a solid color background with block letters carrying messages that would change with the times. An example: “Want better benefits? Want a living wage? Vote Democratic.” Or: “Tired of seeing national debt skyrocket while your job gets outsourced? Vote Democratic.” You get the idea. Everyone reads billboards. Small town voters who should be voting Democratic read billboards. How’s that for getting a message across?
- This was so good I had to quote it in full. It’s from the Nation. “Last Saturday a US warplane dropped a 500-pound bomb on a home in northern Iraq that 'was not the intended target,' killing as many as 14 people, including the owner's seven children. The Pentagon then added insult to injury, issuing a statement that 'deeply regretted the loss of possibly innocent lives.' Possibly innocent?!”
- I'm eagerly anticipating Barack Obama's term in the Senate, and I wish him so much luck as he begins. May he carry the torch that expired with Paul Wellstone.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
M-Pyre received a request from Michael Roston of the blog Nuclear Test Watch to post an action alert for New Mexicans. Basically, he is asking us to insist that both of our Senators rigorously question Secretary of Energy Nominee Samuel Bodman regarding proposed resumption of nuclear testing. Why, some of you may ask, is this an issue? It’s an issue because the Bush administration has launched the first new nuclear weapons development program in over a decade, aimed at developing an earth penetrating weapon that can get at bunkers buried deep underground.
Hmmm…if such a NUCLEAR weapon was developed, does that mean we would use it???
Isn’t it bad enough that we already use depleted uranium weaponry, thereby polluting the environment and poisoning humans and animals for, well, ever??
(what is DU? http://www.cadu.org.uk/intro.htm)
Michael’s action alert is quite succinct so we are posting it here for folks. You can access his blog at http://nucleartestwatch.blogspot.com/.
Finally, the 3 M’s here at M-Pyre agree wholeheartedly that the resumption of Nuclear Testing (i.e. the exploding of nuclear bombs) is highly dangerous to the future of humanity. We highly recommend the website http://www.nukewatch.org/, which is published by Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, as a resource for up-to-date information about nuclear activism in New Mexico.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Action Alert for Citizens of New Mexico
New Mexicans have a powerful role to play in preventing the resumption of nuclear testing. If President Bush makes moves to resume nuclear testing, nuclear war will occur in our lifetimes.On Wednesday, January 19, 2005, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will receive testimony from Samuel Bodman to be the next Secretary of Energy in President Bush’s cabinet. The committee is led by Senators Pete Domenici on the Republican side, and Jeff Bingaman for the Democrats, both from New Mexico, and they will set the agenda for the hearing.New Mexicans concerned with nuclear bombs being exploded on American territory and preventing nuclear war must contact Senators Domenici and Bingaman and urge them to question Mr. Bodman on his plans for America’s nuclear arsenal.
New Mexicans should insist that their Senators ask the following questions:
Will you recommend to the President that he should order a resumption of nuclear testing?
Can America credibly compel Iran and North Korea to discontinue their pursuits of nuclear weapons when it is developing new bombs of its own?
How will testing nuclear weapons improve America’s national security?
How will a US resumption of nuclear testing affect commitments by Russia, China, and other states not to conduct any more tests of their own?
Concerned New Mexicans must call the DC offices of both Senators Domenici and Bingaman. Say that you are a constituent from New Mexico and that you want to speak with the Senator about nuclear testing and the Bodman hearing. The Washington, DC office numbers are:
Senator Pete Domenici: (202) 224 – 6621
Senator Jeff Bingaman: (202) 224 – 5521
Speaking of there being no jobs in the U.S., on January 1 the industrialized nations eliminated the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which may cause the global textile industry to shift dramatically to India or China in the next two years. These ‘quotas’ limited the amount of textiles that could be imported from any one country, thereby making it possible for small third world countries to develop textile industries. The quotas also supported the U.S. textile industry, which has lost almost half of its production in the past ten years. Even with the quotas, it has been hard to compete with the cheap labor costs of China and India.
The WTO estimates that China’s share of the U.S. apparel market will rise from 22% to 50% in the next two years. This could cause millions upon millions of textile workers to lose their jobs, not only in developing nations throughout the world that depend on the textile industry, but right here in the U.S.
