...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, January 28, 2005
      ( 3:22 PM )
Friday Vocabulary Word

To kick of the weekend, we have our weekly vocab word! Today's word is:


government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives; rule by the ruled; the principle of equality of rights, opportunity, and treatment, or the practice of this principle; the common people as the wielders of political power.

Use it in a sentance this weekend! "Boy, would I like to be a part of making this country a democracy again!"

Have a great weekend - and here's to "free and fair elections in Iraq"!

| -- permanent link

Thursday, January 27, 2005
      ( 10:11 AM )
Learning to Remember

As I am getting fond of saying to my students - go to the source. To remember, to learn, go to the source. Today is the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But how many truly remember? How many truly know? Is it only we, those whose families are smaller because of the Nazis that will remember? This, the thing that all humanity carries in its heart...who truly knows? We need to listen to the voices of those who experienced this terrible history firsthand and not forget their words.

We the survivors are now disappearing one by one. Soon history will speak of Auschwitz at best with the impersonal voice of researchers and novelists, at worst with the malevolence of demagogues and falsifiers. This week the last of us, with a multitude of heads of state and other dignitaries, are gathering at that cursed site to remind the world that past can be prologue, that the mountains of human ashes dispersed there are a warning to humanity of what may still lie ahead.

The genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda and the recent massacres of innocents in the United States, Spain, Israel, Indonesia and so many other countries have demonstrated our inability to learn from the blood-soaked past. Auschwitz, the symbol of absolute evil, is not only about that past, it is about the present and the future of our newly enflamed world, where a coupling of murderous ideologues and means of mass destruction can trigger new catastrophes.
Will humanity never learn? We can so easily condemn the Nazis for their inhumanity. Yet without blinking we so easily approve as a leader of our Justice Department a man who condones the inhumanity of torture as a policy that represents our country; we so easily go along and re-elect an administration that considers tactics used by the worst of Central American dictators as viable options in Iraq, that considers lifelong imprisonment without charges acceptable.

Jean Amery, a prisoner of Auschwitz said, "Anybody who was tortured will never again feel at home in the world."

On this sobering anniversary, do we only look without and shake our heads in consternation at what has gone before - or can we look within ourselves to what we have become and where we are going?

| -- permanent link

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
      ( 9:40 AM )
No on Gonzales

Well, Condi got approved today - no surprise. I AM disappointed that only 12 Dems (and 1 independent - Jeffords) voted against her. What could it have hurt to say no to her- isn't that what Congressional Oversight is for? John McCain whined that the opposition was about being poor losers. Is there any respect left for dissent and the role of an opposition party? I guess not when one party rules the entire government.

Onto Gonzales. Kos has written a statement about why Gonzales is unfit to serve as Attorney General. As a several-years blogger, I join this statement with my full support and add my voice to the No on Gonzales refrain. There is absolutely no excuse for someone like this being the attorney for the people of this country. Not only will he have too many conflicts to serve as an accountability for the administration, but he has too long a history of abuse of power. It's a bad deal any way you look at it. Just say No.

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
      ( 8:23 AM )
Bye, Bye, Money

It's not all that comforting that China now owns a large percentage of the U.S.

In 2003, the most recent year with full international statistics, central banks financed 83 per cent of the US current account deficit, with Asian central banks accounting for 86 per cent of flows.

A similar picture is emerging for 2004. Despite a good start to the year, when the private sector was a large net purchaser of dollar assets, central banks came to the rescue again. The People's Bank of China has let it be known that China increased dollar reserves by $207bn (€159bn) in 2004, financing nearly a third of the US current account deficit, estimated at $650bn.

I wonder if all those "values-motivated" voters care that their votes actually further endangered our country's ability to defend itself. Banks and markets across the world are deciding that maybe good ol' "Freedom on the March" America might not be the best the place to invest.

Central banks are shifting reserves away from the US and towards the eurozone in a move that looks set to deepen the Bush administration's difficulties in financing its ballooning current account deficit.

In actions likely to undermine the dollar's value on currency markets, 70 per cent of central bank reserve managers said they had increased their exposure to the euro over the past two years. The majority thought eurozone money and debt markets were as attractive a destination for investment as the US.

But don't worry, all this boo-hoo news about central banks disinvesting in the dollar and China holding most of our debt - we're gonna go into MORE debt!! Talk about political capital - it must be what takes the place of actual capital.

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the government will accumulate another $855 billion in deficits over the next decade, excluding the costs of President Bush's Social Security plan and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report, described by a congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity, was being released Tuesday, the same day administration officials were expected to describe President Bush's request for fresh $80 billion request to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

The deficit projections for the years 2006 through 2015 is almost two-thirds smaller than what congressional budget analysts predicted last fall, but the drop is largely due to estimating quirks that required it to exclude future Iran and Afghanistan war costs. Last September, their 10-year deficit estimate was $2.3 trillion.

...wait, what was that?

...due to estimating quirks that required it to exclude future Iran and Afghanistan war costs.

Typo? Freudian slip? Preview? The sad thing is that even if it were true, who would care? Have you heard any news outlet discuss the financial turmoil we've gotten ourselves into? Does any news show mention that Americans are in the most bankruptcy and debt they've ever been in, and yet the adminitration expects to further impact the natioanl deficit by letting these people have control over their own retirement funds? Does it matter to anyone that if China and Japan were to cash in and go for euros, we'd be plunged in the largest depression in history? Oh, I forgot, there was a big snowstorm.

| -- permanent link

      ( 7:52 AM )
What Does History Matter?

As most of my regular readers know, I'm a teacher in training this year. I'm taking graduate school courses to get my MAT while I teach at a local high school (the poorest district in the area). So since September, I've been teaching off and on in a government class (seniors) and mostly observing in a history class (juniors). Yesterday, the mentor teacher that I work with was absent, and so I took over both classes. The students have their final semester exams (they are on a semester system) on Wednesday. The government class was fine - I've taught there many times and we're comfortable with each other. But in the history class, it was the first time I'd led the class. The directions the teacher left were for the students to use almost the entire period (70 minutes - it's a block system) writing outlines for the essay questions they would have to answer on their final. Trying to get 32 16-year olds to sit for 70 minutes writing is not exactly what I would call a plan. So instead, I asked if they'd like to talk through the study prep questions and discuss anything they had concerns about. (basically, they were given a list of quesitons, they were to choose five of them to outline and then those would be the five that they would answer in essay form for the final). They had studied 1945-Present this semester and had just finished up a 3-week unit on the 80's.

