Sunday, June 26, 2005

Rabbit Hole to Hell

Karl Rove pulled our tail last Wednesday with a bold attack defining Liberals as unpatriotic. He used the imagery of 9/11 to illustrate his point. He made his statements in MANHATTAN. For the Rip Van Winkles of the world, this is the sound-bite that bunched the undies: "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said Wednesday night. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

Two key points: 1) Rove prides himself on his ability to control outcomes, and 2) Rove has not failed in a very long time.

So looking past the outrage, and there's plenty of rage, in and out of the blogosphere, the big question is why? Why waltz into an 80% Democratic stronghold, seat of the greatest act of terrorism on American soil, source of the greatest example of human fortitude in our country's history, and denounce their patriotism?

Because there is an outcome that needs to be controlled, and because he believes he can.

The story that broke only because of the will of the people, is the Downing Street Memo. The memo was cheerfully, carefully, deliberately ignored by the American mainstream media when the story broke in the London Times.

After reporting these secret memos, which revealed the dubious manoeuvrings of government, I expected the US press to react. Surely there would be a storm of anger over the way in which the American public had been deceived into going to war? But still there was no interest. Then slowly something astonishing happened. People power took over.

The Sunday Times website was inundated with ordinary US citizens wanting to read the minutes of the July meeting. Bloggers set to work passing the word. Six ordinary, patriotic citizens with no political axe to grind were so outraged to discover the truth about the path to war that they set up their own website, naming it after the minutes, which had become known as the Downing Street memo.

Another website called AfterDowningStreet followed. People got together to lobby their local newspapers and radio and television stations to demand to know why they weren’t being told about the memo. There were even T-shirts made with the slogan: “Have you read the memo?” With anger over the war growing, Washington politicians finally acted. More than 120 congressmen wrote to Bush, demanding to know whether the memo was true. They held their own hearings to try to draw attention to it. The issue was forced into the mainstream media. -- Michael Smith, The Sunday Times - Britain
Mr. Rove now had a problem. The media was, (albeit reluctantly and with weird angles such as focusing on why the story was breaking late opposed to what the story actually was), covering the Downing Street Memo. The volume of inquiry on the internet regarding the memo was skyrocketing. The networks for information dissemination were reaching more people. John Conyers held a Democratic hearing. John Kerry raised questions from the floor. Letters were being written to editors, representatives and the Whitehouse. And those wimpy Brits weren't helping.

One huge fly in the ointment for the administration was British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s early decision that it would be a fool’s errand to challenge the authenticity of the papers. Why? Because there is still a relatively free Fourth Estate in the U.K. together with patriotic whistleblowers willing to risk jail for exposing the government dishonesty. -- Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst (27-years) and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Rove attempted multi-prong damage control, using Scott McClellan to dismiss the issue, using the Durbin Nazi quote as a distraction and attempting to redefine the meaning of the word fixed.

“There are a number of people asking about ‘fixed’ and its meaning. This is a real joke. I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed, as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something, you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed...the head of MI-6 has just been to Washington. He has just talked with George Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. That translates in clearer terms as the intelligence was being cooked to match what the administration wanted it to say to justify invading Iraq.” -- Ray McGovern
The distractions sheared off some of the heat, but Rove understood that his rabbit hole went straight to Hell. There is a point when events take on a life of their own, where enough of the regular people's opinions are engaged that damage control is much more difficult. Rove had to act. I do not think Rove feels cornered. I think he feels exhilarated. This is his kind of game. He believes he can control the flow of information by manipulating half the populace to denigrate the other half. Remember, his goal is to control the outcome.

He finds this entertaining.

His speech in Manhattan Wednesday was a very shrewd move. If the Dems don't protest, we're wimps. If we do, we aren't pursuing the DSM rabbit hole. On a personal level, Rove must really enjoy this. We must seem like malleable little children to him; easily bent to his whim. Don't like the imagery? Good. We need everybody on the same page.

Thank God for the Brits, who are considerably less impressed with the chain of events leading up to this (il)legal war.

Former British cabinet minister Clare Short is demanding a parliamentary investigation into Attorney General Peter Goldsmith's advice on war with Iraq.
...Short said in February, 2005 that Lord Goldsmith breached the ministerial code by submitting a summary of his advice to senior ministers....
"It says in the ministerial code that if any advice from the law officers is summarised when it comes to Cabinet the full advice should be attached," she told BBC Radio.

"My view is we need the House of Lords to set up a special committee,
summon the attorney, get all the papers out, look at exactly what happened," Short said....

The attorney general has hit back at critics of his Iraq war legal advice, saying it is "fantasy" to suggest the (U.S.) government leant on him to justify the invasion.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the government's senior legal adviser said: "My conclusion was that it [Iraq war] was lawful.

"I stand by my conclusion that military action was lawful. That was a
judgment I had to reach. I reached it and I stand by it."

