Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday's Feast

Items of note worth your attention --

  • DefConBlog: What can I say about this site but Hallefuckinglujah??

To me, the religious right is the enemy of freedom. ThatÂ’s why the launch of DefCon: The Campaign to Defend the Constitution is so important. It seeks to counter the religious right, to alert the public to the dangers and risks posed by the growing fundamentalist influence in our nation; to build and mobilize an online community of concerned Americans willing to raise their voices; to mobilize concerned scientists, political leaders, and theologians to help Americans understand what is at stake.

My hope is that DefCon will become a premiere voice of Americans who are disturbed by the growing power of the religious right, and who are looking for a practical and meaningful way to fight back. I cannot think of a more important task for those concerned about freedom in the months and years ahead.

  • For those of you keeping score, here's how the vote on Roberts shook out. Remember this when you head to the polls in 2006.
  • Barack Obama's posted a diary on dKos that should be mandatory reading for everyone. There's too much to quote without losing critical and eloquent context, so I'll refrain. Just have a look. I swear, this man is the only politician I've ever heard that makes any sense to me at all, and I'll have reason for profound hope if he makes a Presidential run someday.
  • Here's one of the better commentaries I've read on the potential for alliance between Democrats and Libertarians. A great read, well linked out for further research.
  • And here's a great discussion on one of my MAJOR criticisms of the Democrat's performance of late. I haven't caught up yet this morning, but as of last night, there were some terrific comments as well. This one from Inclusiveheart is among them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

So Bad, and Yet, So Good.

Check out Tom Toles' latest.

Thanks, Bill.

Queer Eye for the Majority Leader?

So, with DeLay headed either for the slammer or political obscurity, eyes turn to his heir apparent. David Dreier is getting mention as being expected to "temporarily succeed" (I'm not sure that what means, but ok) DeLay, and the topic of Mr. Dreier's sexuality is part & parcel to the chatter.

In keeping with the GOP platform, he's evidently voted in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, but conversely, has voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment. His voting record on other issues is out there if you're curious, but my point here is this:

While I've no problem with people pointing out the outward hypocrisy of a gay man voting against gay marriage, I can't help but wonder if it's primarily a reflexive criticism. Some gay people have told me that legalized gay marriage is irrelevant to them, just as some women have told me they don't support the ERA.

Debates about cognitive dissonance aside, if we assume political positions based on lifestyle choices, aren't we just as bad as the right wing freaks that insist all gays are boa-wearing drag-queens? That all people who support choice are just too lazy to use birth control? That all environmentalists are Marxists? And if we are just as bad, then isn't there something hypocritical in calling Dreier a hypocrite?

In the end, I'll be more curious to know Dreier's reasoning for supporting DOMA (not that I'm apt to endorse any such reasoning, trapped as I am in my own bias on the subject). If his position isn't completely at odds with his personal view of the issue, then I don't know that it's grounds to vilify him or work hard to "out him" in the national press. I've never warmed to stories about "Hey! Guess what? So & so is GAY!" since I fundamentally don't think it's pertinent to anything outside of one's personal life. Predispositions may tend to exist, but it strikes me as sophomoric to expect that every homosexual is a Democrat. The Log Cabin Republicans have disproved that quite aptly by now.

If, however, his personal view and his party view are opposites, then yeah, I'll have to stand with the town criers on this one and holler "hypocrite!". I tend to cut people a lot of slack, even when I don't agree with them, provided there's some degree of logical consistency in their positions. But if their positions are weak and their reasoning flawed, they're fair game. Have at 'em.

Is Dreier one of these people? I don't know enough about the man. We've got some California readers here. Perhaps you can shine some light on this one.
Hat tip to The Raw Story


I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being pleased about this.

Of course, my optimism is tempered by watching close to NOTHING productive come of any "investigation" during the last 5 years, so I'll refrain from cartwheels just yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Casey Will Win" ?!?!?!

See, this pisses me off.

(So as to avoid appearance of dogging someone for a comment passive-aggressively, I'll refrain from pointing you to the source page.)

I quote from a discussion of NARAL, Casey and a "broader movement".

Casey will win. The primary is a formality. Whether that is good or bad is not as important as the fact that it is. And we have to plan our politics accordingly; that is to say, who would we rather have win between the two who have a legitimate chance?

I'm not pissed at the speaker so much as the attitude. We scream and yell for progressive candidates, and then virtually IGNORE them when they exist. Of the 94 comments (to date) in the original discussion, Chuck Pennacchio is mentioned only twice. Yep. Twice.

And people from this particular blog community aren't unaware of him. Trouble is, a familiar defeatism is apparently creeping its way into the consciousness of the very group that could help him get elected.

Imagine if the blogosphere got behind Dr. Pennacchio the way it rallied around Paul Hackett.

Isn't the definition of "legitimate" based, in part, on our efforts to raise awareness about progressive candidates? I mean, what the hell are we doing here if not using our tools as "citizen journalists" (no matter how pretentious the term in some cases) if we don't pick up the slack left by the mainstream press?

It's up to us to talk about candidates that we support. It's up to us to do all we can to raise awareness in our local communities about choices outside of the usual contenders. And if we just roll over and blithely accept that progressive leaders are the stuff of fiction, then I swear I don't know why any of us feel qualified to pontificate about politics at all.

"Ranters Anonymous"

What is it about America that brings out the urge to rant and holler in some, and mute complicity in others? How can it be that some of us are so disgusted and upset, and others can go about their business with relative apathy? Is there a genetic predisposition for paying attention?
I woke up too early, and spent those wonderful quiet moments surfing around, seeing what others had to say about this ongoing war. About the demonstration. I found my expected responses- those that are better served by minimizing, those that are better served by playing up its significance. I thought about the 'guest list" for this latest anger-fest... and wondered who chose them, and who had been invited but declined.
Lew makes some points about this topic at Unbrainwashed a blog in the tradition of H+S. I enjoy a good "off the cuff" opinion. I can get analysis, news, theory, criticism...we know where to g for those. But blogs are where we go when we just want to tinker inside the minds of our cyber-neighbors.
This Saturday, a major war protest is being planned for Washington DC. With support for the war at 32% , you would think that this would be the oppurtunity for the democrats to grow a spine and show up and support the anti-war movement, since now a full majority of Americans disapprove of the way the war is being handled. But, alas, no Democrats plan on showing up.
I shouldn't say no Democrats, Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers will be there. No John Kerry, no Hillary Clinton, no Howard Dean, however. Cindy Sheehan will be there, and she spoke to Ms. Clinton about attending and was met with the reply "Now is not the time to come out against the war." Actually, the time to come out against the war was before it even started, but the Democratic leadership, those spineless craven cowards, were too timid to even vote against the war, despite the worldwide protests before the war. How many of our troops must die in a desert quagmire before they decide to stand up against it? How many billions of dollars must we waste in over payments to Halliburton before they wake up and realize that the effort is draining the country with no substantial results.

So these are our choices America: the chickenhawks of the right, too cowardly to enlist themselves, but all too eager to send our troops to die so a few of their contributors can rake in a nice profit at taxpayer expense, and the chickenshits on the left, too cowardly to stand up against the right and Israel as they demand more and more sacrifices of our money and children.
We don't need a protest, folks, we need a new American revolution.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Open Thread

I dare ya.

Loyal and wonderful H & S readers, it's your turn.

C'mon... say hello. Sitemeter tells me you're here. That you don't often comment makes me think perhaps we've attracted a fair contingent of lurkers. Which is fine, don't get me wrong. But hey -- just once. Drop your drawers, say hello.

YOU do some of the typing tonight.

I double-dog dare ya.

"Mothers and Others MUST Speak out on DU!"

Last week I tried to come to terms with the denial about depleted uranium- by facing the denial of Americans about the capacity of their government to knowingly harm their citizens. The idea that the Pentagon would shaft its service men and women is a bitter pill to swallow. We listened to a group of folks tabling, with pamphlets and booklets. I looked at a picture of a precious baby, disfigured. I was hard pressed to imagine an insidious agenda behind their efforts. They were people- veterans and civilians alike- trying to talk truth.
"But isn't it depleted?" a woman asks,"Doesn't that mean it's gone?"
It does not mean it's gone, they tell her, and proceed to share the story of a military husband, exposed to DU, whose baby was born with birth defects. "They can't do that." She says decisively. She does not think that this sort of thing happens to babies. She probably thinks that FEMA never left anyone on a rooftop to die either. Is it not common knowledge that when you enlist, your body becomes property of the US? Do people not know of the cases of testing, exposure, trials- all using "GI guinea pigs"? Don't the recruiters talk about depleted uranium and the possible risks to children? Of course they don't.
They can get away with this and they do. And for the soldiers exposed, they are not 'entitled' to information about the risks and possible consequences of DU contamination. They do not have the "Right to Know" as you might in industries under OSHA and employer disclosure laws. You DO NOT have the right to know in their eyes.