Now, this entire semester has been a bit of a trial for me, because my mentor teacher is in his 30th year of teaching and a bit burnt out. He is a good mentor in that he has given me lots of room to design my own lessons and teach, but his own teaching example, for me, is a lesson in what not to do. He uses old, old worksheets - PILES of worksheets - and just shows video after video. The kids in the history class have bascially been watching the latter half of the 20th century through videos. He focused on pop culture for each decade more than he delved into any issue that one might have thought would be important for understanding the century, like the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, things like that. The teacher topped the semester off with a 3-day viewing of "Forrest Gump," that oh-so-true-to life telling of the timeline they'd been studying this semester. Argh!

As we began to talk about the questions on the final, two things became extremely clear. One, they'd barely learned anything. Two, they were desperate to have their voices heard. They knew facts here and there, but for the most part, on major issues they had been divided into groups to do projects, and so some of them knew something about McCarthyism, and some hadn't even recognized Joe McCarthy's name. After the last 3 weeks studying the 80's, not one of them knew the word "Glastnost" and they were completely unaware of the Iran-Contra Hearings. But they knew about Madonna and the Celtic/Lakers competition! We verbally traced the progression of the Cold War through foreign policy and domestic issues across the decades they'd studied, we discussed the connections between decisions made about Iran in the 70's and where we are today with our foreign policy, we talked about the different economic focuses taken by LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. They discovered they knew more than they thought they did. They realized they could think critically and make connections, even though that hadn't been part of their curriculum all semester. They had been silenced all semester by videos and worksheets and research projects that focused only on pop culture (which is good, but not enough to qualify as history - when the point is to help kids become participating citizens in our democracy, knowing the fashion styles of the 80's is not what I would call a crucial part of the curriculum).

It was, I thought, an exhilarating 70 minutes where the kids were able to culminate their semester by tracing history through the decades and seeing how much it matters that they know what happened then so that they can better understand the present and change the future for the better. They had spent 3 classes watching "Missippi Burning" with barely any critical follow up on that graphic film about the killings of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman. Despite the amount of time spent on that film, the teacher hadn't even brought up in discussion a couple of weeks ago when there was an arrest made in that very case. When I brought up the arrest, they were amazed that that case was still going on. History matters. I regret the 5 months they've spent not realizing that. But we got one good day in before history class ends, I hope something will stick with them. The triumph of such a wonderful discussion time, where the students were able to finally have a voice in their own learning, and where we uncovered the true reason why it's important to know history felt a little tempered by the fact that a whole new set of kids would go through the exact same mindless journey this coming semester with that teacher. Sigh. Baby steps, I suppose.

I take over my own class starting next Monday. I'll be teaching government for the whole semester. New kids, new day. I am looking forward to the challenge, though a little daunted by the amount of work teachers must do to prep for all the curriculum they have to cover. Towards spring, I'll be taking over another government class and a history class. The history class should be somewhere in the 60's or 70's by then - we'll see what we can do from there. First things first though.

Okay, teacher vent over.

| -- permanent link

Sunday, January 23, 2005
      ( 7:36 PM )

It's been a rough weekend in the neighborhood. The first homicide in Portland this year occurred on Friday night. Three houses from my home a woman was gunned down while she stood on her porch at 7:15 at night. She was 25, the mother of a little 8 year old boy. She didn't even live there, she was visiting. It is so frustrating working through this, in my own heart and with my neighbors. The house has been targeted by gunfire at least six times in the last 4 months, it seems it was only a matter of time until someone was killed. The frustration comes in because we as a community have been trying to somehow intervene and stop the cycle of violence for years now. The police even met with us last October. They assured us that they knew what was going on in that house, they were on top of it, they were planning to take care of it. They condescendingly told us to stay out of it. The police are understaffed and overworked. But they also are shutting us as a community out of issues that directly involve us. We have children living on our street. We have elderly women who are nervous about leaving their homes now. Not one of us on our street sits and cowers in our homes; we talk to each other, we know each other, we try to figure out what to do. But the city never responds to our attempts to reach out. The cops are only reactive. So we just had to wait for the next shooting and call 911. But this time someone died a horrible death.

The other level of frustration is more psychic - every person on our street is a working class, committed member of the community. Many of us are directly involved in community work, some of us work around the state, the country and the world to help others and work for justice. We are diverse; black, white, hispanic, old, young, parents, grandparents, single folks, young and middle aged couples, toddlers, adolescents. But even though we are doing many things to try and make the world a little better of a place to live, we can't stop the violence at the end of our own street. It feels hopeless, and you get this sense of powerlessness. But you can't give into it. We aren't going to be able to depend on any kind of adequate infrastructure to help us. Social services are being robbed of their funding; policing is corrupted by bad training, racism and lack of funding; drugs, guns and hatred flourish in economic deprivation.

I don't really know what else to say. We talk and talk with neighbors. We feel grief for the loss of a young mother, resignation that it was bound to happen, and anger that our own children are endangered by what that house at the end of the street invites. There doesn't seem to be any answers right now.

| -- permanent link

Friday, January 21, 2005
      ( 11:16 AM )
Friday Vocab Word

I'm introducing a new feature for 2005: the Friday Vocab Word. (don't worry, we'll still get Haiku Friday sometimes). Since I'm a teacher now, I thought I'd combine my worlds and offer some end-of-the-week mini-lessons. You might be shocked at how you were able to live without certain words operating as commonplace in your vocabulary. Perhaps you'll be better able to define the world around you. You just never know how a new word can make your life better!

