American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

See His Shadow?


When you get email asking for contributions to Democratic campaigns here and there, pull out your printed copy of this article, remember that the "no" people are the good guys, and tell all others they can go to hell!


This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union address occur on the same day. As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition of events: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication while the other involves a groundhog."

JRB

Monday, January 30, 2006

We Have Met the Enemy and He is us

For those of you who are my age or older you may remember a comic strip called “Pogo.” Pogo was authored by Walt Kelly who was one of the first to use a comic strip to fight the enemies of free speech and open government. During the McCarthy era he had a famous piece in which Pogo was trying to define just what seemed to be wrong with America. Finally he came to the conclusion that, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

I was thinking about Pogo when I read an Associated Press story in our local paper about how the United Sates Army seized Iraqi wives in the hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrendering. In at least one case a secretive task force locked up a young mother of a nursing baby. Until I read this story I could not make sense of the kidnapping of the American journalist Jill Carroll and the demands of the kidnapers that unless all Iraqi women were freed they would kill her. I had no idea that we were resorting to such barbarous tactics to promote freedom in Iraq.

Not unexpectedly, a US command spokesman in Baghdad denied the jailing of women as hostages and claimed that only Iraqis who pose an “imperative threat” are in long-term US-run detention facilities. But, documents released under a court order to meet an ACLU request for information on detention practices reveal that the US has indeed been detaining wives of suspected terrorists as leverage to get them to surrender to US authorities.

It would appear that it is this practice which led the Iraqi militants to kidnap Jill Carroll. By engaging in an illegal and an immoral practice the United States has put in jeopardy the life of a US citizen. This is certainly no way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We are suppose to be the good guys; it turns out we are in the gutter with the rest of the terrorists. Yes, the enemy is us!

David M. Goldberg

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Kingness of Mad George


The theory of "unitary executive" is the unnamed subject of today's excursion. The source is Common-Place, an historical website run by the American Antiquarian Society and the Department of History at Florida State University. This is one of the very best descriptions of the current situation in Washington that you are likely to find.


The Kingness of Mad George by Jeffrey L. Pasley


JRB

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What's in a Word?


There are a lot of people who are commenting on blogsites I read saying that the words "fascism" and "fascist" simply turn the average American completely and irrevocably OFF. I understand. How could it happen here? This is America, for crying out loud! We are not Nazis, even the KKK is not. The worst of us are better than fascists, they all say.

I would not use the word, in all likelihood, if it were not so incredibly clear that the nation is in the thrall of one of those strange events, a mass neurosis, if you will, that converts the essentials of the society from one thing to another without changing the general shape of things.

Katie Couric is no fascist, but she understands two things: money and the mood of our times. First, the money: GE/NBC is paying her a hell of a lot of money to carry their banner. It will, of course, soon become her banner, too. She will forget the little people and what it's really like. Second, she is playing the GE banner to the mood of the people which is that "it cannot possibly be that bad ... can it?" People just do not believe it can happen here. Bush is trying to protect us, they hope and believe with all their hearts, because ... because there does not seem to be an alternative? That's the truth for millions!

Germany of 1930 was poor and wondering where its next meal was coming from. It was experiencing the beginnings of a ruinous inflation. The great depression was already felt severely because of the also ruinous reparations that the French and British extracted at Versailles. Germany was angry and afraid. Here was a high culture with music, religion, arts, letters, science and being treated like ... well, like low class hooligans. Five years later, Hitler was pretty firmly in power and the great lie was taking hold of the imaginations of weary and frightened Germans. They were buying into the idea that Germany could change itself by being aggressive, by standing by the leader, right or wrong.

The two articles offered this morning are not about Germany.

  • Fascism Doesn't Always Roar
  • Dusting Off the Brown Shirt and Jackboots

    JRB

  • Friday, January 27, 2006

    A Different Road

    Sitting around waiting for the Democrats to show some indications of spine in the Senate, to organize a filibuster against the Alito nomination, to reconcile and prioritize the 2008 maybe's with the 2006 realities, is surely frustrating. I liked the email I got several days ago asking me to write to my local newspaper and tell them that the road to the Presidency (in 2008) is paved with today's good deeds and filibusters. I disliked the add from New Republic saying that there is more than Alito at stake. It seems to me that the New Republic is paving the way for more Senators to give way and follow Diane Feinstein and the DLC into the ranks of those voting with the opposition. Sometimes you have to stand up on your hind legs and bellow: Enough is enough!