Dave Lindorff explains the link between DU and birth defects in the August 2005 issue of "In These Times". His article: "Radioactive Wounds of War: Tests on Returning Troops Suggest Serious Health Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in Iraq" describes the testing of exposed service men and women and describes the horrific consequences of depleted uranium:

"DU hits its target, it burns at a high temperature,throwing off clouds of microscopic particles that poison a wide area and remain radioactive for billions of years. If inhaled, these particles can lodge in the lungs, other organs or bones, irradiating tissue and casuing cancers."

"...the element has an affinity for bonding with DNA, where even trace amounts can cause cancers and fetal abnormalities," he says, citing pathologist Thomas Fasey's comments on its chemical toxicity. He participated in the testing of a unit of the NY National Guard.

Depleted uranium was used in the 1991 Gulf War and again during the Balkans conflict. It is now used in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Do you think that the US government is being upfront about the health implications of exposure to DU? Do you think potential partners who may have their children are told of the risks to their babies? Do they warn soldiers of possible diseases like atypical syndactyly, caused by radiation? Photos
Women should take notice and pay attention to this issue- the long term consequences of this toxic weapon are not only tragic for the soldiers and civilians exposed, but to future generations and the unborn.
Below are some links to do some reading. It will shock and anger you. Even if you have already heard about DU issues, the consequences for these children will stay with you.

DU Issues at Bloomington Peace Action Coalition

Uranium Medical Research Center

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

International Depleted Uranium Study Team

Photos of DU Deformities

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Right Answer

Yesterday's rant, Wrong Answer, was my stumbling attempt to articulate what I saw in CSPAN's coverage of the DC Rally. Tonight, I went looking to see if anyone had nailed it with any more finesse, and I found it.

TocqueDeville says what I would have liked to:

And the worst part for me, is that it was a deliberate disaster. This event was billed as an anti-Iraq war protest. And though astute observers, a couple of which tried to warn us, knew the agenda of ANSWER and the political risk of hitching our horses to their wagon, my research and Googling tells me that hardly anyone was aware of it.

And my research also indicates that this was ANSWER's plan. They host a big rally under one pretext, the opposition to the Iraq war, then exploit that opposition to piggyback their real agenda on top of it.

How many people would have shown up for a rally to denounce the "occupation" of Palestine by Israel? Or to free the Cuban 5? Or to protest the expulsion of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti? Or to promote the the communist sympathising, pro-North Korea, pro-Castro agenda of the Worker's World Party?

I would venture to guess no more than a hundred people. But if you believed your TV, tens of thousands of people showed up to support all of these things. This is the cleverness of ANSWER's method.

Brian Becker ANSWER Coalition National Coordinater, in an attempt to play down the controversial aspects of the show, tried to explain why everyone was there:

"Why? Not because everybody in the movement has to have the same slogans on their banners. But we have to march, shoulder and shoulder against the real enemy. And he's in the White House."

But I assure you, what was beaming off of that stage was much, much more than the difference in slogans. It was another world altogether. A world that has no chance but to completely alienate the American people from the left...

...A pivotal moment in the Vietnam war was when average Americans, mothers, grandmothers and people of all political persuasions joined in march on Washington. This was essential to the effort. No longer could Nixon and others characterise the anti-war movement as just a bunch of pro-communists, radical, hippy leftists. The anti-war movement had gone mainstream.

And this is what needs to happen now. Indeed, what has begun to happen now. But the mainstreaming of opposition to this war was dealt a severe blow yesterday, only negated by the diversion of a hurricane...

...Understand, this is not about my political beliefs. I'm probably as radical as some of these people in my own way. No, this is about political expediency. This is about winning over the majority of the American population to the wrongness of this war. This is about mainstreaming the opposition.

By blatant neglect, we allowed ANSWER et al. to put a radical, extremely controversial, and politically disastrous face on the otherwise increasingly mainstream opposition to this war.

And while we can be thankful that hardly anyone was paying attention, rest assured, our political enemies were. And they will no doubt use it to portray all of us as America hating, commie loving, terrorists sympathising malfeasants. Of course, that would be nothing new, and I normally advocate ignoring them and sticking to attacking them instead of defending against their attacks...

But now they have footage. And for that we need an accountability moment. They say a stupid friend is worse than a smart enemy. I couldn't agree more. And it should be clear to anyone with even the slightest political sensibilities that we have some really stupid friends. And I am not talking about ANSWER.

I am talking about those who thought it was a good idea to join in and help promote this event. Those who either did not bother to find out who they were getting into bed with, or those who knew and didn't care, should seriously rethink their judgement.

I've nearly quoted the whole thing, but do go read the original piece. If you're a dKos member, recommends and tips are enthusiastically suggested.

Hippies- Then and Now

I read the comments regarding the “hippie” term quickly, anxious to rebuff and holler about “numbers” after the big march on Saturday. (See previous CB entry and comments) At first I thought it was strange that it started with such semantic weirdness- until I recalled that the ‘perception’ and “culture” issues are essential to the dynamics of 2005 protest. (And why ANSWER got covered more than UFPJ) What does the media want you to believe about us? Why do they borrow and glean their criticism from the hypocrisy of the sixties instead of the dynamic, paradigm-shifting elements of the sixties? Certainly we on the left are used to being viewed as disenfranchised margin-hugging caricatures and sandal slinging hairy feminists. We are also used to the defensiveness that drools from our mouths as we combat the image question. Linkage to hippies is rendered both a curse and a blessing. A curse in that it evokes memories of privileged college brats painting flowers on their asses, not questioning war until the draft of middle class white kids- yet, a compliment because it is an admission that progressivism in the US is likened to a subculture of such influential proportions.
CB seems to have used the term simply as cultural shorthand, as we use neocon or bible thumper or wingnut. We should forgive a degree of linguistic and vernacular whoring when precision does not lend much to the discussion at hand. But maybe precision does come into play… and we need to think about the deliberation of our words.
Benett suggested that CB’s use of the term ‘hippie” was misguided, as he claimed hippies to be ‘apolitical” and concerned about “lifestyle”. Debatable points. I want to start by saying that I do not believe lifestyle and politics to be exclusive and I don’t think that it is accurate to define “hippies” as apolitical. To say that muddles terms like ‘politics” with establishment. Establishment encompasses a broad range of entities- religious, academic, social, bureaucratic… anti-government but not really in the libertarian sense. Anti-establishment is an aversion to the legislation of dogma and ‘values’ upon a free-thinking populace. Entities perpetuate propaganda and are suspect. Then and now, beads or Birkenstocks- it is about rejecting blind obedience to unsubstantiated and baseless regulation or policy. Lifestyle should be free of establishment control, but the obligation to provide for those in need separates this from the libertarian view. We need government for we see as ‘hippies’ that we must be concerned with social questions and inequity. We see a place for government in such remedies versus libertarians who often do not. We fear a history where religious groups provided the foundation of charity and aid to the poor. We fear a return to trading freedom of thought for food. We fear the implications on women, children, and minorities in reducing the role of politics and government. Where perhaps in the past this differed, today we view policy and law as machinery toward equity. Our defense.
The saying “the personal is political” attempts to connect the notions that what we do is a manifestation of what we think, and what we think collectively shapes policy which in turns shapes lifestyle. To categorize 60’s hippies as apolitical is simplistic and presumably based on the fact that for many it was a lifestyle with little substantive action. If we can agree that hippies were a culture, with elements of such- language, commonality, dress- we can assume that subgroups would have emerged that ran the spectrum of phonies to committed academics and activists. We can assume that any culture has subgroups, that are not without their criticisms. We tend to look at the contradictions of 60’s hippies and point out that they were often childishly disconnected, self-serving, and disinterested in politics because of a lifestyle that did not lend itself to much examination of anything. But today’s neo-hippies are not the same Haight Ashbury souls, despite the fact that they too have their range of phonies and contradictions. We owe them for questioning norms, for empowering those marginalized by a status quo of obedience.
When the Romans revived Greek Hellenic cultures, they took their favorite elements and recreated them into what is known as “Hellenistic”. Classical standards and works that reach forward into new generations become neo-classic, and so it goes. Both the movement and the hippie lifestyle have evolved and therefore would now be better articulated as “hippie” and “hippie-istic”. Hippie is anti-establishment, not anti-political. Hippie is anti- authoritarian, anti- mandates. Hippie-istic embodies those things but incorporates a global view, a backlash against consumerism and materialism, and is less about being “in”. It is only movement, not fashion. The earlier was both. The latter, significantly less so.
If we look at it as a ‘movement” we have a different conversation but can make the same distinctions. Movements have both drivers and passengers, those that float and those that paddle. The movement aspect of the 60’s is different in the sense that we have a more global view with information access never before seen. Neo-hippies do seem to connect lifestyle very much to politics because they can understand that lifestyle choices reflect priorities- consumer choices and social choices. Hybrids versus SUV’s, box store versus local, fair trade versus exploitive economics… all are lifestyle choices but they are co-mingled with politics.
This is a trend that distinguishes ‘new hippies” from the last generation. The term and associated characteristics have morphed into a new version but it did not overwrite the old. Both versions exist just as the parallels of fashion and social movement coexisted. Just as lifestyle and politics coexist. To extrapolate is to oversimplify.