As you may have noted, I completely ignored what was going on in DC yesterday - both on my blog and in my daily life. I thought about doing some big protest moves, etc - but then I thought, "you know, these people don't deserve my attention as they spend millions partying it up while people die because of them." The $40 million they spent on their party could have paid for something like 200 fully armored humvees for the troops. But who knows how to spend money better than the robber barons? Anwyay, in celebration of yesterday's events, I offer the first Friday Vocab Word:

Facism: a system of government characterized by rigid one-party leadership or dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition through terror and/or censorship, private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism, racism and militarism.

Use it in a sentence this week. Perhaps while you're describing the inaugural address.

| -- permanent link

      ( 10:47 AM )
On the Right Road?

There have been several voices coming out lately that are beginning to chip away at the false wall the Religious Right has built up after the election. You know the one: it divides the truly GOOD people from the truly GODLESS people. For instance, you are GOOD if you believe that SpongeBob Squarepants is an evil, manipulative corrupter of children, spreading the "gay agenda" and poisoning their minds. You are GODLESS if you, oh say, think making science political is ridiculous. Anyway, the lucid voices are now getting some airtime. Which is good. Since, as the Christian Science Monitor reported this week, while the U.S. may be now known as an incredibly religious country, it is terribly illiterate about its religion.

Things are different in Europe, and not just in Sweden. The Dutch are only a fourth as likely as Americans to believe in miracles, hell, and biblical inerrancy. The euro does not trust in God. But here is the paradox: Although Americans are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion.

In Europe, religious education is the rule from the elementary grades on. So Austrians, Norwegians, and the Irish can tell you about the seven deadly sins or the five pillars of Islam. But, according to a 1997 poll, only 1 out of 3 US citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts - the four Gospels - and 12 percent think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. That paints a picture of a nation that believes God speaks in Scripture but that can't be bothered to read what he has to say.

Jim Wallis of the Sojourners has a new option for those who are motivated by faith to do social justice and work for good, but do not at all associate with the Religious Right.

After the 2002 mid-term elections, I attended a private dinner for Harvard Fellows in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our speaker was a Republican political strategist who had just won all the major senatorial and gubernatorial election campaigns in which he was involved. Needless to say, he was full of his success and eager to tell us about it. This very smart political operative said that Republicans won middle-class and even working-class people on the "social" issues, those moral and cultural issues that Democrats don’t seem to understand or appreciate. He even suggested that passion on the social issues can cause people to vote against their economic self-interest. Since the rich are already with us, he said, we win elections.

I raised my hand and asked the following question. "What would you do if you faced a candidate that took a traditional moral stance on the social and cultural issues? They would not be mean-spirited and, for example, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, nor would they criminalize the choices of desperate women backed into difficult and dangerous corners. But the candidate would be decidedly pro-family, pro-life (meaning they really want to lower the abortion rate), strong on personal responsibility and moral values, and outspoken against the moral pollution throughout popular culture that makes raising children in America a countercultural activity. And what if that candidate was also an economic populist, pro-poor in social policy, tough on corporate corruption and power, clear in supporting middle-class and working families in health care and education, an environmentalist, and committed to a foreign policy that emphasized international law and multilateral cooperation over pre-emptive and unilateral war? What would you do?" I asked. The Republican strategist paused for a long time, and then said, "We would panic!"

The Religious Right's name is a misnomer. They aren't right. They are wrong and they do wrong. They count on people's ignorance and their self-centeredness to gain their grandstanding power. They do not value human beings. They are not "pro-life", they are pro-birth - they only want the kid to be born, then they don't care what happens to it. Caring about the lives and health of children, wanting to provide for their health care, nutrition and education, wanting them to grow up in a world where their country leads by example in cooperation, conflict resolution and caring about those less fortunate - those are what I call values. There is no mandate for the anti-values Religious Right. They will crumble under their own hubris, of that I am certain. What I'm concerned about is whether those of us who do have real values will be able to offer Americans a leader or group of leaders who can communicate the cogent and excellent alternative to these monsters.

| -- permanent link

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
      ( 8:32 AM )
I love Barbara Boxer

The Democrats with kahones are women. I'm proud. I am tempted to move to California, just so I can say she represents me. But then Feingold would also represent me, and that is just shameful. Waiting for our own Ron Wyden to stand up as well. Barbara Boxer is showing what it means to actually be the Opposition Party. Step up the plate, the rest of you tired old senators.

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
      ( 6:28 AM )

Condoleeza Rice, facing her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, insists that now is the time for diplomacy. Now?!? Meanwhile, her unruly boss can't seem to stay with the message of the day.

Bush said Monday that Washington would not rule out military action against Iran, which he labeled in 2002 an "axis of evil" member alongside Iraq and North Korea, if it was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program.

ahem...military action? With what military? Oh, and Iran is soooooooo scared!

"Iran has no fear of foreign enemies' threats...as they are very well aware that the Islamic Republic is not a place for adventurism," the ISNA student news agency quoted influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as saying.

Second verse, same as the first.

| -- permanent link

Monday, January 17, 2005
      ( 11:10 AM )

Where Do We Go From Here?

We must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" Now, don't think you have me in a bind today. I'm not talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond communism. What I'm saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 16, 1967, Atlanta

* * * * * * * * *

No democracy can flourish against the corruptions of plutocratic, imperial forces - or withstand the temptations of militarism in the face of terrorist hate - without a citizenry girded by these three moral pillars of Socratic questioning, prophetic witness, and tragicomic hope. The hawks and proselytizers of the Bush administration have professed themselves to be the guardians of American democracy, but there is a deep democratic tradition in this country that speaks powerfully against their nihilistic, antidemocratic abuse of power and that can fortify genuine democrats today in the fight against imperialism. That democratic fervor is found in the beacon calls for imaginative self-creation in Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the dark warnings of imminent self-destruction in Herman Melville, in the impassioned odes to democratic possibility in Walt Whitman. It is found most urgently and poignantly in the prophetic and powerful voices of the long black freedom struggle - from the democratic eloquence of Frederick Douglass to the soaring civic sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the wrenching artistic honesty of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, and in the expressive force and improvisatory genius of the blues/jazz tradition, all forged in the night side of America and defying the demeaning strictures of white supremacy. The greatest intellectual, moral political, and spiritual resources in America that may renew the soul and preserve the future of American democracy reside in this multiracial, rich democratic heritage.