"And I want to reject the suggestions that I was leant on, or that this somehow was not my genuine opinion. These suggestions that this was not genuinely my view - these are fantasies and they need to be seen as such." -- Daily Kos

Had to reach? Lawyers like Goldsmith live and die by the power and massageable context of words. His statement gives him some butt coverage if, er, when this keg blows. As for the "leant on" quote:

On 11 February, Goldsmith met Taft, a former US ambassador to Nato who was then chief legal adviser to the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. After a gruelling 90-minute meeting in Taft's conference room 6419, Goldsmith then met the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, followed by a formidable triumvirate including Judge Al Gonzales, Bush's chief lawyer at the White House.

Goldsmith also met William 'Jim' Haynes, who is Defence Secretary's Donald Rumsfeld's chief legal adviser, and John Bellinger, legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Adviser. This group of lawyers is as renowned for fearsome intellect as it is for hard-line conservative politics. Bellinger is alleged to have said: 'We had trouble with your Attorney; we got there eventually.' From copies of Goldsmith's legal advice to the Prime Minister published last week, it is clear that these meetings had a pivotal role in shaping Goldsmith's view that there was a 'reasonable case' for war. -- Daily Kos
Taft, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Haynes and Bellinger leaned. There is no doubt in my mind. They are precisely why Goldsmith used the phrase "had to reach". His premise for his sin is now part of the public record. The big, bad Americans made him do it.

This is why Rove attacked us. The Downing Street Memo is a real threat to him and the administration he built. Frankly, I'm delighted. Dems finally have a concrete issue we can pursue. I really don't care what Rove blathers about from here on out. It's sole purpose is to pull us off the truth, stop us from exposing the rabbit hole, prevent us from shining the light into the nest of lies, entangled like vipers around the throat of liberty. The amount of subterfuge involved in Bush getting his war in Iraq grows and grows. America may no longer have much of a mainstream fourth estate, but bloggers continue to find their feet as pundits and citizen reporters. Questions, on the legality of behavior and whether or not we were engaged in a covert war, keep cropping up.

The focus turned to what may ultimately be the most important part of the memo: the point where Hoon said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime”.

Ministry of Defence figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that virtually none were used in March and April; but between May and August an average of 10 tons were dropped each month, with the RAF taking just as big a role in the “spikes of activity” as their US colleagues. Then in September the figure shot up again, with allied aircraft dropping 54.6 tons.

If this was a covert air war, both Bush and Blair may face searching questions. In America only Congress can declare war, and it did not give the US president permission to take military action against Iraq until October 11, 2002. Blair’s legal justification is said to come from UN Resolution 1441, which was not passed until November 8, 2002.

Last week one US blogger, Larisa Alexandrovna of, unearthed more unsettling evidence. It was an overlooked interview with Lieutenant-General T Michael Moseley, the allied air commander in Iraq, in which he appears to admit that the “spikes of activity” were part of a covert air war.

From June 2002 until March 20, when the ground war began, the allies flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, attacking 349 carefully selected targets. The attacks, Moseley said, “laid the foundations” for the invasion, allowing allied commanders to begin the ground war. -- Michael Smith, The Sunday Times - Britain

I agree with Ray McGovern. I'd like to see the public questioning of the former intelligence chief, or even the scribe for the minutes on July 23, 2003. I'd really like to see testimony from George Tenet or any other US officials upon whose views Blair relied upon. More than either of those, I'd like to see truth orientated bloggers continue to stay the course on the Downing Street Memo. Rove's words cannot hurt us if we refuse to be swayed. He is only trying to control the situation. The more we expose, the dirtier he will play. He has not lost in a very long time. Oh, well. You gotta love those laws of averages.

Bring the truth out. Bring It On. Our words can, and must, be the beacons of truth, accountability and justice.

Time to snare a few rabbits.

Cross-posted at Bring It On!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove, You're Goin' Down

The bulk of this I did not write. Credit goes to Shakespeare's Sister, who rocks the house for the Big Brass Alliance. My comments are in yellow. Read it; get busy. Light those phones lines up. Who the hell is Karl Rove to think he can get away, on public media, with calling half the county unpatriotic. This man is a delusional Machiavellian.

ROAR!! Force his resignation.

Wednesday night on Hardball, guest host David Gregory asked Karl Rove about the Downing Street documents. The following is the relevant exchange:

GREGORY: As you well know, critics of this war have seized on what’s being called now the Downing Street Memo, based on meetings that Britain’s Chief of Intelligence had with American officials about the war. One issue that comes up in that memo and subsequent memos is British concerns about the fact that the White House in their view wasn’t adequately thinking about what happens after the regime falls.

ROVE: I'm glad you brought that up because I want to put that in context. First of all that is the British — a Brit making a comment about what he perceived to be U.S. policy. But remember the time frame, it is months and months and months before the balloon goes up in Iraq. And in those intervening months there was plenty of time planning for post-war efforts, vast amounts of planning. You never know exactly how a war is going to plan out. Napoleon once said, 'vast numbers of refugees enormous problems with food aid'- did not happen. Vast uprising- didn't happen. That we would see a vast uprising by hundreds of thousands of Iraqis- didn’t happen. War is ugly, but a lot went very well with this effort and in part it was because the United States government and our coalition partners used the months to plan for any eventuality.