I ran across a comment by the CEO of Perry Ellis, George Feldenkreis, that Central American nations that sign on to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) will have a better chance of competing. This comment really impressed upon me the vicious circle of the WTO, IMF, and "Free" Trade agreements. The WTO regulates global trade in the name of “Free Trade” (although it has to have rules so the moniker is a little misleading). These regulations in turn are like a guillotine over the heads of nations who resist entering into these "free" trade agreements with behemoths like the U.S. And the IMF, of course, imposes strict conditions for how debtor nations are to structure their governance, insisting on privatization, little to no social spending, and elimination of import tariffs and subsidies to domestic industry.
It begs a big question – how on earth are poor countries supposed to develop? How are they to survive in this cut-throat global trade regime that imposes upon them ideological, neoliberal rules?
Of course, one of the biggest ironies is that the U.S. itself, a country that has a huge external debt but doesn’t suffer from the imposition of IMF rules (since we essentially are the IMF), will feel the effects of the elimination of these textile quotas. Or perhaps it isn’t ironic. Maybe it’s all part of a plan towards a global world, with the ‘third world’ and the ‘first world’ to found in every country, existing alongside one another.
True to form, Bush has an incredibly nuanced and thoughtful statement about the proper relationship of church and state in an interview yesterday with the Washington times (transcript).
"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit.
That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have — or one of the greatest freedoms — is the right to worship the way you see fit. And on the other hand, I don't see how you can be president — at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a — without a relationship with the Lord.
I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person. I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is. On the other hand, I think more and more people ... understand the importance of faith in their life. "
In response, Dan Froomkin received the following response (which I thought was hysterical):
Reader Kim Jonas writes: "Relationship with the Lord? I'd like to see our President have a relationship with the *facts*. And I'm a born-again Christian."
Rock on, Christian Soldier!
Good god people, wake up!
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The trade deficient is the worst EVER. But should you be worried? Not as worried about the deficit, perhaps, as our government's reaction to it.
U.S. Treasury Secretary claimed that the growing trade deficit shows our economy's strength, not weakness (Orwell eat your heart out!). "The economy is growing, expanding, creating jobs and disposable income and that shows up in the demand for imports," he said.
Then he went on to blame our TRADING PARTNERS for the deficit. If they'd just charge more for their goods, we wouldn't be in this mess! Or better yet, if they'd just buy more of our products... oh, wait ... we don't make products here anymore. Oh well, at least our CEOs will still be rich!
Forget the cake; let them eat fortune cookies!
Friday, January 07, 2005
I couldn't have said this better myself, so I quote the following Op-Ed piece in full.
"Promoting Torture's Promoter"
By BOB HERBERT
January 7, 2005
If the United States were to look into a mirror right now, it wouldn't recognize itself.
The administration that thumbed its nose at the Geneva Conventions seems equally dismissive of such grand American values as honor, justice, integrity, due process and the truth. So there was Alberto Gonzales, counselor to the president and enabler in chief of the pro-torture lobby, interviewing on Capitol Hill yesterday for the post of attorney general, which just happens to be the highest law enforcement office in the land.
Mr. Gonzales shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that office. His judgments regarding the detention and treatment of prisoners rounded up in Iraq and the so-called war on terror have been both unsound and shameful. Some of the practices that evolved from his judgments were appalling, gruesome, medieval.
But this is the Bush administration, where incompetence and outright failure are rewarded with the nation's highest honors. (Remember the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded last month to George Tenet et al.?) So not only is Mr. Gonzales's name being stenciled onto the attorney general's door, but a plush judicial seat is being readied for his anticipated elevation to the Supreme Court.
It's a measure of the irrelevance of the Democratic Party that a man who played such a significant role in the policies that led to the still-unfolding prisoner abuse and torture scandals is expected to win easy Senate confirmation and become attorney general. The Democrats have become the 98-pound weaklings of the 21st century.
The Bush administration and Mr. Gonzales are trying to sell the fiction that they've seen the light. In answer to a setup question at his Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Gonzales said he is against torture. And the Justice Department issued a legal opinion last week that said "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms."
What took so long? Why were we ever - under any circumstances - torturing, maiming, sexually abusing and even killing prisoners? And where is the evidence that we've stopped?
The Bush administration hasn't changed. This is an administration that believes it can do and say whatever it wants, and that attitude is changing the very nature of the United States. It is eroding the checks and balances so crucial to American-style democracy. It led the U.S., against the advice of most of the world, to launch the dreadful war in Iraq. It led Mr. Gonzales to ignore the expressed concerns of the State Department and top military brass as he blithely opened the gates for the prisoner abuse vehicles to roll through.