Cornell West, Democracy Matters.

| -- permanent link

Thursday, January 13, 2005
      ( 3:08 PM )
Boosting your Social Political Life

Looking for something to do next week - possibly on Thursday?

Tired of just the same old internet surfing and angrily banging your head against the wall?

Just want to do something meaningful?

You're in luck! Next week we mark a dark day in American history - the 2nd inaugural of the worst president we've ever seen. He will be celebrating with his rich friends at a $40 million dollar party while soldiers and civilians die, and in a city where 91% of its residents voted against him, and where hundreds of children don't even have a decent pair of shoes or three meals a day.

WE can do something else. Don't let the opportunity pass you by. DO SOMETHING.

(for you Portlanders, of course our town is showing up to voice our opinion about this travesty - hope to see you there: J20 in Portland. It's about being an American.

| -- permanent link

      ( 3:02 PM )

In case you're concerned about the content of your child's science textbook, here are some stickers you can use on the front of it.

| -- permanent link

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
      ( 8:20 AM )

This just in!!! The final word on WMDs in Iraq!!!

...there are none.

told you it was a shocker.

| -- permanent link

      ( 7:58 AM )
For the War, Against the Troops

Voice of a Veteran points us sadly to the fact that there is no political will in Washington to support the troops who are fighting and dying, or the veterans who come home. While they try to wrangle more money for the defense budget to pour into Iraq, they are reducing funds for the care of veterans and the families of active duty service people. The Congressional leadership has removed Rep. Chris Smith from the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee - because he pushed too hard for Congress to care for vets.

Congress is rightly concerned about the huge deficits our government is incurring, with the combination of a war and tax-cuts rapidly bankrupting our country. But the 2005 budget, passed by Congress and approved by Congress, managed to find $9 billion to pay for pork-barrel projects in members' districts, including:

$7 million for a bus-maintenance facility in Tempe, Arizona
$430,000 to restore the Fox Tucson Theatre
$3 million for a grape research laboratory
$1.5 million for a demonstration project to transport naturally chilled water from Lake Ontario to Lake Onondaga
$75,000 for the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wis.
$200,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
$3 million for the First Tee Program in St. Augustine, Florida
$1 million dollars (ironically) for the Missouri Pork Producers Association

How did they pay for all of this? Among other things, Congress cut the Pentagon account used to pay for up-armored humvees. A Scripps-Howard study of combat deaths in Iraq shows that 1 in 5 of the over 1,300 U.S. deaths in Iraq took place inside humvees.

The ouster came over a nearly unprecendented protest from the major veterans' groups: VFW Commander in Chief John Furgess said "Instead of a message of strength and continuity being sent, what's being communicated loud and clear across the country is that 'your job's in jeopardy if you put principles before politics."

Experts believe that there could now be the tip of an enormous wave of homeless vets and vets in need of massive amounts of care coming home from this war (not to mention all the vets from the last couple of wars). The Vet sets it straight:

My intention is not to put you on a guilt trip with the following statement, but: It’s not enough to put a yellow ribbon magnet on your car saying you support the troops. It’s time to really start supporting the very same people, and the millions who went before them, who are now veterans.

They need housing. They need medical care. They shouldn’t have to roam the streets. After they made great sacrifices for us, it’s time to return the favor.

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
      ( 3:00 PM )
Some Thoughts on Disgrace

As a new teacher and someone who keeps a very close eye on children's education opportunities and advocates public education, I have a significant amount of disgust at the Bush Administration's newest dirty game: paying Armstrong Williams to promote No Child Left Behind. Not only did they pay him a quarter of a million dollars out of a budget that was already underfunded, but they targeted African American families by purposely choosing an African American conservative commentator. Why is this significant? Because African American children make up an enormous percentage of the poor, working class people who are hurt most by NCLB. The ridiculous standardizations and requirements are set up to cause the failure of Title I schools (schools that need federal aid because they have over 50% of their students on free or reduced lunch and/or breakfast). Teachers are being called "unqualified" for subjects they've taught well for decades simply because they haven't taken a certain standardized test themselves. Parents are being encouraged to switch their children to other schools at the expense of the very school that needs that money to improve itself.

So the Bush administration deliberately set out to screw African American children and then spent taxpayer money to use a conseravtive mouthpiece to try and sell that screwing to their parents. It's disgusting to me that people are willing to let this kind of thing go on. Not only the bribery, graft and corruption, but just the policy itself shows how much this administration holds children and educators in contempt. It is so incredible to think that people aren't willing to fight against the dismantling of the public education system, aren't interested in guaranteeing a right to education for every child in the U.S., aren't concerned that their tax dollars are being spent by the billions to kill children in Iraq, while their own children have to try and learn in overcrowed classrooms from overworked and pressured teachers -- some of those children doing all this while hungry.

The scandal isn't just that Williams accepted the bribe money and did this for the administration. The scandal isn't even that there are more of his kind out there. The scandal is that this administration was re-elected and that its true believers are willing to accept the corruption that is thriving on their willful ignorance and tax dollars. What happened to the public good? Do we even care anymore?

Where are we, America?

| -- permanent link

      ( 2:54 PM )
Clooney gives O'Reilly the Slapdown

Last Friday, Bill O'Reilly badmouthed George Clooney's efforts to organize a telethon to raise funds for Southeast Asia. In response, many people who had pledged money withdrew their pledges. Today, Clooney responded in an open letter.

Arguing that O'Reilly's latest comments were for "personal gain," the star of "Ocean's Twelve" said, "Because of it, fewer people will donate money to help truly traumatized victims; they'll be afraid that their money will do no good."


Clooney, in turn, accused O'Reilly of failing to recognize his responsibility, noting "you have become quite powerful."

He added, "I don't make as much money as you."