GREGORY: But if you're talking about the number of troops necessary, the level of American casualties, the force and intensity of the insurgency…did the president mislead the American people about the cost of the war or was he just simply surprised by what happened?

ROVE: I would go back to the president’s statements over the last several years and I would defy you to find one speech which he talked about Iraq where he doesn’t say there would be difficult times ahead, that we had a long road to hope that a great deal of sacrifice was going to be called for by both the American people and by the Iraqis to achieve this goal. Look, we do not underestimate the ferocity and the anger and the viciousness of the people that we face. We are in a war. Some people may treat it as a law enforcement matter and be worried about indictments from the U.S. attorney from the southern district of New York. But we recognize this administration and the American people we are in a war and the only way you have a successful outcome in the war is to aim for a complete and total victory, which is exactly what we’re doing.

Clearly, he used questions about the Downing Street Documents to set himself up for his comments made in a speech Wednesday night.

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said Wednesday night. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

Today, the RNC issued talking points in support of Rove’s statement, in addition to an attack ad against Dick Durbin based on his Gitmo comments.

We need to get on this big time, because this is their defensive play—deflect all interest in the Downing Street Documents by some controversy and forcing the Dems (and liberals of all stripes) to defend themselves…again.

Call this out for the subterfuge that it is. Demand Rove’s resignation. Don’t let them detract from this major issue with their usual disingenuous B.S. Draw the clear link between trying to refocus away from the Downing Street Documents. This is their last line of defense. Don’t let it work.

It's me again. Makes me think Downing Street has them scared. Don't let them us the war as a wedge. We all know we must fund and clean up our mess. We also know we do NOT have to submit to failed leadership. "We the People" is US. We need to haul these horses in before they break America's wagon. Back to Shakespeare's Sister:

Also, Cheney has responded to questions about the Downing Street Documents:

Cheney said he had not read the so-called "Downing Street memo," a document written by a British official in the fall of 2002 suggesting that President Bush had already decided to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and that U.S. officials were over hyping intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to build support for the policy.

However, the vice president said the premise of the memo -- that a decision to go to war had been made months before the March 2003 invasion -- was "wrong."

"Remember what happened after the supposed memo was written. We went to the United Nations. We got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean," he said.

This response is, of course, utter crap. Considering the Memos indicate that going to the UN and backing Saddam into a corner would help “sell” the war, this hardly passes as a defense. He's basically trying to discredit the memos by saying, "How could they be true? We did exactly what they said we were planning to do." Illogical garbage. Call him out on it.

I'm baaack. If Cheney hasn't read the memo, he's irresponsible. If he did, he's a liar. Neither are qualities befitting second in line for the Presidency. I think Washington is scrambling. They know how deep the rabbit hole goes, and it's bad. Keep pushing on them. You fight the nastiest when cornered and I believe this administration knows it's in danger of going down. Continue everything you're doing. Email the media. Call and email your representatives. Urge them to convene a hearing with both parties attending, to investigate the DSM. Demand Rove's apology and resignation.

And if you write -- WRITE!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Temptation to Fury

In an instant, we walk a narrow ledge. The political blogosphere was a bubble, held aloft by it's own angst and the policy wall built between the president and the truth. Just as Watergate began with a small item in the Washington Post, the Downing Street Memo popped the bubble and released us, angry, into the world. The temptation to fury is great. The concept of got them running has appeal. The desire to pin every transgression mounts. The siren's song of righteousness beckons.

We need to be exceptionally careful. We need to know our history.

The national shame we carry into future generations from the Vietnam War is personal. We mistreated our soldiers. We did not separate them from the policy. Worse, we took the policy to them on a personal level. We are sorry, but it cannot be undone, and it still colors our actions.

I understand the difference between supporting our troop financially and supporting them emotionally. Squeezing the funding leaves them vulnerable. We can't do that. Congress has approved the money requested time and time again. Still, the condition of the equipment is deplorable. Marine Corps units fighting in some of the most dangerous terrain in Iraq don't have enough weapons, communications gear, or properly outfitted vehicles, according to an investigation by the Marine Corps' inspector general provided to Congress yesterday. This is not just an Army issue.

There is a growing number of people who question the decision making of our President. There are some gaps he is declining to fill in, such as discussing the DSM or releasing the documents requested on Bolton. I'd like to know why. I'm not alone. His public stance on the status of the war in Iraq is not shared by all, including members of his own party: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq." -- Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-NE

However, when I look at what a soldier does, and why he/she does it, I am grateful, but troubled at the same time. You see, I believe that the oath taken when you serve is not to a man but to an ideal that was established by our founders and embodied in our Constitution. Honor of that caliber cannot be sullied by lies and manipulation.