There are few things more dangerous than a mixture of power, arrogance and incompetence. In the Bush administration, that mixture has been explosive. Forget the meant-to-be-comforting rhetoric surrounding Mr. Gonzales's confirmation hearings. Nothing's changed. As detailed in The Washington Post earlier this month, the administration is making secret plans for the possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists who will never even be charged.
Due process? That's a laugh. Included among the detainees, the paper noted, are hundreds of people in military or C.I.A. custody "whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts." And there will be plenty more detainees to come.
Who knows who these folks are or what they may be guilty of? We'll have to trust in the likes of Alberto Gonzales or Donald Rumsfeld or President Bush's new appointee to head the C.I.A., Porter Goss, to see that the right thing is done in each and every case.
Americans have tended to view the U.S. as the guardian of the highest ideals of justice and fairness. But that is a belief that's getting more and more difficult to sustain. If the Justice Department can be the fiefdom of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, those in search of the highest standards of justice have no choice but to look elsewhere.
It's more fruitful now to look overseas. Last month Britain's highest court ruled that the government could not continue to indefinitely detain foreigners suspected of terrorism without charging or trying them. One of the justices wrote that such detentions "call into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention."
That's a sentiment completely lost on an Alberto Gonzales or George W. Bush.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Did anyone else get an e-mail from Senator Kerry about "Counting on you to make sure every vote gets counted"? Well, I got one, and it made me hopping mad.
He asks us to call Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist and tell them that we want "action on election reform now." But not for this election! Nope, just for next time, since it's unlikely that a recount will change the outcome of the 2004 election.
To quote Mags: "Are you kidding me?" Either he really doesn't get it or he's a much bigger asshole than I ever thought possible. Either way, it's ... it's ... inconceivable (I keep using that word. Maybe it doens't mean what I think it means...).
Here's my little response to his cry for help:
Dear Senator Kerry (or whoever reads his mass e-mail address),
Thanks for your efforts and for this communication. I voted for you (even though you'll have to take my word on that, seeing as there is no paper trail to confirm it) and supported you in the face of a media smear campaign that pegged you as a flip-flopper. I argued (and still do) that you are simply a nuanced thinker who sees gray, which is not always easy to justify. Black and white perspectives are much easier to argue.
This being said, I am incensed at the position you are (not) taking in this fight to ensure democracy. I think you owe some explanation as to WHY you "will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors." (I have to note the irony that one of the few black and white pronouncements you make is one that I think sorely deserves elaboration.)
How is this not hypocritical? You say you "want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted" but just not THIS year? Why is that, exactly?
You may think you're taking the high road on this one and avoiding a conflict of interest or a few detractors saying you're a sore loser, but I have to say I feel you're letting me down and everyone else who truly believes every vote counts and therefore should be counted. It is SO beside the point whether or not the outcome of the election would be overturned. We need evidence of what went wrong, how fraud against the American people was perpetrated against the electoral system, and how many people were disenfranchised of their fundamental rights due to partisan racism and classism. THAT, sir, is the reason for a recount. I agree that your presidential bid is not worth recounting.
I also agree that additional measures should be taken for the future, but what about accountability for the present? This fight has not yet begun and you've already turned the other cheek!
Community Planning Student
Albuquerque, NM, USA
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Incidentally, here's a link to sign a petition to Congress against torture. Decently articulate and fairly complete.
As an American, I am terrified at the direction my country is headed. Please stop the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as a first step toward justice and away from tyranny. As a protector and indeed champion of torture, he must be sent packing as a message to the world and to ourselves that we believe in humanity -- ours and everyone else's.
P.S. Washington Post has a great editorial about Guantanomo and U.S. torture. I haven't heard anyone speak out so explicitly against what is clearly U.S. policy. Nice Orwell/Kafka references, too, for literary types such as myself.
Well, it's official. We're off and running on an exciting and intriguing new year. I can honestly say I have NO IDEA what this year will bring for me, my friends, my country, or the world. Isn't that exciting? Scary as hell, yes, but full of potential, you have to admit.
Let's keep our ears, hearts, and minds open, stock up on non-perishables, and get ready to hit the streets on a moment's notice. Everyone save those old sheets and medical masks. They may come in handy.