Then came the challenge:

"I'm booking the talent for the Tsunami event ... and you, Mr. O'Reilly, are now officially invited to be a presenter ... [at this point, not one of the people I've invited to donate their time has said, 'No']. ... This way, you can personally follow up on our fund-raising. ... This is your chance to put your considerable money where your considerable mouth is. ... Show up ... help raise money ... and if we're doing something wrong, point it out.

"Either you ante up and help out and be that watchdog that you feel we clearly need ... or you simply stand on the sidelines and cast stones."

Always like to see a fair and balanced slap down.

| -- permanent link

      ( 2:45 PM )
Walking in the Footsteps of Failure

A conservative government sweeps to power for a second term. It views its victory as a mandate to slash the role of the state. In its ?rst term, this policy objective was met by cutting taxes for the wealthy. Its top priority for its second term is tackling what it views as an enduring vestige of socialism: its system of social insurance for the elderly. Declaring the current program unaffordable in 50 years’ time, the administration proposes the privatization of a portion of old-age bene?ts. In exchange for giving up some future bene?ts, workers would get a tax rebate to put into an investment account to save for their own retirement.

George W. Bush’s America in 2005? Think again. The year was 1984, the nation was Britain, the government was that of Margaret Thatcher -- and the results have been a disaster that America is about to emulate.

Even with examples of failure galore, Bush intends to ram this thing down our throats. He's even threatening his own party members to tow the line.

This presidency is all about him. There is nothing else on the agenda but Bush's own aggrandizement and power. When will people wake up and notice their democracy is slipping away?

| -- permanent link

      ( 2:34 PM )
Thanks For the Real Estate

The Bush Administration was supposedly raising all private donations to pay for their extravagant "F-U, World" party on the Mall next week for the inaugeration. But not so. Not only are taxpayers who don't even get real representatives in Congress going to pay, it's going to be taken out of their security budget.

D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.


"We want to make this the best possible event, but not at the expense of D.C. taxpayers and other homeland security priorities," said Gregory M. McCarthy, the mayor's deputy chief of staff. "This is the first time there hasn't been a direct appropriation for the inauguration."

A spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, agreed with the mayor's stance. He called the Bush administration's position "simply not acceptable."

"It's an unfunded mandate of the most odious kind. How can the District be asked to take funds from important homeland security projects to pay for this instead?" said Davis spokesman David Marin.

Fifty Million Dollars to party while the rest of the world drowns, starves or burns. Nice show, Mr. President.

(thanks to maru for the link)

| -- permanent link

      ( 2:28 PM )
Take Back America the Democratic Party

Time for a change.

Gov. Howard Dean, M.D. today:

As I have traveled across our country, I have talked to thousands of people who are working for change in their own communities about the power of politics to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Every group I have spoken to, I encouraged them to stand up for what they believe and to get involved in the electoral process—because the only sure way to make difference is to step up and run for office yourself.

Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level. We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us.

Another integral part of our strategy must be cultivating the party's grassroots. Our long term success depends on all of us taking an active role in our party and in the political process, by volunteering, going door to door and taking the Democratic message into every community, and by organizing at the local level. After all, new ideas and new leaders don't come from consultants; they come from communities.

As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform—reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean—and mean real change when we say it.

But most of all, together, we have to rebuild the American community. We will never succeed by treating our nation as a collection of separate regions or separate groups. There are no red states or blues states, only American states. And we must talk to the people in all of these states as members of one community.

That word—'values'—has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.

We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party—and the vast majority of Americans—together.

All of this will require both national perspective and local experience. I know what it's like to lead hands-on at the state level and I know what it's like to run for national office.

With your help, this past election season, Democracy for America, already started creating the kind of organization the Democratic Party can be. This past election cycle, we endorsed over 100 candidates at all levels of government—from school board to U.S. Senate. We contributed almost a million dollars to nearly 750 candidates around the country and raised millions of dollars for many more candidates.

Together, we helped elect a Democratic governor in Montana, a Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, Utah and an African American woman to the bench in Alabama. Fifteen of the candidates we endorsed had never run for office before—and won.

I also have experience building and managing a local party organization. My career started as Democratic Party chair in Chittenden County, Vermont. I then ran successful campaigns: for state legislature, lieutenant governor and then governor. In my 11-year tenure as governor, I balanced the state's budget every year.

I served as chair of both the National Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors' Association (DGA). And as chair of the DGA, I helped recruit nearly 20 governors that won—even in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

All of these experiences have only reaffirmed what I know to be true. There is only one party that speaks to the hopes and dreams of all Americans. It is the party you have already given so much to. It is the Democratic Party.

We can win elections only by standing up for what we believe.

Thank you and I look forward to listening to your concerns in the weeks ahead.

| -- permanent link

      ( 2:11 PM )
Our Responsibility

We can't just talk a game of caring for our fellow human beings and not be consistent about our actions. The outpouring of help from people for those devastated in Southeast Asia this month has been heartening. Yet, even now, people are starving and dying, being raped and disappeared all over the Sudan - in numbers 5 times that of those in Southeast Asia. Children are still being kidnapped and put into service as soldiers and killers. Young boys are now the 3rd biggest export from Afghanistan (behind opium and body parts). Children and women are being taken and put into slavery from eastern european countries regularly. Indigenous peoples are struggling for their rights and to survive all across Latin and South America. We have more than we need. I feel compelled that we can give more than we do. I and my family have committed to regular, monthly gifts to Mercy Corps, which does incredible work around the world in care of people - we will give as we can now and increase as our family income may grow. It's a committment that is important. I can't just be disgusted at injustice. I must contribute to its defeat. I have moved the links to relief agencies and made them permanent on my sidebar. It's important that I practice what I preach. I wish our government did the same.

| -- permanent link

Friday, January 07, 2005
      ( 3:43 PM )
Our Moral Leaders

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist visited Sri Lanka to pledge aid to the victims of the tsunami. As Kos noted, Frist seems to "derive pleasure from human misery."

Just before his helicopter lifted off, Frist and aides took snapshots of each other near a pile of tsunami debris.

``Get some devastation in the back,'' Frist told a photographer.

| -- permanent link

Thursday, January 06, 2005
      ( 1:06 PM )
What are they afraid of?