I see the Patriot Act, which violates Amendments 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Bill of Rights. I see false pretenses for invading Iraq. I see Osama at large. I see our judicial branch under siege by Frist. I see Veterans programs willfully set to go under the knife by Mr. Buyer, R-IN. I see war being waged on the very document our service men and women swear to serve, and the people bringing this war are American. To keep us distracted they trot out the lie machine to try to discredit what they don't want discussed. When that fails, blame the questioners of planning to spit! Spitting? Nobody I know of on the left would contemplate for a nanosecond spitting on our troops. The bruises on the national psyche after Vietnam are still tender. From where I'm watching, from congress down to the regular Joe's, the troop are spoken of respectfully.

The goal? Slander us until we shut up.

Silenced? Not this American.

So, while I agree we have to fund this mess, that does not preclude demanding truth; nor is demanding truth unpatriotic or unsupportive. The narrow ledge we walk, and MUST walk well, is how we fund, emotionally support, and understand the degrees of separation of what this war is to our people on the ground. You do not put yourself daily into a position of losing your life if you do not believe in your cause. They know, as we never will, what Iraqis say to them, how they respond to them, what the common man's actual skinny is.

The ledge is this: How do we fully support a war and bring down a lying President?

Hold history close, walk that ledge, and don't look down.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Not a Time for Silence

A couple of posts back, I put up a press release regarding the Democratic hearing regarding the Downing Street Memo. John Conyers held the meeting under hostile circumstances last Thursday. The letter Mr. Conyers sent to the Washington Post regarding the story they ran was so eloquent, that I'll let you read it for yourselves. Truly, this is a principled leader. I'm glad he's one of ours.

This is not a time for silence. Accept the challenge to make Downing Street Memo a phrase most Americans recognize. The right is already swinging the lie machine into place to discredit it. Think about it. Why wouldn't they? In the past they have used this ruse to control the perception of John McCain, John Kerry, voting irregularities in Ohio and Florida, the Patriot Act, the Pat Tillman fiasco, WMD's, and so many others it almost hurts to think about the web of lies that are commonplace in America these days. Mainstream media seemed cowed, and misinformation carried the day. No more. Draw your line. It's time.

If you have not joined the Big Brass Alliance, I encourage you to do so. See the sidebar, you can't miss it. Another extremely important task you can take up is to regularly email mainstream media and ask about their DSM coverage or lack of it. They are starting to wake up. We need them to reach Joe and Jane Schmoe, and yank their blinders off. If we want any degree of accountability, force the media to inform the masses. Small angry voices can only carry so far. We are the tinder; it's time to fan the flames.

Here, in it's entirety, is Mr. Conyers lambaste of the Washington Post. (Link kudos to Lew Rockwell.)

Mr. Michael Abramowitz, National Editor;
Mr. Michael Getler, Ombudsman;
Mr. Dana Milbank
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Sirs:

I write to express my profound disappointment with Dana Milbank's June 17 report, "Democrats Play House to Rally Against the War," which purports to describe a Democratic hearing I chaired in the Capitol yesterday. In sum, the piece cherry-picks some facts, manufactures others out of whole cloth, and does a disservice to some 30 members of Congress who persevered under difficult circumstances, not of our own making, to examine a very serious subject: whether the American people were deliberately misled in the lead up to war. The fact that this was the Post's only coverage of this event makes the journalistic shortcomings in this piece even more egregious.

In an inaccurate piece of reporting that typifies the article, Milbank implies that one of the obstacles the Members in the meeting have is that "only one" member has mentioned the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of either the House or Senate. This is not only incorrect but misleading. In fact, just yesterday, the Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, mentioned it on the Senate floor. Senator Boxer talked at some length about it at the recent confirmation hearing for the Ambassador to Iraq. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recently signed on to my letter, along with 121 other Democrats asking for answers about the memo. This information is not difficult to find either. For example, the Reid speech was the subject of an AP wire service report posted on the Washington Post website with the headline "Democrats Cite Downing Street Memo in Bolton Fight." Other similar mistakes, mischaracterizations and cheap shots are littered throughout the article.

The article begins with an especially mean and nasty tone, claiming that House Democrats "pretended" a small conference was the Judiciary Committee hearing room and deriding the decor of the room. Milbank fails to share with his readers one essential fact: the reason the hearing was held in that room, an important piece of context. Despite the fact that a number of other suitable rooms were available in the Capitol and House office buildings, Republicans declined my request for each and every one of them. Milbank could have written about the perseverance of many of my colleagues in the face of such adverse circumstances, but declined to do so. Milbank also ignores the critical fact picked up by the AP, CNN and other newsletters that at the very moment the hearing was scheduled to begin, the Republican Leadership scheduled an almost unprecedented number of 11 consecutive floor votes, making it next to impossible for most Members to participate in the first hour and one half of the hearing.