Realizing that hurricane season ain't over yet, I checked into to see what, if anything, is currently brewing in the Atlantic. Happily, their answer was "not much".

Since I'm sitting here waiting for West Wing to start, I wandered around the page a bit and followed the "How Hurricanes Are Named" link. Slightly interesting information, if only for trivia's sake. I'd heard that names of particularly devastating storms are permanently retired, but didn't realize the list of names used in any year is pre-selected.

Here's 2005's crop:

Ok, well... My husband and I used to have a roommate named Stan, so that one tickled me just a little. "Hurricane Tammy" seems innocuous enough. "Hurricane Wilma" sounds like a real ball-breaker, so let's hope I'm wrong on that account.

But "Hurricane Vince"? I'm not sure why, and maybe it's just me, but that one makes me snicker. While I sincerely mean no disrespect to people of Italian ancestry, I can't escape images of a slightly furry chest, little hairs poking out of the tank top neckline, the gold horn on the thick chain, a cloud of cloying cologne, and hearing colorful language like "Yous guys".

I think these storms are really making me punchy. Either that or I've finally gone over the edge. If my entries start to sound like postcards, I guess you'll have the answer.

The weather is here. Wish you were beautiful.

Viva New Orleans

In today's LA Times, Gregory Rodriquez discusses the rebuilding in New Orleans and how it will, in all likelihood, be accomplished largely by immigrant labor, much of it undocumented.

The claim is perfectly reasonable, especially given Bush's tweaking of the Davis-Bacon act. But it set me to wondering:

Prior to Katrina, you'll recall that the GOP was desperately trying to woo southern black voters. Lil' Kenny Mehlman wasn't the least bit coy, saying, "Our plan for 2006 and 2008 is to increase African American turnout." Of course, now that hundreds of thousands of African American voters have been displaced by Katrina, the question of electoral math is tempting to ponder.

As is the impact of what Mr. Rodriguez predicts: That many immigrant workers that assist with Gulf rebuilding may very well stay there when job is done. While the scope and scale of Gulf rebuilding hasn't been commented on in much detail, clearly this is not a project that can be accomplished in a scant matter of weeks.

Most will not intend to stay where their new jobs are, but the longer the jobs last, the more likely they will settle permanently. One recent poll of New Orleans evacuees living in Houston emergency shelters found that fewer than half intend to return home. In part, their places will be taken by the migrant workers. Former President Clinton recently hinted as much on NBC's "Meet the Press" when he said New Orleans will be resettled with a different population.

It will be interesting to see just what kind of effect this population reshuffle will have on upcoming elections. My tin hat notices that the Davis-Bacon Act maneuver will mean lots of jobs for lots of Latinos, who, coincidentally, are increasingly supportive of Bush (44% in 2004 from 35% in 2000). Or is it so coincidental? I'm so deeply suspicious of the GOP that it's easy to think this is no happy accident.

Then again, with the exception of Orleans, St. James, West Baton Rouge, St. Helena and East Caroll parishes, LA is clearly a Red state. According to CNN's map, quite a lot of it is "pink" (soft support), but in the end, a rose is a rose, right?

Clearly I'm not instinctively Rovian enough to grasp the full implications, whatever they may be, but I have enough sense to suspect that there's a larger partisan goal beyond making it easier for contractors to hire workers. Yes, this means I am, in effect, dismissing out of hand Bush's claims that he's making it easier to GET work on construction crews, but honestly -- can you blame me? Seriously. Give me one reason I should extend the benefit of the doubt to Bush anymore.

:::listening to crickets chirping:::

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Wrong Answer

Did any of you catch CSPAN's coverage of the rally today?

I did, and I'm sorry to say that I managed to stick with it for maybe an hour.

Watching it was like stepping into the time machine of my 20s, when I was beaded & braided, when if anyone said "Protest!", all I needed were directions to get there. See, when you're a kid, a protest is just a really big party in your eyes. You go to see who's there, who's not, what vendors there and hey - if there's a band or two, even better! However nobly intended at least in sentiment, The Message of the protest itself is really a secondary consideration (provided it’s a hippie-vetted cause).

I had high hopes for this rally. I still do, hoping that CSPAN's coverage was not representative of the larger event. However, as a goal, it's a little short, since the MSM appears to have given it only a passing mention and as a result, CSPAN's coverage will be what gets picked up as video segments, with sound bytes chewed like cud over at Fox and the Free Republic indefinitely.

What happened today, (or at least as much as I saw) is what always seems to happen, and what pretty much drove me out of most "movements" before I got within earshot of 30. What was meant to be a single-topic protest turns into a smorgasbord of issues, a great many of which aren't even directly related to the Main Point.

I didn't immediately scoff at the speakers discussing the Palestine problem, since it's sophomoric to try and comment on the Middle East without addressing that particular quagmire. While I may be guilty of selective reading, all of the historians and political scholars I've read from agree that U.S. involvement in the Palestinian conflict is part of the engine of modern terrorism. And I've long thought it to be the elephant in America's living room where foreign policy is concerned, so at first I was nonplussed by the speeches. After all, in a "Get Us Out of Iraq" rally, a bit of historical perspective is a good thing when presented as context for the rally's demands.

Trouble was, it wasn't just one or two speakers. It was several, and they spoke at length. When the last of them (that I saw before turning it off) started talking about Haiti, I was done.

Grass-/netroots activists are the first to cry the loudest over how unfocused and scattered the Democrats have been for the past decade, but apparently they fail to understand how their behavior is quite often no different.

Please don't misconstrue -- I have no problem whatsoever with say, a Israel/Palestine Protest. Seriously, have at it. It's high time the topic got some real attention. Same for Haiti. We've been treating that country like the world’s armpit for an embarrassingly long time.

But not today. This was an IRAQ RALLY. Specifically, an ANTI-WAR RALLY. It was not a Liberal Soup Rally, or Intro to Leftie Politics Rally. Honestly, people. We can't stand around bitching that no one takes liberals seriously, that Democrats have no solutions or platform, and that the left has been marginalized into caricature by the MSM if we CAN'T MANAGE TO STAY ON MESSAGE FOR ONE FUCKING DAY.

Now, I understand part of the speakers’ motivation (if I might be presumptuous for a moment). They figure that they have the national spotlight for a few nanoseconds, and they hope to take advantage of the podium and spin as dense a web of issues as possible before the mikes are turned off again. I get it, and I sympathize.

However, it's a childish response. Do we not all learn by the time we're 9 or 10 that getting what you want depends on asking at the right time and place, as much as it requires our best persuasive mojo? As adults, we know perfectly well that we don't ask for a raise right in the middle of being dressed-down by the boss. You don't ask a wife covered in baby spit-up, who’s wrestling with a screaming toddler while the phone is ringing and the smoke alarm is going off, "Honey? Can Daddy have some nookie?"

If we've half the wit we pretend to possess, we learn to present our requests demands when our audience is receptive and willing to listen to a reasoned plea. And in stating our case, we speak clearly, convincingly and STAY ON MESSAGE.

Unfortunately, today's event organizers,, took the sandbox approach to this rally, and while optimism may blossom as I hear from actual attendees, at present I fear that the net gain from today will primarily be more sneers from O'Reilly, more ridicule from Malkin, and nary a cricket chirp from the MSM. What makes it worse is that America was (is?) willing to listen. Bush’s approval ratings have told us that time and time and time again. Were we not listening? Did we really not get what our opportunity was?