    But this is not about Diane. It is about the frustrations with the system when it is working so poorly as it seems to be today. It raises the question that Doug Thompson and others are raising out there across the internet. The question is whether our Constitution is fundamentally flawed. It was written, after all, without considering the huge effects that technology, mega-money, corporations, and political parties would have on the Constitution's underlying principle of separation of powers into distinct branches of government and its corollary, the principle of checks and balances? If these mechanisms cannot be brought to bear in time to head off a arrogation of complete power to the Executive, the so-called doctrine of "the unitary executive," then it may take a generation or two for matters to redress themselves. It should be quickly said, though, there is no guarantee that the system will ever self-correct, since the attack this time has been so concerted against the theoretically-opposing branches of government, the freedom of speech and press, and the mechanism of elections. There may not be any skin of our teeth left!

    But, let us say today that Representatives come to their senses and remember their oaths of office, and do initiate articles of impeachment against George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney. Let us say, also for purposes of argument, that one or both are impeached, tried in the Senate, and found unacceptable for continuation in office. And, let's say that there is no military activity to protect the President or Vice President from the consequences of their high crimes, misdemeanors, and treasons, despite probable attempts of Donald Rumsfeld to orchestrate a coup d'etat. What better time, then, to consider a serious revamping of the Constitution to bring it into the modern technological and political reality. Certainly all the issues surrounding the viability of the Constitution will have been aired and re-aired during the impeachment trial. After an impeachment there could scarcely be a person on the planet that did not know the United States of America is in the repair shop.

    I am saying, also, that there is a growing consensus that the country is losing confidence in the system established by the Constitution. This is now, after all, a world where office-holders and candidates will pledge their allegiance more strongly to political party than to the Constitution and where government can have access to the private thoughts and concerns of its citizens at the flick of a switch!

    Could we have a Constitutional Convention in 2007, say, and who would go? It would interesting, for instance, to declare in advance that no more than 5% of the members of each house of Congress could be selected to the Convention— 5 senators and 21 representatives. Certainly the judiciary would be interested, but who? Perhaps one of the Supremes and six more from elsewhere in the federal courts. An exPresident and an exVicePresident in good standing would be good. Then you would have representation from labor, corporations, academe, the scientific world, the technological world, the military, the press, the humanitarians and the medical world, even the arts. Perhaps you would have eleven recently graduated high school seniors from around the country. Perhaps it would be a good idea to include a representative the top five most popular religious sects during some base year like the year 2000. Probably not more than 300 persons all told, one for every million Americans.

    The day-to-day proceedings of the Convention would be secret. Leaks would be punished by expulsion from the proceedings. There probably will be some who would be expelled for one reason or another, and it will have grave consequences both inside and outside the Convention. Perhaps it will be seen as necessary to sequester the group, perhaps in Hawaii, and sequester those who are ejected in Fargo, North Dakota. Deaths or illness resignations would be replaced per constituency. There would be weekly televised statements made by rotating spokespersons. An electronic record of the proceedings would be kept and made public later, probably after any general election regarding the outcomes of the Convention. Monthly, a panel of spokespersons would present a statement and would hear the questions of all of us waiting outside.

    It would be complicated to set up, but no more complicated than sending astronauts to the moon and back. It would be nerve-wracking, because no one would know how the group would respond to this the biggest of questions: How are we to govern the United States of America and its human, intellectual, and material resources?

    It should be obvious that some, the neocons particularly, have already considered this problem. They may have done so recently, but I think they did it about a decade ago, but perhaps a quarter of a century ago. Their conclusion was, of course, that a fair discussion of our government cannot be accomplished in a way that guarantees the prosperity of corporations and themselves. They have taken a different road.

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    Abortion: The Choice I Made


    DISCLAIMER: This is a diary about my own experience with abortion. I would really appreciate it if, after reading it, anyone inclined to shame me or express their "pity" for me ... would kindly fuck off.

    It's been a "hot topic" around these parts of late; a man named Alito has been nominated to the Supreme Court, considered by most as certain to be the "swing vote" that "swings" us all the way back to the days of illegal abortion and a woman's body not being her own.

    When I think about the struggle of women and men to retain reproductive freedom in America and the world, I tend to take it personally.

    As a woman, there's a form you fill out when you visit a new doctor, and included among the health history questions are a series dealing with how many pregnancies you've had and how they... turned out, I guess. I write down "3" for the number of pregnancies:

    One live birth, my darling, adorable son. And one and a half abortions; the first was complete, initiated by me. The second was a partial miscarriage (that's how I mark it on the questionnaire)that the doctors in my home town were legally constrained against finishing because of that town's restrictions against abortion. Technically, you see, it would be considered an abortion until it could be definitively determined whether or not the fetus was still viable.