Why are Republicans and Senate Democrats so afraid of debate? Democracy is stronger because of debate, not because no one speaks up or stands in the way of injustice. Why are they so scared to talk about democracy and making it better?

Thomas Jefferson: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

| -- permanent link

      ( 11:00 AM )
Standing Tall

I am proud that today, the two people who took a stand in the House and the Senate, to call for a discussion and who brought attention to the terrible and disgusting state of our electoral process, were women. It took two women legislators to stand up against the whole of the body of Congress and the administration - organizations that move forward under the inertia of status quo, and whose members more often refuse to do the right thing than they refuse kick backs.

Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH) and Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) today stood in the way of injustice and called for the country's attention to be turned to what's really important: the sustaining of our democracy.

Sixteen minutes into the session when Ohio's votes were read, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, issued her challenge, saying the votes "were not under all of the known circumstances regularly given."

Her challenge to Ohio's 20 electoral votes — which put Bush over the top — was joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. By law, a protest signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each.

"I have concluded that objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate way to bring these issues to light by allowing you to have a two-hour debate to let the American people know the facts surrounding Ohio's election," Boxer wrote in a letter to Tubbs Jones, a leader of the Democratic effort.

In 2001, Bush took office on the vote of the Supreme Court. In 2005, he will now have to take office on the vote of the Congress. Now in two consecutive elections, two branches of gov't will have elected the third. But it isn't even the way it took office that makes this administration illegitimate - this administration's own actions make it illegitimate, no matter what election results may be (see post below about torture).

But this isn't about overturning a corrupt election. This is about calling attention to the fact that it WAS corrupt, that it was the second time that has happened, and that this must not happen again. And the only two people to stand up for democracy were two women.

And the fact is, no Democratic voters will argue this move. It only takes one courageous person to stand in the way of injustice, and a line of strength will form behind her. I wish these two women were my representatives. But I will be writing them anyway to thank them for representing me, a voter in America. Because what they are doing is standing up for us. What they are doing is making sure our votes count. It's their job, of course. But the fact that these two women are doing their job is significant (a sad fact in American government) - and they deserve acknowledgment and thanks for what they have done today.

UPDATE: If you can, watch CSPAN's coverage of the electoral vote objections. It's amazing and incredible. Some of the finest democratic leaders in this country are defending our democracy. And some of the most deluded republicans don't care about our vote, and they're not afraid to say it.

| -- permanent link

      ( 10:21 AM )
We're All Torturers Now

There is no doubt that Alberto Gonzales will be confirmed today as the US Attorney General - after the "grilling" he'll get at the confirmation hearings. Alberto Gonzales, the attorney who has been at George W. Bush's side since Texas. The attorney who advised Bush on the multitude of executions he committed, but didn't bother to let Bush know there might be any exculpatory evidence that would mean a prisoner shouldn't be executed. The attorney that wrote a memo advising that using torture was an acceptable method for the US to gain information in the "war on terrorism." There is no doubt that he will be confirmed. Mark Danner, an incredible journalist, in an editorial in my local paper today (web link here), notes that this confirmation stains us all.

But what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand.

On the other hand, perhaps it is fitting that Mr. Gonzales be confirmed. The system of torture has, after all, survived its disclosure. We have entered a new era; the traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president's spokesman "reiterate," as he did last week, "the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture." And there the story ends.


But reality has a way of asserting itself. In the end, as Gen. Joseph P. Hoar pointed out this week, the administration's decision on the Geneva Conventions "puts all American servicemen and women at risk that are serving in combat regions." For General Hoar - a retired commander of American forces in the Middle East and one of a dozen prominent retired generals and admirals to oppose Mr. Gonzales - torture has a way of undermining the forces using it, as it did with the French Army in Algeria.

The general's concerns are understandable. The war in Iraq and the war on terrorism are ultimately political in character. Victory depends in the end not on technology or on overwhelming force but on political persuasion. By using torture, the country relinquishes the very ideological advantage - the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights - that the president has so persistently claimed is America's most powerful weapon in defeating Islamic extremism. One does not reach democracy, or freedom, through torture.

By using torture, we Americans transform ourselves into the very caricature our enemies have sought to make of us. True, that miserable man who pulled out his hair as he lay on the floor at Guantánamo may eventually tell his interrogators what he knows, or what they want to hear. But for America, torture is self-defeating; for a strong country it is in the end a strategy of weakness. After Mr. Gonzales is confirmed, the road back - to justice, order and propriety - will be very long. Torture will belong to us all.

It is a shameful day.

| -- permanent link

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
      ( 5:15 PM )
The Right's Cultural and Moral Highground

The House GOP decided not to vote to change the House Ethics rules today. The proposed change would have allowed members who are indicted to keep their leadership position - basically the rule change was expressly for Tom DeLay (who could be indicted at anytime and is the poster boy for ethics violations in the House). Tom DeLay did not look happy coming out of the meeting (what a guy, taking one for the team), but he put on a brave front and, of course, said this was the only issue the Democrats had to work with this new session of Congress. Then he went on to explain that now that this is dealt with, they can move on to their important agenda, which includes, and I quote Mr. DeLay: "Social Security reform, tort reform, tax reform, and cultural reform."

Cultural reform? What is that? And what, pray tell, is the House of Representatives going to do to reform us culturally?

...oh, my mistake, I notice in the NY Times today that, silly Mama, it's obvious the Republicans have a monopoly on moral reform and are already on the fast track to higher forms of culture:

Kelsey Grammer will be the M.C. at a kickoff inaugural gala honoring the military, the rap artist Kid Rock will perform at an inaugural youth concert and President Bush's most reliable fund-raisers have so far collected $15 million for three days of meticulously planned parties to celebrate his second swearing-in.

"Our first job is to provide a quality experience for our attendees," said Gordon C. James, a deputy director of inaugural events, who was bustling around the inaugural committee's offices on Thursday like a man before opening night. (Mama's emphasis added)

Kid Rock - the epitome of culture (check out the lyrics to his hit "Pimp of the Nation" - children not allowed) - will kick of the inaugural celebration for the most Moral and Godly administration this country has ever seen. Makes sense to me, doesn't it you?

| -- permanent link

      ( 4:48 PM )
Enter the World of the Absurd...