In what can only be described as a deliberate effort to discredit the entire hearing, Milbank quotes one of the witnesses as making an anti-semitic assertion and further describes anti-semitic literature that was being handed out in the overflow room for the event. First, let me be clear: I consider myself to be friend and supporter of Israel and there were a number of other staunchly pro-Israel members who were in attendance at the hearing. I do not agree with, support, or condone any comments asserting Israeli control over U.S. policy, and I find any allegation that Israel is trying to dominate the world or had anything to do with the September 11 tragedy disgusting and offensive.
That said, to give such emphasis to 100 seconds of a 3 hour and five minute hearing that included the powerful and sad testimony (hardly mentioned by Milbank) of a woman who lost her son in the Iraq war and now feels lied to as a result of the Downing Street Minutes, is incredibly misleading. Many, many different pamphlets were being passed out at the overflow room, including pamphlets about getting out of the Iraq war and anti-Central American Free Trade Agreement, and it is puzzling why Milbank saw fit to only mention the one he did.

In a typically derisive and uninformed passage, Milbank makes much of other lawmakers calling me "Mr. Chairman" and says I liked it so much that I used "chairmanly phrases." Milbank may not know that I was the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee from 1988 to 1994. By protocol and tradition in the House, once you have been a Chairman you are always referred to as such. Thus, there was nothing unusual about my being referred to as Mr. Chairman.

To administer his coup-de-grace, Milbank literally makes up another cheap shot that I "was having so much fun that [I] ignored aides' entreaties to end the session." This did not occur. None of my aides offered entreaties to end the session and I have no idea where Milbank gets that information. The hearing certainly ran longer than expected, but that was because so many Members of Congress persevered under very difficult circumstances to attend, and I thought – given that – the least I could do was allow them to say their piece. That is called courtesy, not "fun."

By the way, the "Downing Street Memo" is actually the minutes of a British cabinet meeting. In the meeting, British officials – having just met with their American counterparts – describe their discussions with such counterparts. I mention this because that basic piece of context, a simple description of the memo, is found nowhere in Milbank's article.

The fact that I and my fellow Democrats had to stuff a hearing into a room the size of a large closet to hold a hearing on an important issue shouldn't make us the object of ridicule. In my opinion, the ridicule should be placed in two places: first, at the feet of Republicans who are so afraid to discuss ideas and facts that they try to sabotage our efforts to do so; and second, on Dana Milbank and the Washington Post, who do not feel the need to give serious coverage on a serious hearing about a serious matter – whether more than 1700 Americans have died because of a deliberate lie. Milbank may disagree, but the Post certainly owed its readers some coverage of that viewpoint.

John Conyers, Jr.

There is something irresistible when petty dis-information is met with factual scorn. I never tire of it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Runnin' from the Shadows

This week, I hit the wall. If you are presumptuous enough to think you are a writer, the wall is something you don't acknowledge. It's like the shadow in the room; unless you specifically look for it, it's non existent. Shadows are patient. Sometimes, we celebrate them. Film Noir showcases the shadows, the encapsulation of the ever present wall; captured for eternity, a testament to the constancy of the shadows.

When you write, if you give yourself into tunnel vision and script madly, you write well for awhile, then perhaps less well, but you are writing. The problem is that the writing becomes less honest. Tunnel vision truncates everything else, constricting to mere drips and drabs. Eventually, the writing stops.

The wall finds you.

I've spent this past week reading the news. There's been a lot going on. Mr. Conyers went to Washington, figuratively. Literally, of course, he's already there. Terri Schiavo's autopsy showed that she was never abused, and that she could never have recovered. Jeb Bush digested this news and still attempted to pin some sort of murderous intent on her husband. This is so patently not what the Governor's job is about that I should be on fire. I got nothing here. Zip, zilch, bupkas.

I read about Cindy Sheehan this week. I admire her strength. Her speech crawled into my heart and cried there. Nada.

I read my calls to action from True Majority, Downsize DC, Common Cause, Sojourners, NARAL, Democracy for America, and The Big Brass Blog Alliance. I replied to everything, pondered the efforts, admired the dedication, longed for the energy. Big fat zero.

Is it me? Am I burnt out? Is the world grinding me down? Am I that poor in character that I'm without fire?


So, last night, I drank a couple beers. I pondered the state of my brain, my pen and my brew. Sometimes, a pity party is in order. My problem, I decided, is two-fold. First, I need to be bolder. Second, I need to be more optimistic. Oh, I write tough enough, but it's the tunnel. It's not honest enough. I'm idealistic, but depressed. I need to trade that in for optimism with a side of Mad as Hell.

So, next week I will find the fire. I accept this battle. I must win. We all must. We have the best God Dem democracy in the world riding on it.

When they lie, no more thinking they're idiots. Cold hard facts please, as loud as possible. When they twist, untwist. Subterfuge, shine the light. Slander, tell the truth.

The little boys spoiling our democracy need a spanking. It's time to channel our inner parent and set them straight.

Party's over.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Then and Now

Lina Marie, from "The World and Everything In It", blew the doors off the hinges as a guest author over at "Bring It On" yesterday. The Democratic path is up for grabs. How we intend to fight and what weapons we use are crucial topics Democrats need to coalesce upon. Check out her post here. I guarantee it will make you think.