    After being subjected to an excruciatingly uncomfortable procedure wherein my bladder was filled with water and then an ultrasound was taken to determine the status of the thing inside me that was bleeding out of me in globs and puddles, I was advised to wait it out, go home and see if the miscarriage continued. The best advice they could give me was to "go home and let nature take its course."

    I was forced, while in mid-miscarriage, to ride in the back of my distraught boyfriend's car -- for 400 miles, down south to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the Planned Parenthood clinic where I had the first abortion six years earlier at the age of 19.

    At 19, I was a sophomore at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I was in a horrible relationship with a man who had been a teacher's assistant in one of my classes. We practiced "safe sex" with condoms -- not so much because of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, but precisely because we didn't want to procreate. It didn't take and I got pregnant.

    I was, to say the least, not thrilled. Nor was he. He was adamantly opposed to my having a baby. As it happened, so was I. Still, I called my mother - mostly for the love and support I mistakenly hoped she would give me. My mother raised me as a pro-choice feminist, but had since rejected those beliefs in favour of her recent decision to join the Faith Reformed Christian Church. She proceeded to beg, cajole, berate and castigate me, all of which culminated in her final argument to me: "That's my grandchild you're killing." I will never forget those words. And I will never repeat them to her grandchild.

    Then-Boyfriend (and future ex-husband, I might add) and I made our way to the Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor. First they confirmed what I already knew, with a pregnancy test. Then I received counseling. The woman made very sure that it was my decision, that I hadn't been coerced by my boyfriend or anyone else, that I was aware of the other options. They were not acceptable options to me. I knew I would never be able to have a baby and give it up, and I knew I was in no shape (psychologically, financially, emotionally) to be a mother.

    We were broke. The procedure cost $400. The anesthesia was optional, for another $150. We didn't have it, so I was given a couple Valiums. It was the most physically painful experience I have ever endured (and that includes an extremely complicated and excruciating pregnancy and birth a decade later). The doctor was male; sadly, he was not terribly sympathetic. He scolded me for screaming. He told me it couldn't possibly be as bad as I was saying it was. At one point I felt a pain so sharp that my right leg kicked out and the stirrup flew across the room and hit the wall behind the doctor. The boyfriend, who was with me during the procedure, broke into sobs watching me go through it.

    Afterward, it took me several days to recover physically. Emotionally, I was shaky -- but mostly because it had been a painful and distinctly shameful experience. My mother's words, the doctor's total l;ack of empathy or trust in my responses to the pain, as well as a childhood in Catholic schools all conspired against my better instincts and coaxed me into being ashamed; ashamed of being female, ashamed of being sexual, ashamed of failing to adequately protect against pregnancy, ashamed of choosing an abortion and my "selfish" desire not to be a mother.

    At 19, I had not yet fully come into the raging alcoholism and drug addiction that was to be most of my twenties, but it was already there. I have often imagined what a horrorshow of a mother I would have made, what a devastating life I would have given a child in those nine years it took me to get sober.

    I have never regretted anything about the choice I made, except for the lack of anesthesia -- and maybe not having registered a complaint against the doctor for being a putz.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    Fear, Loathing and Moral Values in America

    It seems that there is a group out there who think that I do not have moral values, am not religious (enough?) and am not fearful enough of my fate, possibly at the hands of terrorists. They are here to tell me, in no uncertain terms, just that. If I do not adhere to their brand of hi-jacked Christianity, support an unjust war (while always supporting our troops) then I am somehow a lesser person, the devil's handmaiden or just plain evil.. I certainly should not ask to speak to God as he will have nothing to do with me. They should know, as apparently, they are on the inside track.They have so far been able to address a whole host of subjects by assuring us that whatever it was that had happened, it was God's Divine Retribution for our sin filled lifestyles, and we should be afraid, very afraid.

    When the WTC came down several of them assured us it was the homosexuals which had caused it! Could it possibly be that there were actually men and women, who had chosen an alternative lifestyle, "hiding" in the building under the guise of normal, everyday people with a job? Now if they had just listened to Falwell or Reid or any of the other far-right, snake handling, religiosos out there, who told them to mend their ways, all that dust and concrete mess and body count could have been avoided. So what I have gathered from their statements, the WTC was just a cover up for a total hotbed of iniquity. A regular Sodom and Gomorrah in the middle of Manhattan. And, we should be afraid!