I caught this exchange at the White House Press Briefing today and thought I was floating away on a cloud of Orwellian abusurdity. But then I remembered this is American Reality now:

Q Are we going to set up a prison for permanent detainees for whom we have no evidence to even charge or try?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me back up and talk about the situation that we're in. We are fighting a different kind of war, as you have heard us talk about. The enemy is unlike any we have ever seen before. They have no regard for the rule of law; they have no regard for innocent civilians.

Q But we have a regard for law.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me walk back through this. We do. The President has -- his most solemn obligation is the safety and security of the American people. The war on terrorism is a war that continues. The people you are talking about are unlawful enemy combatants who were picked up on the battlefield, and we have a responsibility to --

Q Why are they unlawful if they were defending their own country?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. We have a responsibility to protect the American people, and that includes preventing enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield or rejoining the fight once they have been captured. We also expect those detainees to be treated humanely and in accordance with our laws. So this is a new situation that we've been working to address. And maintaining security and making sure detainees continue to be treated humanely are priorities that the Pentagon continues to work to address.

Q But we are going to keep them permanently?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the reasons they're being detained are valid reasons.


Q Scott, could you explain what is humane about detaining somebody who's not been charged with anything for the rest of their life? What is humane about that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I never said that that was the case. I said that we are at war on terrorism. And the war on terrorism continues. And as that war continues, we continue to go after those who seek to do harm to the American people. We continue to pick people up off the battlefield in the war on terrorism. These are people that have no regard for the rule of law. They have no regard for innocent civilians. They have no regard for the values we hold so dearly in the United States . We are a nation of laws and values, and we adhere to our laws and values. [...]

Q So if you're a nation of laws and values, and yet the war on terrorism is a different kind of war, does it mean then that our law is not necessarily applicable within the war on terrorism? That's what I'm hearing.

MR. McCLELLAN: I just -- and we've said repeatedly that we expect detainees to be treated humanely and in accordance with our laws, and that remains our policy and that remains the position of the United States government. And that's what we expect to be followed by these organizations.

So, in other words, we're a nation of laws and values that we adhere to, except when it comes to anything we might actually do within the context of a "war on terrorism", and we will treat detainees humanely, and imprisoning them for life with no charges doesn't count as inhumane. Did I get that right?

| -- permanent link

Monday, January 03, 2005
      ( 2:54 PM )
The Nice History of Slavery

My issue of In These Times arrived today with the following tidbit in its "Appall-o-meter":

"Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." So asserts the booklet "Southern Slavery, As It Was," a classroom text designed for faith-based instruction. Authors Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins, a pair of fundamental educators, also explain that the Bible permits slave-owning (a red state tradition) but condemns slave-trading (a blue state vice). Slavery wasn't "perfect or sinless," the authors allow, but come on, those folks just loved massuh.

One institution that adopted the text, acording to The News & Observer of North Carolina, was Cary Christian School, the fast-growing Christian school in the "triangle" area around Raleigh-Durham. After the paper examined the text, Cary Christian withdrew it from the 9th grade curriculum, citing faulty footnotes and citations.

I looked into this most definitely appalling story and found that indeed, Messrs. Wilson and Wilkins have been peddling their little booklet for some time now. Wilkins is a co-founder of League of the South, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Historians at History News Network had something to say about their interpretation of that "peculiar institution" of slavery:

Wilson’s and Wilkins’ booklet, published by Wilson’s “Canon Press” in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.

Of course, Steve Gilliard was on top of this story from the beginning. I concur with his conclusion that if you want to refute any slavery denial that you may hear, go straight to the primary documents. The Internet is now full of primary documents and quotes from slaves.

It's disgusting, but not surprising. Once our history is whitewashed and cleansed, we can proceed in an orderly fashion right into Christo-fascism. I know these guys are on the radical fringe, but unfortunately, with every creeping movement the Christian Right makes into politics and influencing government - like today's declaration from James Dobson that Focus on the Family will now take names and kick the butts of any lawmaker that opposes their choices for conservative judicial nominees - the more the "fringe" becomes less radical. It's never too late to stand in the way of people like this.

On the Dobson thing, at the very least, Focus on the Family should now lose its tax-exempt status. Dobson has completely crossed over into political endorsement and activism on behalf of the Bush administration. So much for the ol' Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the Bill of Rights. Oh well, we weren't using them anyway...

| -- permanent link

Sunday, January 02, 2005
      ( 3:05 PM )
How'd We Do on our Predictions?

Well, most of mine were wrong (predictably) for 2004. I was far too enthusiastic about how the election would turn out. I didn't do too badly on some things though. Not sure if I want to try again for 2005 - I can't even fathom what the Bushies might come up with in the space of 12 months. Sigh.

| -- permanent link

      ( 1:18 PM )
Long-Range Planning...gone completely amok

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts. The outcome of the review, which also involves the State Department, would also affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations.
...from the Washington Post today (free subscription required).

So, in case you didn't catch that, the US is planning to permanently imprison people who have never been charged with a crime. This is our government planning this.

One proposal under review is the transfer of large numbers of Afghan, Saudi and Yemeni detainees from the military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center into new U.S.-built prisons in their home countries. The prisons would be operated by those countries, but the State Department, where this idea originated, would ask them to abide by recognized human rights standards and would monitor compliance, the senior administration official said.

Would that be the same Guantanimo Bay detention center that we recently learned is a horrible den of torture and inhumanity?