This kind of rally should have been able to reach the tentative, the undecided, the fence-sitters all across America. Think about it. It certainly wouldn't have swayed Bush's base, so that demographic can be safely ignored. There isn't a card-carrying liberal anywhere in the U.S. that needs validation through an event like this, so the firm left also needed no consideration. That leaves all the folks in the middle. THAT'S who we needed to reach. Those are the folks that, if you convince them, will pressure their Senators and Reps for solutions to the Iraq war, and if we're really lucky, will abstain from checking off any Rs in the voting booths a little over a year from now.

I'm not trying to unjustly vilify Answer here. But they deserve the grief they get as official organizers. For any like-minded attendees waving "American Imperialism = Bloody Oil" signs, you deserve some shit, too. If you're going to attend a topic-specific rally, can you leave your black hoods & gas masks at home just ONCE, please? You may be impressive to the anarchist adolescent demographic, but to the rest of America, you're an ass. You don't get to scream about fundamentalists’ shredded fetus placards through your Death Ninja outfit and retain any measurable credibility.

The GOP has been mopping the floor with the left greatly in part because they approach every little thing they do like it's a BUSINESS. Yeah, a corrupt and fetid business, but a business just the same. They plan, they organize, they create an agenda and they pursue it relentlessly. The nebulous Left treats politics like a Grateful Dead show, where everyone is welcome and everyone gets a chance at the podium, and no cause is devalued. That's all well and good for awareness-raising campaigns, but it's sheer stupidity when you're standing on the Ellipse.

Maybe I should be pissed that evidently not one single Democratic official showed up. I’m reluctant these days to call many of them “professionals”, but compared to the scattered kaleidoscope of lefty ire I saw, their influence might have been the cohesive thread that was missing.

I don’t know. I’m just sick to death of seeing things like this on the news and thinking, again, that it’s time everyone took a Remedial Marketing class. These stunning, fundamental errors in presentation are killing the party, are discrediting sound policy initiatives and making a mockery of the left.

Someone, quick. Give me some good news about today, please?

Update: Well, I went looking for optimism, and found it. Sunporch says:

There was/is MUCH more going on than that ridiculour ANSWER stage that CSPAN covered.

There are tens of thousands, possibly 100,000 people or more in the streets right now. The audience for the ANSWER stage was always a small subset of the total on hand...there were thousands out on Constitution Avenue waiting for the march to begin.
Most of the marchers watching the ANSWER speakers drifted off long before the speeches were done...I suspect due to a combination of disgust with how long the speeches were running over, and a disgust with the content of many of the speeches.
I just spoke with my wife at the protest and it is far more mainstream, and much larger, than the impression left by the CSPAN coverage of the ANSWER stage.
CSPAN's coverage was weak and misleading by only showing the participation by one of the most radical, fringe participants in the protest coalition.
Next time we need to do a better job of marginalizing those jokers and controlling the agenda of the event.

So it's time for angry letters to CSPAN, then?

More news, from Chicago Dyke:

People also complain that the organizers, like a lot of us pointy headed overeducated leftists, sought too much to "educate" and not enough to "protest." I think it's worth noting: there is a difference between a rally and a march. C-Span, according to my sources, can only broadcast that to which an overseeing "bi-partisan" committee agrees. I assume this means DC party operatives, and I'm sure that it means C-Span will never, ever show the 300,000-600,000 strong march in the streets today. In order to marginalize citizen action in general, I'm sure both parties agree to only show "the crazies." Tomorrow there will be a counter-protest and perhaps march. I doubt those Protest Warrior types will fare much better in the eyes of Susie Soccer Mom and Joe Sixpack. (And I'd be surprised if there are more than 10,000, but I'm sure C-Span will provide visual representation that suggests `balance.')

Oh! I forgot to mention, oh loyal H&S fans: Greenlily went to the rally, so think of it as having our own personal correspondent there, who will, on her gallant return, help us voyeurs wade through the BS we're being fed over the airwaves....

An Excellent LTE

Ogandai's done a fine job. Inspiring work. Full text after the jump.

Where is the leadership? For all his missteps on policy and his cavalier attitude toward equality, President George W. Bush has always enjoyed an aura of "leadership" cultivated through careful photo sessions and scripted sound bites that pushed him toward re-election.

Sadly, this personal quality so resilient before the press seems to wilt before real-world difficulties. President Bush spent the first vital moments of 9/11 reading a children's book in a classroom for the benefit of photographers, then spent most of the day invisible, running and hiding from non-existent threats. Thankfully, our nation still remains indebted to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who understands that true leaders run toward danger to help, not from danger to hide.

Four years later, as Americans cry out for leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our commander-in-chief is again sealed off from tragedy. President Bush is always ready to pose for photos in front of troops or Boy Scouts, but his record-setting vacation time proved too valuable to interrupt for thousands of Americans in need. In fact, as the day broke in a devastated New Orleans, the White House released a photo of Bush strumming a guitar with a presidential sticker affixed to the case. As conditions deteriorated in the Superdome, Bush held another photo op to sell his War in Iraq while his flunkies churned out a letter calling for further millionaire tax cuts. Then Bush's consultants decided that he needed to "get involved": his flyovers grounded vehicles needed for levee repair and his press events used helicopters and coordinators that could have been out doing their job as props. The President's staff took their cue from him: 95% of the Cabinet was still on vacation three days after Katrina made landfall. As the State Department sifted offers of help from our friends around the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent thousands on shoes and took in a Broadway show. Bush's political appointees in emergency management barred the National Guard and the Red Cross from disaster areas, and only learned of the conditions in the New Orleans convention center when informed by a news anchor.

Katrina begat a horrific tragedy, and its victims need this nation's support. The aftermath has expanded, though, into a man-made tragedy born of ignorance and sloth, and its perpetrators must be held accountable by this nation - all the way to the top.

Display Problems [Updated again]

are apparently cropping up when viewing this site with IE. Don't ask me why, I just work here.
Looks ok to me in Firefox, but it's also choking in Opera. I didn't make any template changes today (hell, I didn't even post today, did I?), so I'm not sure what the deal is. Will delete this housekeeping nonsense once it's resolved, but in the meantime: It's not YOU.

9/22 Update: Sorry all, but I still don't know what the problem is. Reloading an old template hasn't helped, so I have to presume the trouble is on Blogger's end. I've alerted them, and if I can get past the auto-response, hopefully they'll have something insightful to say. In the meantime, download Firefox.

9/24 Update: As mysteriously as it came, it departed. The ghost in the machine seems to have left our happy little corner of the blogosphere, and from this side of the screen, IE and Opera are our friends once again. If anyone's still looking at a page without a side bar & a reload/cache-clearing doesnt' help, please leave a comment. Not that I can do anything about it, of course, but sometimes I like to pretend I'm micromanaging.

I Miss Phil

I came from a bipartisan household. Mom was an old-school Republican, and Nana was a true-blue Democrat. She and I would watch the afternoon news & talk shows, and later, she and Mom would debate the day's events over dinner. When I was real young, I'd interrupt and demand they "stop fighting!", only to be greeted with warm laughter and assurances that they were "just arguing". Getting my 5-year old head around that distinction, I'm sure, had a formative impact on me, but I digress...

One of Nana's favorite shows was Phil Donahue's chat program. She taught me all about hollering back at the TV, whether in passionate support or scathing disagreement (normally with a panel guest), and I grew up thinking that's how everyone reacted to politics: With Passion.

In the years since, I've obviously discovered that this is not, in fact, the case. The MSM (Fox especially, the bastards) have played this "fairness" thing to such an absurd degree that issues are presented as inherently balanced, no matter what the realities -- see: "teach the (ID) controversy" for an example. In trying to make sure that "both sides" are covered, the MSM doles out credibility to a host of absurdities and falsehoods like cheap Halloween candy. (Something I was pleased to hear Andrea Mitchell cop to on Bill Maher last night, incidentally). The only strong opinions we get anymore are of the Bill O'Reilly variety, over which I'd generally prefer a strict diet of boogers.

This clip has gotten a lot of blog attention, and finally having had a chance to watch it, the reasons why are obvious. Probably thinking he could bully him into a cowering ball under the desk, Bill O'Reilly had Phil Donahue on his show the other day. Their exchange may very well be the best thing I've ever seen on Fox. Phil hollers at "Billy" throughout, saying he won't be intimidated and that he's not "another Jeremy Glick".

Crooks and Liars has the video clip and News Hounds has the transcript (my thanks to both).