    There are those who should have known better than to gamble away the rent money in that sleazy place called New Orleans. Divine retribution for being poor? God sent a whopper of a storm dead at them, which should have been enough to teach them a thing or two about being poor and staying in an area with so much evil! Apparently God had just had it with the 9th ward. Everyone else had the good sense to hop in their SUV's and leave for heaven's sake! If you failed to have purchased a gas guzzling SUV, equipped with OnStar, which would have shown you the quickest route out, well then, shame on you. And if you had had the chutzpah to commandeer a school bus to get the hell out, (like the evil doer who actually did!) well, breaking that not stealing commandment would have left you wide open. I tremble when I think of what his punishment will be for saving lives. When God has planned for you to drown you cannot mess around. Ask Jerry, he'll tell you. God is cleaning house and we had better be afraid!

    Those people in Dover, PA. were sure playing fast and loose with the Almighty when they ejected Him from their town. When those level headed people get a bee in their bonnet there is just no stopping them, is there. They had a tough row to hoe there, but Jerry Falwell let them know, in no uncertain terms, what their fate would be. From God's lips to your ear...fear! That's quite a heavy burden to carry, and it must be hard to keep up with the Almighty anyway. So much sin and blasphemy and one does have to keep up with the Prayer Breakfast schedule, Multimedia Sundays and schilling for the Left Behind books. We must be ever conscious of the fear factor statements.

    I have a real problem though, with this brand of morality. Everything that I have heard and seen from the right runs totally contra to what I learned about morality. I do not ever recall God calling on us to spread fear and loathing throughout the land. Screaming His name and threatening others in His name is definitely not the message of love that Jesus taught. Spreading a message of fear and loathing throughout the land, singling out one group, or another, as being morally bankrupt, by their definition of the term, is not anything I can relate to as a caring , moral human being.

    Now this may come as a great shock to many on the right, but one does not have to be of any particular religious persuasion in order to be a moral person. Or, be a religious person in order to know that spreading a message of fear and hate is, well, not a good moral ethic. How can they continually rant against those of us who have created no climate of fear, and yet seek to justify, by using God, to support the most lying, fear mongering, thieving group to ever occupy the White House? Please explain to me where there is Christian compassion in any area of the current administration, particularly in the view of our President who never loses an opportunity to let us know that he has been "saved". A man, when he sees no other recourse, finds it politically expedient to play the fear and loathing card.

    We both, left and right, have agendas. The right, in supporting this President and his cohorts, for the last 5 years, have been dedicated to keeping up an element of fear, which many have bought into. A fear that has some of my countrymen denigrating the existence of other human beings. A fear that reduces rational thinking to blind obedience. A fear that has cost the lives of so many of our young people. A fear which has reduced the lives of women and children to "unfortunate" casualties. A loathing which has taken my country and made it a feared and un-welcoming place. We, on the left, cannot and do not support this cocoon of fear. We are working and will continue to work against this fear and loathing. To try and make those who have been blinded by it to see that there are other ways to deal with the issues. We need not be governed by fear.

    It was to escape fear and loathing that brought the Pilgrims to these shores. It was to escape the fear and loathing of the British government that led 56 men to risk everything they had by declaring us free of that government. It was not fear which led them forward, but rather a fierce moral certitude which co-authored, with them, a Declaration of Independence. They knew at what great peril they moved ahead, in their resolve. I think that we are moving ahead in our resolve to take our country back. And, to this end, we should wrap the words of those 56 men around us like a cloak ... "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

    In the light of those words, and knowing those men would have faced certain death, for treasonous acts against their government, should things not have gone the way that they did, why on earth should we not do everything in our power to eradicate this climate of fear and loathing in America?

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    A Liberal Moral Creed

    Forever roaming with a hungry heart we stumbled across yet another good liberal website the other day. Drilling into its archives one of us found this remarkable list.