What a dilemma:

"Since global war on terror is a long-term effort, it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "This has been evolutionary, but we are at a point in time where we have to say, 'How do you deal with them in the long term?' "

Just off the top of my head, I can think of lots of things to do in the long-term to prevent terrorism that don't include permanent detention and torture of people who have no charges against them. Oh I don't know, how about spending a couple billion dollars in aid to tsunami-ravaged Southeast Asia and actually HELP the largest Muslim populations in the world. At the same time, we'd be creating an environment of friendship and respect instead of the violence and fear we're working with now. Too radical? Just an idea.

| -- permanent link

      ( 1:05 PM )
Woman of the Year

I'm backtracking a bit, but I found this really moving - in response to Time Magazine naming Bush "Person of the Year," Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq this year, wrote an open letter to tell the world that perhaps this designation was not exactly appropriate.

Dear Time Editors:

My son, Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. This has been an extraordinary couple of weeks of "slaps in the faces" to us families of fallen heroes.

First, the Secretary of Defense—Donald Rumsfeld—admits to the world something that we as military families already know: The United States was not prepared for nor had any plan for the assault on Iraq. Our children were sent to fight an ill-conceived and badly prosecuted war. Our troops were sent with the wrong type of training, bad equipment, inferior protection and thin supply lines. Our children have been killed and we have made the ultimate sacrifice for this fiasco of a war, then we find out this week that Rumsfeld doesn't even have the courtesy or compassion to sign the "death letters"—as they are so callously called. Besides the upcoming holidays and the fact we miss our children desperately, what else can go wrong this holiday season?

Well let's see. Oh yes. George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three more architects of the quagmire that is Iraq. Thousands of people are dead and Bremer, Tenet and Franks are given our country's highest civilian award. What's next?

To top everything off—after it has been proven that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, there were no ties between Saddam and 9/11 and over 1,300 brave young people in this country are dead and Iraq lies in ruins— what does Time Magazine do? Names George W. Bush as its "Man of the Year." The person who betrayed this country into a needless war and whom I hold ultimately responsible for my son's death and who was questionably elected, again, to a second term, is honored this way by your magazine.

I hope we finally find peace in our world and that our troops who remain in Iraq are brought home speedily—after all, there was no reason for our troops to be there in the first place. No reason for my son and over 1,300 others to have been taken from their families. No reason for the infrastructure of Iraq to be demolished and thousands of Iraqis being killed. No reason for the notion of a "happy" holiday to be robbed from my family forever. I hope that our "leaders" don't invade any other countries which pose no serious threat to the United States. I hope there is no draft. I hope that the five people mentioned here (and many others) will finally be held responsible for the horrible mistake they got our country into. I hope that competence is finally rewarded and incompetence is appropriately punished. These are my wishes for 2005.

This isn't the first time your magazine has selected a questionable man for this honor—but it's the first time it affected my family so personally and so sorrowfully.

Cindy Sheehan

May 2005 see all her wishes come true.

| -- permanent link

      ( 11:43 AM )
A Look at the Bright Side

And why not? I found this article in Mother Jones as I was perusing some of my favorite reading sites today and thought I'd share:

After all, we are the creation of George Bush. In a mere three years, the flickering of a historical eyelash, he almost single-handedly has given life and vitality to the political Internet, while creating an antiwar and anti-him movement of surprising size, one that nearly lifted a recalcitrant candidate into the presidency. What took the right in America years and years after the Goldwater debacle of 1964, we -- whoever or whatever we are in this strange, new world -- seem to be doing at a double-march pace. It's invigorating to watch. Imagine, then, along with all the expectable destruction and mayhem, what our President might be capable of producing in the four years to come.

The article's author, Tom Engelhardt, goes on to reprint an article by Rebecca Solnit, called Hope at Midnight. She mentions that while our own world may seem drearily hopeless in the wake of the recent election, there are actually places and people who are breaking out of the downward spiral mold and things are looking up.

But there are places we hardly notice where it looks like the future is being invented -- notably South America. When I think about this fall's elections, I think of them as a trio. You already know all about the one in the U.S. In Uruguay, after not four years of creepy governments but a hundred and seventy years -- ever since Andrew Jackson was president here -- the people got a good leftist government. [...]

The U.S. is in many ways the world's big problem; South America is one place that looks like it's coming up with solutions. In Chile, huge protests against the Bush administration and its policies went on for several days, better than any we've had at home since the war broke out. Maybe Chile is the center of the world; maybe the fact that the country has evolved from a terrifying military dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet to a democracy where people can be outspoken in their passion for justice on the other side of the world matters as much as our decline. Despair there in the Pinochet era was more justified than here under Bush. And as longtime Chile observer Roger Burbach wrote after those demonstrations, "There is indeed a Chilean alternative to Bush: it is to pursue former dictators and the real terrorists by using international law and building a global international criminal system that will be based on an egalitarian economic system that empowers people at the grass roots to build their own future."

In Venezuela this August, voters reaffirmed "Washington's biggest headache," anti-Bush populist Hugo Chavez, in a US-backed referendum meant to topple him. This spring, Argentina's current president, Nestor Kirchner, backed by the country's popular rebellion against neoliberalism, defied the International Monetary Fund; Uruguayans voted against water privatization; Bolivians fought against water and natural gas privatization so fiercely they chased their neoliberal president into exile in Miami in October of 2003.

Even as our government, the managers of the world's richest and most wasteful economy, bows to public pressure and gives a measly percentage of our wealth to help the devastated people of Southeast Asia, while at the same time spending billions more to continue to kill and cause the death of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan with our massive and indescriminate weapons and cause the deaths and permanent injuries of our own faithful soldiers, the rest of the world is attempting to overcome evil with good. People have joined together and are winning out over fascism (that is still promoted by the US) in Latin and South America. (here is another article about Venezuela that is heartening: The Chavez Phenomenon and the U.S. )

The question is, will it take us decades of oppression until our country is in economic, ecological, moral and social disaster to fight back, or will we learn now and build the solidarity that creates change sooner rather than later?

| -- permanent link

Saturday, January 01, 2005
      ( 9:27 AM )
Year in Review

A very special look back from Tom Burka.

| -- permanent link

      ( 9:25 AM )

So much for the "recount" in Ohio. Kevin over at Preemptive Karma has the scoop.

| -- permanent link

      ( 9:20 AM )
Happy New Year

It's GOT to be better than 2004, right?

...if not, we'll weather it together. There's always 2006.

| -- permanent link