I've written quite a bit here about where the Dems have been and where I think we need to be. One problem facing the party that nobody is actively discussing (at least as far as I've been able to see) in the attrition of Black American voters from the party. It could be that the selfishness of private this and individual that has appeal, but I don't think so. This demographic has demonstrated repeatedly that they value community based initiatives. The problem is probably power oriented. The selfishness is within the party itself. A party that says it promotes tolerance and cherry picks the choice power roles is a working hypocrisy.

1976, two years after Nixon resigned, was an election year. During the Democratic National Convention these words were spoken:

We believe that the people are the source of all governmental power; that the authority of the people is to be extended, not restricted. This can be accomplished only by providing each citizen with every opportunity to participate in the management of the government. They must have that.

We believe that the government which represents the authority of all the people, not just one interest group, but all the people, has an obligation to actively underscore, actively seek to remove those obstacles which would block individual achievement...obstacles emanating from race, sex, economic condition. The government must seek to remove them.

We are a party of innovation. We do not reject our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances, when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change in order to achieve a better future.

We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.

Compelling stuff. The idea of strength in numbers is a core Democratic precept. We believe that the government's role is to level the playing field so that everybody can achieve. We actually think that we can reach a point where the country can truly be a homogenous America, multicolored, multifaceted, and incredibly strong because of it. Let's fast forward 30 years:

As Prime Minister Tony Blair has said, in this new economy, “Talent is the 21st century wealth.” If you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the education, and you have the opportunity to upgrade and improve both, you’ll be able to compete and win anywhere. If not, the fall will be further and harder than it ever was before.

So what do we do about this? How does America find its way in this new, global economy? What will our place in history be?

Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism--every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!”

But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.

Achievement as an individual must be coupled with caring for the community. Democrats today, realistic ones anyway, understand that if the disparity of wealth that is being cemented by the current administration continues, the damage to the country and our ability to remain a superpower are in jeopardy. It's money, people. We spend, and spend and spend. We increase wealth unevenly. We cut programs designed to help people help themselves, thereby reducing their ability to produce at all. The conservative precepts that the world is composed of haves and have-nots is not automatic, it is engineered. It is being engineered right now. By consigning people into a permanent have-not slot we are damning our country, it's potential productivity, and our ability to thrive and lead in the new millennium.

We need to accept that we, as a nation, must embrace education in new ways for all our citizens. Skilled labor jobs are leaving, and factories are too. If we want to survive this change in our national financial landscape, adult education and retraining needs to be on the plate. We can't sit in a holding pattern for 20 years, waiting to see it the "No Child Left Behind" children can save us with their new and improved pre-college education. China won't wait for us to catch up. We need to look at cities in crisis because jobs are going away, appreciate the value of the minds there, and train those minds to their best talent level. We need to reach people of color, and show with deeds, that we can give them, through ongoing education, the tools to make their cities more prosperous, the wealth to showcase and appreciate the varied cultures of America, and the determination to see America evolve closer to the values so clearly outlined in 1976.

Furthermore, we need to showcase and appreciate the Democrats who strive for change so tirelessly and speak so eloquently of the community values we hope to achieve. People like John Conyers, D-MI, who is forcing the Downing Street Minutes into the media's face, embarrassing them with their lack of coverage, and demanding answers from the administration who, after six weeks, still has not categorically denied its contents. In my book, that means they haven't because they CAN'T. Support Rep. Conyers in any way you can.

The 1976 speech above was given by Barbara Jordan, D-TX, the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate, the first black woman elected as a U.S. Representative from Texas, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. Her words, which ring so true today, take on exceptional eloquence a mere 11 years after the abolition of Jim Crow laws. (link kudos to Siva)

The last quote is from the commencement address given at Knox College, Galesburg Illinois. The speaker? Barak Obama. The entire address is here, and it's a powerful one. If you think Democrats don't understand what needs to happen to force America into a leadership role for the next century, this is for you.

Personally, nothing would make me happier than a Conyers/Obama ticket in 2008. No more cherry picking; here's the pie. They are spot-on my dream of America, and they aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and clean up the mess. Vision and strength, folks, it just comes down to vision and strength.

We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community. -- Barbara Jordan

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mr. President, We Need an Explanation

This press release, from the office of Senator John Conyers, D-MI as seen on his site and on Raw Story.

For Immediate Release:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Thursday June 16, 2005, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of House Judiciary Committee, and other Democratic Members will hold a Democratic hearing to hear testimony concerning the Downing Street Minutes and the efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

On May 1, 2005 a Sunday London Times article disclosed the details of a classified memo, also known as the Downing Street Minutes, recounting the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair that describes an American President already committed to going to war in the summer of 2002, despite contrary assertions to the public and the Congress. The minutes also describe apparent efforts by the Administration to manipulate intelligence data to justify the war. The June 16th hearing will attempt to answer the serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations and will further investigate the Administration's actions in the lead up to war with new documents that further corroborate the Downing Street memo.