    A Liberal Moral Creed


  • I believe people are more important than things
  • I believe all of our children should have access to a high quality education
  • I believe we should respect those who are different than ourselves and treat them with dignity
  • I believe everyone should be treated equally under the law
  • I believe the most vulnerable among us should be protected
  • I believe that while war may regrettably be necessary it should only be undertaken after all other solutions have been exhausted
  • I believe encouraging diverse viewpoints makes us stronger
  • I believe society should be responsible for endeavors, that support the common good and are beyond the scope of individuals
  • I believe it is my duty to pay for the costs of services government provides
  • I believe it is wrong to dictate the beliefs of others
  • I believe that none of us should be forced to live in poverty
  • I believe everyone should have enough to eat
  • I believe everyone should have a place to live
  • I believe everyone should have access to quality healthcare
  • I believe all religious traditions deserve respect
  • I believe that those who claim to speak for God have not been listening carefully to the words of God
  • I believe that "moral" positions which promote hate are actually immoral
  • I believe I am responsible for my own behavior and the consequences of that behavior
  • I believe t hat policy decisions should be based on facts and science
  • I believe we should try to eradicate the root causes of crime
  • I believe criminal justice should never be cruel
  • I believe it is wrong to take advantage of others
  • I believe we must resist the temptation of majorities to tyrannize minorities


    By Rodger Raino and published in www.trueblueliberal.com.


    JRB

  • Monday, January 23, 2006

    Alternative TV

    I have the good fortune to receive via my cable provider two channels which are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise putrid environment of distorted and mindless news via the major networks and even, sad to say, PBS: Free Speech TV and Link TV. If you are fortunate enough to receive both or even one of these channels you know what I mean; if you don’t, I‘ll try to give you some examples of the type of programming you are missing.

    At a take back America conference, Free Speech TV covered a speech given by Bill Moyers in which he outlined in some detail what is so very wrong with this administration, how the media fails to do its job, and the effect on ordinary Americans the administration’s policies have had. It was an amazing speech given by a man who truly embodies the real spirit of America. Did you see any coverage of his speech or even of the Take Back America Conference on your commercial or public channels?

    Both Link and Free Speech have Democracy Now that wonderful hour- long news program with Amy Goodman. A typical day on Free Speech TV would include a program on the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, coverage on the violence against immigrants, imprisonment without trial of Muslims, the US and Canadian involvement in the ouster of Aristide in Haiti.

    Neither of these channels have the slick production one would find on commercial or public broadcasting. But, what they lack in style is more than made up in substance. Whether you call your self a progressive or are just a concerned citizen you owe it to yourself to view these channels. If you do you will begin to understand how the bought and paid for commercial media has abrogated their responsibility to provide us with news and in depth analysis; not the fluff and crap that passes for news today. If you currently cannot get these channels then I urge you to petition your cable or satellite provider to get them.

    David Goldberg

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Pirated Ship of State

    All Hands on Deck! Our Ship of State has been pirated and attempts are being made to sail us into unconstitutional waters!

    While we have worked below deck to keep this vessel afloat and been focused on our families and daily doings, there has been mischief afoot in the Captain's quarters.

    Our President has never vetoed a single piece of legislation from Congress, something seen as amazing until one hears about the 'Signing Statements."

    Apparently when President Bush has signed legislation into law, he has scribble himself little notes declaring his independence from legislation he doesn't like. These are called "Signing Statements" and in reality are as vaporous as a 'wish list'. From 2001 through 2004 he has written 107 of these raising 505 constitutional challenges. He and his administration are implying that the President has Constitutional Power to pick and choose what laws they will abide by. They imply that this supercedes the actual law that everyone had agreed to. Some of these Signing Statements are actually secret with the President giving himself powers that we aren't even allowed to know about, they're so secret.

    One of the President's recent signing statements was in response to the McCain Act which reaffirmed our law that Torture is not acceptable and illegal. Ninety percent of the Congress approved this being attached to the budget for the President to sign. A line in the sand had been drawn. Our boundaries of law do not allow torture. There was a great hoopla when this law was approved by so many in Congress. Many of us had a rising hope that they were paying attention. After resisting the amendment and trying to get members to vote against it, President Bush told Senator McCain that he was going to drop opposition to the amendment and signed it among much hoopla.

    Then he penned himself a note. In essence, he proclaimed himself free from the anti-torture legislation in the pursuit of the War on Terror. Under the guise of "protecting Americans," he wrote himself a permission slip to break the law. Torture would proceed on those the President deemed a threat to security and he would do so in secret.

    It is important to note here that terrorism activities have been expanded to include any one or group from seeking to undermine governmental policies using force. Of course given the preemptive philosophy this administration has adopted, the government can target activist groups as potential terrorists when they have shown no evidence of intention to use force. Perhaps you read of the Pentagon spying upon an activist group meeting in a Quaker meetinghouse.

    Now it appears that he has given himself the authority, with no oversight, to turn the powerful information gathering technology of the N.S.A on the American public. This was a secret. After this was leaked to the New York Times, which held back from publishing it for a year as requested by the Administration, Bush admitted to authorizing it over 30 times since 2001.