Seeing this makes me miss the irreverent Mr. Donahue more than ever, and I like to think that if there's a shift coming in the MSM, the end result will include his new show.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Joy for Your Leftie G-Spot

Funny. Well edited. Good chorus. Topped with snarky goodness.

Go on, now. Lookie lookie.

"None Dare Call It Stolen"

If you read nothing else today, read this Harper's article by Mark Crispin Miller.

Bush loyalists far and wide have casually dismissed concerns over possible election fraud in Ohio as "nonsense" (although the language used is usually far more severe). Like a fundamentalist's claim that there is "absolutely no evidence" for evolution, these same loyalists insist there is "absolutely no evidence" of voting irregularities in the 2004 Presidential race.

Trouble is, they're mistaken. Again.

I don't know how many of you have followed the long blog threads on the topic (there have been thousands), and if you haven't, chances are you're at a disadvantage, since the MSM has barely even acknowledged the issue, much less given credence to any concerns over the outcome.

In his August 2005 article, Mr. Miller describes the highlights of the problems in Ohio and the results of the House Judiciary Committee's 5- week investigation.

Even so, the evidence that something went extremely wrong last fall is copious, and not hard to find. Much of it was noted at the time, albeit by local papers and haphazardly. Concerning the decisive contest in Ohio, the evidence is lucidly compiled in a single congressional report, which, for the last half-year, has been available to anyone inclined to read it. It is a veritable arsenal of "“smoking guns" —and yet its findings may be less extraordinary than the fact that no one in this country seems to care about them.

See, election fraud just isn't sexy. People's eyes tend to glaze over when talk turns to state regulations for recount procedures, particularly when the discussion gets complicated by machine count vs. hand count, touch screens and hard drives. What should appeal by definition to everyone in America is suddenly received about as warmly as a CNET op/ed (No offense to the CNET boys, of course).

Mr. Miller's piece provides enough detail about incidents that are suspicious at best, so if you're unfamiliar with the charges made regarding miscounts, voter disenfranchisement, software tampering and poll access problems, this is a good resource for a quick catch-up.

What's been infuriating to me since Nov 3, is the same thing that infuriates me now, as always: GOP'ers refusal to even entertain the notion of problems, much less address and solve them. So, I guess they deserve credit for consistency, if nothing else. Nevertheless, the damage done is not Bush's problem or the GOP's problem so much as it is the COUNTRY'S problem.
"“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization,"” Thomas Jefferson said, "it expects what never was and never will be."” That much-quoted line foretells precisely what has happened to us since "“the news" has turned into a daily paraphrase of Karl Rove's fevered dreams. Just as 2+2=5 in Orwell'’s Oceania, so here today the United States just won two brilliant military victories, 9/11 could not have been prevented, we live in a democracy (like the Iraqis), and last year's presidential race “was, at the end of the day, an honest election.” Such claims, presented as the truth, are nothing but faith-based reiteration, as valid as the notions that one chooses to be homosexual, that condoms don'’t prevent the spread of HIV, and that the universe was made 6,000 years ago.

In this nation'’s epic struggle on behalf of freedom, reason, and democracy, the press has unilaterally disarmed, and therefore many good Americans, both liberal and conservative, have lost faith in the promise of self-government. That vast surrender is demoralizing, certainly, but if we face it, and endeavor to reverse it, it will not prove fatal. This democracy can survive a plot to hijack an election. What it cannot survive is our indifference to, or unawareness of, the evidence that such a plot has succeeded.

Those who've been receptive to the idea that election fraud allegations are just "more liberal hysterics" need to turn off Fox, dig in and get up to speed on what's clearly and plainly documented in the public record. Those who've been dismissed as "sore losers" need to keep hammering away on this issue. And those of you in the middle that are scratching your heads over why this is still being discussed, have a look at some of the following links:

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio
Eye on Ohio
Proof of Ohio Election Fraud Exposed

Whatever did happen needs to come to light and find a solid place in the national discourse. This isn't a partisan concern. People arguing that point clearly have no real understanding of the 2004 election issues, and worse, fail to appreciate that if our elections are not freely accessible to all citizens, we are not a democracy. If our voting records cannot be clearly and easily confirmed, we are not a democracy. If we replace transparent manual processes with flawed machines made by arguably corrupt corporations, we are not a democracy.

This is not about Bush. This is about America.

Sincere thanks to Rational Being

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wesley Clark's "Virtual March on Washington"

Clark has strong support in some corners of the left, looking to him as a viable Presidential choice for the transition out of Iraq (the assumption being that Bush will not pull troops out during his term). There's something to be said for the assertion, given his foreign policy credentials. Liberals like him because he supports choice, heath care reform, labor and the environment.

That said, I hear folks across the political spectrum criticizing his apparent lack of clarity on positions. In his defense, supporters point out that his late entrance to the campaign racket left him unprepared for dealing with the MSM media format. His military career includes some controversy, but I'll leave it at that. This entry isn't an evaluation of Clark, so I invite you to follow up as you're inclined.

My point here, is to point out Clark's Maybe this is one of those "Gawd, you hadn't HEARD about this yet?", but if so, yeah, I missed the memo.

At first, it seemed a little odd to me, but then again, I've never been a role-playing gamer, so the whole concept of "virtual" represents alien territory. After looking a while, though, it looks like a great tool for building awareness and keeping people in touch with environmental issues.

While we rage and argue about local vs. federal disaster response, while we get into knock-down drag-out fights about how to pay for rebuilding, while the talking heads and spin machines really grasp to get their claws into us, we need to pull back and nurture the 30,000-foot view.

This hurricane season is Mother Nature walking up and thwapping us on the back of the head: "Hey! Are you listening to me?!?" Even Bush (!) now admits that human activity has contributed to global warming (Gee, thanks. Nice to have ya onboard, there, Sparky). Global warming heats water and melts ice. See? It's like 8th grade science class all over again!

If the Greenland icecaps disappear, we can expect ocean levels to rise 7-10 feet. And hey! Guess what! Some climatologists are warning that those very same icecaps are likely to melt in the summer seasons in roughly 65-70 years, if we're lucky - sooner if we're not.

So follow along now... Listen up, coastal kids. Yeah, you, Santa Monica. And you, Bangladesh. Your grandkids? Let's just say they'll need gills to stay here. Sorry. Tokyo? Manhattan? Put on your water wings, honey.

All hysterics aside, what we have to remember, and what we've been shown with Katrina, possibly Rita, is that global warming will not be "cured" with policy. Healing begins at the cellular level, and societies are no different. Policy is a response to citizens (well, usually), and the most effective medicine you have is YOU. There is no shining cavalry of governmental response that will stride in and with feathered quill, decree "The Earth Shall Warm No More!" If we get our act together, some President or another will come along and sign a bill to that effect long after we've cleaned up our mess, simply taking credit for our hard work. You know, kinda like what happens at the office.

So, whether it's Clark's site or any other, take the opportunities presented by "the internets" and get up to speed. Learn what you can do at a local, state and national level. Learn what buttons to push, what letters to write, which people to talk to.

To borrow some brilliant words: "We don't want the environmental warning to come in the form of Cat-5 hurricanes devastating our coastlines."

While this point may be just past us now, it's never too late to respond. Environmentalism has too long been dismissed out of hand as a "kooky obsession for those commie hippies", and it's high time (no pun intended) that we pull our heads from our asses and deal with the granddaddy of all "issues".

Jeeezus. Rita "Ow-Make-It-Stop" Crosby just finished interviewing a guy that swears up & down that the lab housing dangerous viruses "was designed to withstand a Cat 5 storm".

Let's hope he's right. If he isn't, whether or not you recycle may become an entirely moot point.

"Houston, We Have A Problem" Indeed.

The Mayor of Port Arthur, TX is on Chris Matthews just now. He says that LA's Governor Blanco is suggesting that people refusing to evacuate should write their social security numbers on their arms in permanent ink.

One of MSNBC's reporters describes the northbound traffic jam as "100 miles long". Some of those travelers are reported to be moving at about 1 mile per hour. So let's do some quick mental math and ask: What of the people stuck on the freeways when the storm hits?

And I'm hearing that due to the amount of time Rita spent over the water as a Cat 5, the storm surge hitting the coast will be its equivalent, even if it weakens and hits land at a Cat 4.

This is surreal. And what's really scary is there's another 69 days left in the Atlantic hurricane season.

Update: Give BigDaddyTX's diary a read. He's right in the path, and I suspect, his story is like thousands of others.