Directly following the hearing, Rep. Conyers, Members of Congress, and concerned citizens plan to hand deliver to the White House the petition and signatures of over a half million Americans that have joined Rep. Conyers in demanding that President Bush answer questions about his secret plan for the Iraq war.

WHAT: Democratic hearing on Downing Street Minutes and Pre-war intelligence
WHEN: Thursday, June 16, 2005, TIME TBD

While this is a Democratic hearing, the intent is to deliver it to the Whitehouse.

This is GOOD NEWS folks. I feel like shouting. In a town full of talkers, John Conyers is acting. If you have been frustrated by the lack of attention to the Downing Street Memo, act now. Momentum is with us.

Go here, and here. If you pray, say one for John Conyers.

A weight is lifting. Can I get a witness?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Modern Day Shame

Sometimes, you come across something that leaves you stunned. It happened to me on Monday. I was scheduled to post on Bring It On on Tuesday, so I wrote about it. I've decided to put it up here for a day while I finish my next post. I encourage you to follow the links. If you'd like more information, email me and I will send it to you. The next time you hear our government condemning another nation for civil rights violations, remember this shame.

In case you were wondering, this is how it works in the new millennium.

You are homeless and hungry; the offer of food, a place to stay and the chance to work are gratefully accepted. A long ride in a beat-up van brings you to the camp. Beer is placed on ice in front of you. Food is placed beside it. After you eat and drink, you find out the beers are $1.50 each, the food and bed cost as well. Your charge "account" has begun.

The next day you load up in the van and leave the isolated camp. There is no town, just one road out. You go to the grower's facility. You pick tomatoes, dig potatoes, cut cabbage, pick citrus. The day is long, the work unrelenting. You are returned to the camp. You wages are docked for every thing you ate or drank, your ride to and from the camp, your bed. Your account obligation mounts. They own your earnings to repay your subsistence.

Crack is sold for $20.00 a rock. It ensures compliance as it requires more work to pay for it, and the addiction mandates more crack be purchased.

A man leaves the camp, down the one road. He is hunted down and severely beaten. Threats to feed the next one to flee to the alligators are believed.

New workers arrive at the camp. They are unloaded from a van with Arizona plates. The camp bosses ask the new workers to pay for their passage. No one has any money. The bosses pay the drivers for the workers. These workers must "repay" the $1000 payment, in addition to their daily costs, before they can leave.

More tomatoes, more potatoes, more cabbage and grapefruit await. The laborers are not employees of the growers, they are contracted labor. They are unprotected, exploited, and completely controlled.

They are modern day slaves.

President Bush addressed the trafficking of women on July 16, 2004. While commendable, it's only part of the slavery story. The situation I described above is happening, right now, in Florida. The ownership of humans, through punitive wage garnering, is creating a substrata of workers who are systematically abused by labor contractors. The protections in place to safeguard workers who work directly for the grower cannot help them. Are the growers aware of the situation? I can't see how they can't be; to succeed, you must understand your industry. Growers need cheap labor, and using labor contractors ensures they have it. Legally, their hands are clean.

Jumping up and down and screaming about illegal aliens is not productive here. No American would ever work fourteen hours to net $7.00. President Bush's temporary worker program merits consideration. To simply ignore the work that is being accomplished and focus on the influx of illegals is akin to not reading the book because you don't like the jacket. These workers are putting food on the American table. This nation values work. We must begin there.

The temporary worker program will protect people arriving in this country from slavery abuse, and fill jobs that Americans do not want to do. (Have you tried to pick a grapefruit off a thorn-laden 20' tree, while on a ladder? How about 2000 of them?) It will also help us know who is in this country, and help us to secure our borders.

America has not healed it's slavery scars. We cannot go down this path any farther. Slavery has NO acceptable format. Every mind, every person, has value and merit. This country provides the framework to develop yourself. It's one of our most cherished philosophies. If not available to all, it's reduced to farce.

I'm not willing to see hard work and determination join honor and respect on the sidelines. Are you?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Break the Chain

This meme, which I take as a blog chain letter, came courtesy of the Gun Toting Liberal. He's a blogger I often disagree with but he's honest, forthright, and never nasty. I always feel that the conversation is more interesting when he's in it. I got into a shouting match over at the Stop the ACLU blog, and GTL had my back. That's just the kind of upright guy he is. SO, I am accepting this meme, but PLEASE don't inundate me with additional ones. I prefer topic driven material. That's just the kind of woman I am.

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video: Perhaps 6 DVD's, but between 3 and 400 videos. We lost a friend a few years ago to a failed bone marrow transplant, and inherited his extensive video collection to keep our own fairly decent-sized one company. I'd trade all of it, plus the T.V., a kidney, my car, and even the cat, to have him back. (Those of you who know how much I love my car, and that mean old cat who loves only me, will appreciate that statement. I suppose I should love my kidney, but I just never really think about it. Oh well.)

2) The last film I bought: A Veggie Tale, I think it was Larry Boy and the Rumor Weed, for my kids. Dy-no-MITE!

3) The last film I watched: "Traffic". Good movie.

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me: "Fargo", "The Matrix", "Moonstruck", "Chocolat", "Tommy" I actually burned Tina Turner's "Acid Queen" last week. Still rocks the house.

5) Tag 5 people and have them put this in their journal/blog... Well, I will send it along, with the caveat that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF ANY CONSEQUENCE WHATSOEVER WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU BLOW THIS WRETCHED THIS OFF. Ooops! Was that me shouting? Sorry about that! If you are a lucky recipient, copy this, change it and post it on your blog. I promise, you'll never see another one from this chica.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dirty Rats

My kid memories are good ones. My folks were active, a bit quirky and had a vision, early on, of what kind of life they wanted to wrap around us. We lived in northern Illinois, but my summer adventures based out of a 1920's bungalow on a clear Wisconsin lake. The "Cottage" as my Mother christened it, was three tiny bedrooms in a sea of bead board paneling, a huge screen porch, and a tiny added-on kitchen and half bath. If a shower was required, you had to go outside, "rockle" down the ancient stone steps to the basement, and brave the spiders.

Our nearest neighbor had five kids. They ranged from one year younger to 10 years older than me. Summertime threw us together, and we learned the ropes. How to hang, how to swim, that potato chips should be dipped in catsup, and the code.

The code was sacrosanct. Kids did not rat each other out. You had the back of a kid in your group. Big kids could razz the crap out of any little kid in their group, but God forbid some other kid tried it. The code was pure kid world. It was the beginning of the definition of self, sans parent.

The thing about the code is, it never leaves you.

My friends know they can count on me, and I them. I like that. Through our teens, young adulthood and mid years, choices document our lives. Children vs. childless, money, vs. struggle, party-on vs. AA or rehab, Dem vs. Rep, or divine vs. rewind; the choices are part of my friends. They get to drive their ride in peace. It's their life; they're in the driver's seat. I'm kicking back and watching kids or careers grow, big houses and small ones, three o'clock Yeeeee Haaaaaa's and O'Doul's, the like and not so like political leanings, and the decisions to seek or turn from God.

Part of being an adult is choosing how you want to live your life. Part of the code is respecting that.

HR1528 is the antithesis of everything I believed was the norm.

From Downsize DC:

The politicians want You — to be a snitch

HR 1528 has already passed through one committee, and appears likely to pass through another and come to the floor for a vote. This bill, if passed, will force you to inform on your neighbors if you have any knowledge of drug related activity. We're not making this up. First it was illegal to deal drugs, then use them, and then to be caught with them. Now, Congressman James Sensenbrenner wants to make it the law that if you do not inform on your neighbors you can be sentenced to prison! This kind of a system — neighbors informing on neighbors — was a key feature of past totalitarian regimes. Is this really what we want for America?

I cannot fathom living my life like that. If a married couple wants to smoke a bowl and make love after the kids are in bed, good for them. Under this bill, families would be destroyed, with parents going to prison. The bill is deceptive, making it sound like it's protecting children, but in actuality, it's another effort to control the American citizen in the name of controlling terrorists.

Yo, Washington. WE are not the terrorists.

How 'bout you take HR1528 and your damned Real ID card, and stick'em.

Again from Downsize DC:

This proposed new law also requires you to provide full assistance in investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting drug law offenders who are personally known to you. This could involve working undercover and wearing a wire to entrap and convict friends, family members, and neighbors.

This law, as with so many others, is constructed in such a way that it can be justified as a measure to protect children, which includes anyone under the age of majority, including many college students. It also ensnares the private activities of parents related to substances like marijuana. The government considers parents who smoke pot in the privacy of their bedroom after hours a serious threat, whereas Senators and Congresspersons who drink large amounts of alcohol in front of their children in the light of day, are not.

Examples of activities that could force you to inform or face the risk of prison time:

--You see a joint passed to a college student. Call the police immediately.

--Your child has a substance-abuse problem and begs someone else to acquire drugs. You cannot deal with this as a family matter, or in a drug-treatment setting. You must inform on both of them.

--Your hear someone say they bought Ecstasy to share with College age friends. Report this within 24 hours or risk prosecution.

--Your sister, who has kids, mentions that she bought some pot to share with her husband. Inform on your sister or risk prison time.

Downsize DC offers a link to email your rep, or I have one on the sidebar. If a Congressperson hears from 300 constituents, that small number is enough to get them to consider other opinions. I especially encourage Wisconsinites to give Mr. Sensenbrenner a call. Call early. Call often. And next election, vote that boy out. Please.

Think about what it would be like to strip all trust from the relationships in your lives. Knowing that a single choice, made in anger, could ruin the lives of an entire family has zero appeal to me. I am unwilling to concede the people in my life to an insecure government who can't find Osama, manipulates intel in order to enter a war, and is attempting to undermine the judiciary to further their personal agendas.

If they think the code means nothing, they underestimate this American. I'm getting busy here. I urge you to do the same.