Too Much. Just Too Much.

Things have been a bit busy at Casa Bitch lately, so I've been bookmarking stories, meaning to get back to them & post for you, dear readers.

It's insidious, really. Every day contains a new reason to wonder WHAT PLANET AM I ON?!?

Anyway. Rather than just freak out, here are some stories you might want to catch up on.

Paging Dr. Mengele
Billmon describes the EPA's new rules on human testing. If federal response to Katrina hasn't proven that the government sees the disenfranchised as disposable, this story will.

The melting Arctic: it's worse than you think
Plutonium Page updates on the likely future of the ice caps. A dire picture, so if you're having a crappy day, you might want to come back to this one. Nutshell version? Sea-level communities are toast. Bangladeshi Shelf Life? 70 years, optimistically.

Protecting tax cuts, GOP proposes cuts to military health care

Not that any of us really need ANOTHER reason to loathe this administration. Rather than roll back (even incrementally) tax breaks for the richest 1% of us, BushCo has decided that cutting into military health care services is the better idea. I swear, I don't fucking get it. Not even a little. (via Armando)

No word from Bush on twister aid here
Did you know that on Aug 18, some 18 tornadoes slammed through Wisconsin? I didn't.
What's worse, the locals are still waiting for a passing glance from FEMA. (Thanks to Robertinwisconsin.)

I suppose that's enough for you to swallow in a single sitting. Sorry the news isn't sunnier. Then again, it's not like you come here for sugar & spice, right?

The Reticence of the Teflon Mind

It is still amazing to me that the nightmare of Katrina brought to bear such terrible realizations about America and our "character". I confess that even after all these years of trying to think critically about such matters, and having reality rear its moronic head almost hourly... it must be a sign of illness indeed that I remain even capable of surprise. Why on earth do I keep expecting reality to defy reason, to reveal my projected hopes? My capacity to be surprised tells me my naive perceptions still need to be challenged. Or I need to be hit with a hammer. My attachment to this idea that people can be " sufficiently moved" to act needs a rewrite.

If losing one's spiritual virginity is a process, then this event was part of the foreplay.
And yet I am so consumed with guilt for even thinking about my petty sense of things, my dissappointments.. indeed, how dare I? No, I cannot lay claim to being party to anything other than witness to disgrace, attending the dinner and lingering late to drink with the stragglers of condemnation.

No, I do not know the reality of clutching my baby to my body and knowing life has left her and the world has died before my eyes. I cannot know what it feels like to be stuck and hopeful for help that never comes. What do we, or can we, know of that? I cannot pretend to hold a spot on any victim pile- I know that my victimization comes by vicarious self-centered proxy, only as part of the society that has been , in effect, let down. I am not angry because I was left to die- I am angry because life is valuable, and hesitation and disorganization translated into a death sentence for so many. Do they not talk about a culture of life, the value of every soul, down to the tiny unborn? How does condemnation and abandonment jive with that rhetoric? There were no doubt fetal souls beneath the waters, what say you pigs on that? Death knows not whose hand deals the blow. Life only matters to you when you legislate me.

And so we are left with this ambiguous grief and rage against this hypocritical ENTITY whose role we are not even so clear about, the ambiguous apparatus of some machine we call government. We do not know what we expected. We only know we expected much more than what was done. We expected emergency management. More than that, we expected people to care about the lives of unknown 'others'. Perhaps my jaw-drop response to hypocrisy and cruelty is getting a bit old. What part of "don't give a shit" can I not understand?

There are times in life when we have these horrific aha-style "fuck-with-innocence-type" moments, when we realize the potential for nuclear annihilation for example, and the real context of the term 'hair trigger alert". When we see the famous photo of the famine-stricken infant next to the vulture awaiting his death. ..The moments when we say "How can this be?" over and over. Crazymaking things.

I do say this- understanding that many good people volunteered and worked very hard to help. But perhaps it is just a matter of proportion. Collectively, as a nation that supports the actions of the administration seemingly without question- we revealed ourselves not only as incompetent, but heartless. Those of us that struggle toward optimism, rally for hope, that tend to think more of people than they generally deserve...those among us that have trouble accepting the carelessness and indifference of other people and try to attribute anti-social behaviors to a sad spectrum of causations... take pause.

Their indifference comes without insight and without apology. We look for remorse at the very least, for somebody to at least take responsibility in earnest. Few do. We look to our neighbors, fellow Americans, to share our anger. We find that few do. We look at the groups that struggle against the propaganda mechanations to seek truth, to expose corruption and deception- and we find it falls on ears that will not know or care.

We learn that as we age, we collect these pathetic epiphanies, we learn this is not the first time or the last time. So...

Lets jot down in our minds the remarks about Trent Lott's coastal home (sniff, poor Trent!) and as Molly Ivins reminds us at Truthout : "... that great Houstonian Barbara Bush, said after visiting the Astrodome, those people are better off now because "they were underprivileged anyway."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Fix My Kid, Preacher man!" [Updated]

From our July 18 rant on "Love in Action":

So now they have "Make 'Em Straight" camps for teenagers. Yep. No joke.
Christian camps to which gay & lesbian teens are shuttled by their parents. Who needs swimming lessons and horseback riding when you can have "conversion therapy"?

My heart breaks for these kids. Here's the recent NYT piece that describes a kid from Tennessee who blogged about his pre-departure anxiety, and a site that his supporters have since launched to help raise awareness.

(Thanks to Lilibeth over on dKos for posting the story -- and I agree with her - WTF was this doing in NYT's Style section!??!?)

Sep 20 Update: Evidently the state of Tennessee has shut these fuckers down. Good news, indeed. Of course, that TN regulators shut them down for concerns over how "Love in Action" was dispensing DRUGS without a license is the truly disturbing part.

I'd like to believe that reaction from the press and around the blogs over this farce of a "treatment center" is part of what led TN to investigate. Regardless, however, can I get a GOOD RIDDANCE from the crowd??!?

Hat Tip: AmericaBlog

Chuck Pennacchio for Senate

You don't have to be a PA resident to know that little Ricky Santorum's days are numbered. To those that think Bob Casey's victory over Rick is a foregone conclusion: think again. Chuck Pennacchio's support from the netroots grows every day, and with your help, we can get him the exposure he needs.

I mean, Casey's a fine guy. Middle-of-the-road Democrat and all, BUT -- his position on choice, for me, is totally unacceptable. While I understand the Big Tent arguments, I don't feel they apply when the decision is NOT limited to One Republican and One Democrat. Fortunately for PA, there's more than one option on the Democratic ticket. (Hell, if the Dems can round up candidates as sane as Pennacchio, I just may register with them again).

I've been following Chuck's campaign for nearly a year now, and delight in hearing that where he once addressed 10 folks in a suburban living room, he's filling auditoriums with eager voters. His support is experiencing a healthy growth spurt, and every mention you make of him will help.

Bloggers, if you're keeping a list of '06 election candidates somewhere, have a look at Chuck's positions and consider including him in your Candidate Roll.

Non-Bloggers, if you have any friends and family at all in PA, please turn them on to Chuck. Too many locals simply don't realize Casey isn't the only choice.

If you don't blog, and don't know anyone out here, get familiar with Chuck and the other Democrats / Independents hoping to secure seats in '06. Just chatting about them can help spread the word and mobilize people to get up to speed with who's who. The Democrats have a 12 point lead over Republican in current polling, so the ground is fertile!

Must Read: "Are YOU ready for disaster?"

Alpha Geek's series of diaries on emergency preparedness is simply spectacular.

This is the fifth and final installment in a series of Diaries on personal disaster preparedness. Your humble correspondent is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness planning. Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be posted at the end of this Diary, the final installment in this series.
Series Index:
Assess your risks!
Plan to survive! (part A)
Plan to survive! (part B)
Emergency gear and supplies
Material preparations continued; Conclusion

This information is the kind made available in some of the more disaster-prone areas, but its value is beyond measure, no matter where you live and deserves wide circulation. Amidst the tumultuous political fallout, Katrina reminds us there are more than rhetorical lessons to be had. Study up.

"Conservatism as Fetish"

I must draw your attention to a great post by Els over at My Left Wing.

But of all our insanity, it is our obsession with "Family Values" that seems most depraved, maybe because it's so slippery and hard to pin down. When they are not grooming politicians for Christ, a certain kind of conservative is busy trying to convince us that there existed a perfect time. And more mendaciously, that we can return to it. One where children behaved. Where Men were Men and Women were Quiet. One where War was more fun because no one whined about the Heroes who came home dead. One where the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was the rule of the land and if you didn't have a word for or learn about birth control or drugs or evolution you wouldn't have sex, or become a pot head or a university professor.

The reason that this insanity is so pernicious is that this certain kind of Conservative has sold us, the thinkers and the dreamers, the....shh liberals, on the embroidered lotus shoe that wraps up all this daft and toxic rhetoric. They've allowed us to neuter ourselves by agreeing that we too have families and support family values and value our families and we spin in circles trying to get the word "but" in there someplace. We keep arguing over the gauzy wrapping and not the pain underneath.

He (she?) captures the pulse of the right in a way I've been stumbling for, but keep missing.

I remember hearing the "Family Values" chant during my political adolescence, and being both aghast and fascinated by the zeal with which the loyal would sing its praises. It was like the antithesis of the hippie ideal I'd been exalting since childhood. Rather than one huge Love-Everybody community in which we were all welcome, equal and valued, inclusion in the Right's "family" was contingent upon a number of scornful proscriptions. You couldn't challenge the status quo about anything, conformity was everything, and if you dared to reject the mold, you were worth nothing. (Surely it will surprise none of you that my response was to spend most of my teen years braless, barefoot and beaded.)

At the urging of relatives we visited one summer, I went to Sunday school while the adults went to the service. My eight-year old head knew nothing of deference to church elders, having been a heathen all of my life, and didn't realize that this "school" was special. I struggle now to recall what the topic was, but something prompted me to raise my hand and ask "Yeah, but....". Not surprisingly, in retrospect, my question was deemed somehow inappropriate and the teacher swiftly moved on to the next raised hand.

My aunt and uncle, who did their best to please and not to ruffle, were mortified when approached afterward and asked to leave me at home next Sunday. I was offended. Not because I wanted to attend, but because my questioning was so cavalierly dismissed. I'd been raised to believe that ALL questions were good ones, and that the day I stopped asking them should be no sooner than my last day on earth. Having no idea that this wasn't a cultural universal, "The Bitch Goes to Sunday School" marked a profound shift in my awareness, and likely, the beginning of my religious cynicism.

I think at some level, I'd hoped that this attitude would stay within the confines of the church, since it was just this side of rational in such a dogmatic environment. You can imagine my consternation when I watched the same dismissal seep from Reagan's speeches and Bush Sr.'s smirks. These two were like the opening act for the Four Horsemen as far as I was concerned. Turns out they were.

(insert clever political cartoon rendering of Bush Jr./Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld here)

I half expect to see that Sunday school teacher working as a White House aide.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"...bellwether for the right-wing zeitgeist"

The new mayor of Mobile, Alabama will have a lot on his plate. What can a city do to accommodate the influx of people, some who want to return home, some who wonder what the point is... He hopes that the clean up efforts will create jobs- as already there are not enough to go around. This is one city, of many, and this is one problem- of many. And when this chapter of America is over, its anybody's guess what we will learn from what went wrong and what went right. Perhaps the ramifications will be felt deeply enough to shake up America for good- it seems to depend largely on the answers to the questions in the air.

We learned from 9-11 that response is a matter of interpretation. Response is in the eye of the beholder- like the parent,broke at the store,who tells the child that its 'good for them' to do without yet offers only the empty pocket of begs the musing: Because I will not get what I want or need anyway, or because it is a matter of parental policy? Parental sensibility, or default disciplinarian? Whim? In America, the question of who does without for our own fortitude is apparently arbitrary yet seems to conceptually congeal among the poor, minorities... the rural south.

What is the government's role? How much do we expect from our national bureaucracies, and how much should we expect of localities? The struggle between state sovereignty vs. an intrusive federal deathgrip, beneath the spectrum of service expectations ranging from religious based charity to municipal to non profits to the private sector.... who do we look to, who answers to the people, and who does a better job? How do we weigh this notion to 'provide for the public welfare' against a puritanical legacy of survivalism, individualism, rebellion,civil liberties, civic responsibility- postures of both entitlement when we receive, and resentment when we give?
And so this is the 'stuff' of political party-making. We carve out our spots, and we camp. We try to reconcile these answers, and what we get are patchy platforms of contradictions that seek to clarify an ambiguous,fluid middle beset by immovable extremism.

So what happens to these 'wings' when they are forced to confront this all at one time? To look at New-Dealish public works plans against contract privateers, to look at mounting deficits with the pretense of fiscal conservatism, to look at disaster response from the feds- by a structure that both self-trumps and offers up predatory policy...

It is the ball dropping hypocrisy that seems to anger 'we liberals' the most- we point out that the Paternal FEDS are often little more than opportunistic pedophiles. We want to expose the man that swaggers with the vulnerable because reason in its maturity would eat him alive. We want him to reckon with paradox and reconcile the fact that his arrogance comes not from strength but from the adoration of those who do not yet know better... exploiting the powerless and yet bolstering their behavior with the ruse of "daddy'.

Feds order ten courses but don't tip for shit. Republicans say "I'm not hungry" but order everything on the menu. Conservatives say "We should all make our own" but tell the chef what to do. And liberals complain about the wine list, in their little booth....

Here is William Greider (The Nation) on the NEW New Deal. An interesting appetizer for what will certainly be some needed sparring.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"Policy? Bullshit."

Michael Reynolds has a great rant on FEMA's 72-hour Not-My-Problem window.

So, once again last night on TV, as I was going to sleep, I heard a reiteration of FEMA's declaration that should your house be swallowed up by flood waters, for 72 hours you are pretty much on your own, and can expect help only from the local cops and firefighters whose houses are, likewise, swallowed up by the flood waters. And this is policy. And policy, as we know, is a magical juju word to which we must tug a forelock and muttter "right you are, Guv."

And any number of talk show hosts and editorial pages and blogs happily line up behind this stand, anxious for any excuse to continue their important work of toadying the Bush administration. "72 hours, that's the policy, yup, yup, what can you do? Have no right to complain, after all it's the policy, the policy dontcha know."

To which I have to respond thusly: any policy which requires that American citizens and their kids and their sick old people sit on their roof without food or water or help for three days needs to be wadded up into a ball, lubricated liberally, and shoved straight up the ass of whichever incompetent , can't-do, bureaucrat wrote it.

Go get it. It's yummy.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should.

If you don't read heavily-trafficked blogs and know what I mean by "diary scroll", move along. Nothing interesting for you here.

I wonder who's well-thought-out diary got pushed off the recent list by this bit of drivel (names changed to protect the idiotic):

martha, martha, martha
by Noodle
Fri Sep 16th, 2005 at 15:01:17 PDT

martha, martha, martha,

::Noodle’s Diary ::

martha, martha, martha, martha,
martha, martha, martha,
martha, martha, martha, martha, martha,


martha, martha, martha, martha, martha,
martha, martha, martha, martha,

heh. heh. heh. eh?

/eye roll

"Being Poor"

The Chicago Tribune's John Scalzi has delivered one of the most poignant descriptions of poverty I've ever seen. Don't miss it.

Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

Being poor is deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your children make the same mistakes you did and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away.

Being poor is making sure you don't spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an associate of arts degree.

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

Hat tip: Eloy

"Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World"

Did you miss this? I did. Grist Magazine published a brilliant article in January of this year called “The Death of Environmentalism”. Written by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, it examines the failures of the environmental movement over the past couple of decades. Rather than being a long condemnation of what’s gone wrong, however, they offer practical solutions for debate and issue framing that are likely to help the environmental movement gain the traction it so desperately needs. IMO, this is a MUST READ for anyone trying to navigate the quagmire of environmental politics and, as Kos points out, for anyone trying to build unity in a sea of single-issue groups.

This article is quite lengthy, as you may construe by how many quotes I pulled below. The passages cited are just a few among many that spoke to me:

We believe that the environmental movement's foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest. Evidence for this can be found in its concepts, its proposals, and its reasoning. What stands out is how arbitrary environmental leaders are about what gets counted and what doesn't as "environmental." Most of the movement's leading thinkers, funders and advocates do not question their most basic assumptions about who we are, what we stand for, and what it is that we should be doing.

...The environmental movement's incuriosity about the interests of potential allies depends on it never challenging the most basic assumptions about what does and doesn't get counted as "environmental." Because we define environmental problems so narrowly, environmental leaders come up with equally narrow solutions. In the face of perhaps the greatest calamity in modern history, environmental leaders are sanguine that selling technical solutions like florescent light bulbs, more efficient appliances, and hybrid cars will be sufficient to muster the necessary political strength to overcome the alliance of neoconservative ideologues and industry interests in Washington, D.C.

...Environmentalists are particularly upbeat about the direction of public opinion thanks in large part to the polling they conduct that shows wide support for their proposals. Yet America is a vastly more right-wing country than it was three decades ago. The domination of American politics by the far-right is a central obstacle to achieving action on global warming. Yet almost none of the environmentalists we interviewed thought to mention it.

...Part of what's behind America's political turn to the right is the skill with which conservative think tanks, intellectuals and political leaders have crafted proposals that build their power through setting the terms of the debate. Their work has paid off. According to a survey of 1,500 Americans by the market research firm Environics, the number of Americans who agree with the statement, "To preserve people's jobs in this country, we must accept higher levels of pollution in the future," increased from 17 percent in 1996 to 26 percent in 2000. The number of Americans who agreed that, "Most of the people actively involved in environmental groups are extremists, not reasonable people," leapt from 32 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in 2000.

...By thinking only of their own narrowly defined interests, environmental groups don't concern themselves with the needs of either unions or the industry. As a consequence, we miss major opportunities for alliance building. Consider the fact that the biggest threat to the American auto industry appears to have nothing to do with "the environment." The high cost of health care for its retired employees is a big part of what hurts the competitiveness of American companies.

..."G.M. covers the health care costs of 1.1 million Americans, or close to half a percent of the total population," wrote the New York Times' Danny Hakim recently.5 "For G.M., which earned $1.2 billion [in profits] last year, annual health spending has risen to $4.8 billion from $3 billion since 1996 ... Today, with global competition and the United States health care system putting the burden largely on employers, retiree medical costs are one reason Toyota's $10.2 billion profit in its most recent fiscal year was more than double the combined profit of the Big Three."

...Because Japan has national health care, its auto companies aren't stuck with the bill for its retirees. And yet if you were to propose that environmental groups should have a strategy for lowering the costs of health care for the auto industry, perhaps in exchange for higher mileage standards, you'd likely be laughed out of the room, or scolded by your colleagues because, "Health care is not an environmental issue."

...Some in the environmental community are trying to learn from the failures of the last 25 years and think differently about the problem. Jason Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists told us that he has begun the search for more carrots to the Pavley stick. "We need to negotiate from a position of strength. Now is the time for us to propose incentive policies that make sense. We've been working on tax credits for hybrids. Now we need to come up with tax credits for R&D into reduced emissions, and something to ease the industry's pension and health burdens. No one has yet put a big pension deal on the table for them. None of this has yet been explored."

...The challenge for American environmentalists is not just to get the US to dramatically overhaul its energy strategy but also to help developing countries like China, India, Russia and South Africa do so as well. That means environmental groups will need to advocate policies like technology transfer, ethical trade agreements, and win-win joint ventures. The carbon threat from China and other developing countries drives home the point that a whole series of major policies not traditionally defined as "environmental," from industrial policy to trade policy, will be needed to deal with global warming.

...The marriage between vision, values, and policy has proved elusive for environmentalists. Most environmental leaders, even the most vision-oriented, are struggling to articulate proposals that have coherence. This is a crisis because environmentalism will never be able to muster the strength it needs to deal with the global warming problem as long as it is seen as a "special interest." And it will continue to be seen as a special interest as long as it narrowly identifies the problem as "environmental" and the solutions as technical.

...In early 2003 we joined with the Carol/Trevelyan Strategy Group, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the Common Assets Defense Fund, and the Institute for America's Future to create a proposal for a "New Apollo Project" aimed at freeing the US from oil and creating millions of good new jobs over 10 years. Our strategy was to create something inspiring. Something that would remind people of the American dream: that we are a can-do people capable of achieving great things when we put our minds to it.

...Apollo's focus on big investments into clean energy, transportation and efficiency is part of a hopeful and patriotic story that we are all in this economy together. It allows politicians to inject big ideas into contested political spaces, define the debate, attract allies, and legislate. And it uses big solutions to frame the problem -- not the other way around.

...The New Apollo Project recognizes that we can no longer afford to address the world's problems separately. Most people wake up in the morning trying to reduce what they have to worry about. Environmentalists wake up trying to increase it. We want the public to care about and focus not only on global warming and rainforests but also species extinction, non-native plant invasives, agribusiness, overfishing, mercury, and toxic dumps.

...Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time. We come together only around elections when our candidates run on our issue lists and technical policy solutions. The problem, of course, isn't just that environmentalism has become a special interest. The problem is that all liberal politics have become special interests. And whether or not you agree that Apollo is a step in the right direction, it has, we believed, challenged old ways of thinking about the problem.

...When asked what excites him the most about the movement against global warming, Hal Harvey, too, pointed to economic development. "Let's go for the massive expansion of wind in the Midwest -- make it part of the farm bill and not the energy bill. Let's highlight the jobs and farmers behind it," he said.

...Talking about the millions of jobs that will be created by accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy offers more than a good defense against industry attacks: it's a frame that moves the environmental movement away from apocalyptic global warming scenarios that tend to create feelings of helplessness and isolation among would-be supporters.

...While it's obvious that conservatives control all three branches of government and the terms of most political debates, it's not obvious why. This is because environmentalists and other liberals have convinced themselves that, in politics, "the issues" matter and that the public is with us on categories such as "the environment" and "jobs" and "heath care." What explains how we can simultaneously be "winning on the issues" and losing so badly politically? One explanation is that environmentalists simply can't build coalitions well because of turf battles. Another says that environmentalists just don't have enough money to effectively do battle with polluting industries. Another says that we environmentalists are just too nice. These statements all may be true. What's not clear is whether they are truly causes or rather symptoms of something far deeper.

...Environmental groups have spent the last 40 years defining themselves against conservative values like cost-benefit accounting, smaller government, fewer regulations, and free trade, without ever articulating a coherent morality we can call our own. Most of the intellectuals who staff environmental groups are so repelled by the right's values that we have assiduously avoided examining our own in a serious way. Environmentalists and other liberals tend to see values as a distraction from "the real issues" -- environmental problems like global warming. If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values and start seeing our own values as central to what motivates and guides our politics. Doing so is crucial if we are to build the political momentum -- a sustaining movement -- to pass and implement the legislation that will achieve action on global warming and other issues.

...Environmental funders can take a page from the world of venture capitalists who routinely make and write-off failed investments, all while promoting an environment of vigorous debate over what worked and what didn't. Just as the craziest ideas in a brainstorming session often come just before a breakthrough, some of the business world's most spectacular failures (e.g. Apple's Newton handheld) come just before it's most stunning successes (e.g., the Palm Pilot). It is this mentality that inspired one prominent business strategist to suggest that the motto for CEOs should be, "Reward success and failure equally. Punish only inaction." Pew's Josh Reichert deserves credit for learning from the venture capitalist model. Pew commissions serious research, pays for top legal, public relations and advertising talent, and funds campaigns that achieve results. To no small extent, Reichert shares the credit for the public vigor of grantee Phil Clapp and the National Environmental Trust. But bringing in top talent is pointless if we are unwilling to critically examine the assumptions underneath our strategies.

...Environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be.

...Above all else, we need to take a hard look at the institutions the movement has built over the last 30 years. Are existing environmental institutions up to the task of imagining the post-global warming world? Or do we now need a set of new institutions founded around a more expansive vision and set of values?

...If, for example, environmentalists don't consider the high cost of health care, R&D tax credits, and the overall competitiveness of the American auto industry to be "environmental issues," then who will think creatively about a proposal that works for industry, workers, communities and the environment? If framing proposals around narrow technical solutions is an ingrained habit of the environmental movement, then who will craft proposals framed around vision and values?

...One thing is certain: if we hope to achieve our objectives around global warming and a myriad of intimately related problems then we need to take an urgent step backwards before we can take two steps forward.

Carve out some time today and read the whole thing. Having been suggesting since the 1980's, to a scoffing audience, that the Green movement needs to take some pages from the Corporate Playbook, I confess to feeling just a bit validated by some of the suggestions made.

And the importance of unifying multiple issues under a single umbrella of purpose can't be overstated -- for the environmental movement and for progressives on the whole.

Rarely has the potential for power gains been as rife as it is now. Even long-time conservatives are beginning to appreciate the chinks in the GOP armor, recognizing these flaws for the epistemic problem they are. Progressives have an open door directly in front of them. If we can effect the kind of fundmental change in our approach to comprehensive solutions, we can win back not just Washington, but the entire planet as well.