    He admitted to actions which were outside of the law which requires him to get a warrant from the FISA court which is supposed to act as a check against extreme executive activity. The fourth amendment states that citizens shall be free from searches and seizures except with a warrant from a judge to whom evidence of wrongdoing was presented. The FISA court safeguards that right.

    His reason for jumping the fence of law? To 'protect' the American People from terrorists. The 'terrorists' who threaten our freedoms and liberties?
    Does Osama have the power to allow spying on us? Soon a wave of protest erupted around the nation from all groups across political and ideological lines. This, surely, was going too far. Osama bin Laden put in a timely appearance to remind us he was still out there and has more terrorist attacks for us, a threat the Administration has used to prop up their argument of danger from terrorism.

    President Bush must not be allowed to continue to write his own laws. If he does, the balance of powers and checks and balances will collapse. The power of Congress, the voice of the People, will be, as you can see, the first to go.

    It is the law that Congress hold hearings to investigate executive actions which have moved outside of the law and the Constitutional balance of powers. They must defend that institution against the undermining and usurpation of their power. Congress writes the law and the President must act within it.

    It must be remembered that the President is an employee of the people. He is answerable to us for his conduct. If he has failed to preserve and uphold the Constitution as he promised in his oath, he has violated his oath and must be removed. If he has committed crimes, he must be brought before a court. He must come before Congress under oath. This is not a time for deference. You can never defer enough to someone who is already gaining unfair advantage by breaking laws.

    Beyond writing our Congresspeople and becoming active to prevent this, we can use our imagination to create the outcome we desire. Thoughts are the blueprint matter clings to. Do not use your thoughts to fear the worst, instead direct them towards outcomes that are just, healthy and wise.

    Demand that the rule of law restored and made stronger. Make Congress take up the challenge and defend our system of laws.

    Sue Dyer, Occasional Bloggist

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    So Long, Hillary! Good Riddance!

    Every once in a while there comes a columnist who absolutely nails it. Those of us who have been chafing under the somnolence and cowardice of the House and Senate Democrats in recent weeks, including Diane Feinstein of California when she rolled over—soft white thighs akimbo—for Alito, will take heart that the strong voice of Molly Ivins will be heard echoing down the corridors on the Hill for quite a while.


    Hillary's "Iowa yell" took place Monday in Harlem. The gallery has been waiting for this and she will not soon forget how easy it is to find that banana peel.


    JRB

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Are They Really Fascists?

    As I read through the daily opinion and colorful ranting about impeachment and America becoming a dictatorship and a fascist police state, the thought that always goes through my mind is, yes, there are parallels, but how could it be? Even if I believe what I am reading—and I mostly do—what possibly could be the motivation of Bush & Co.? What are they really after that they would deliberately destroy 220 years of democracy? Aren't the alarmists overstating their fears? Isn't this scare-mongering just "politics as usual" with sour grapes added because of losing two elections in a row?

    First and above all you have to distinguish who "they" are. They are Republicans, but not all Republicans. They are the radical right, not the traditional GOP conservative, William Allen White variety of Republicans. Also they are not, generally, single-issue Republicans like the Anti-Choice group, nor are they the people who strongly believe in separation of church and state. The radicals are often called "neocons," but they are not the only element that makes up "they." They are also former Dixiecrats whose racism is worn in white sheets with pointy hoods ... and their friends in and outside of Dixie. They are jingo nationalists. They are misogynists. They are homophobes. They are, as George Lakoff says, believers that children are born bad and must be whipped into shape to be acceptable adults.

    First I think we need to consider what they are after. On the negative side, the things they are trying to eliminate are Liberals. These neocons literally bear a totally unChristian hatred for Liberals and Liberalism. For some like Limbaugh and Colter and Cheney, it's a purple passion. They see Liberals as traitors to the human race, to the white race. They see Liberalism as a form of treason because Liberals understand socialists and share some ideals. Liberalism is "Red Scare" stuff for the right—godless communism in sheep's clothing.

    They also think Liberals are pantywaist crybabies who would sell their sisters for virtually any program of social or economic justice for down-trodden people. They don't see down-trodden; they see lazy, stupid, inept, cowardly, unmotivated, inferior people. They see humanity as part of the animal world where survival of the fittest is not a theory, it's fact. Fair play and consideration for the points of view of others is a airy-fairy fantasy idea in this "natural world" system, red in tooth and claw.

    To start out with, then, Bush and, particularly Cheney, in this new group of neocon radicals believe their idea about life and government is so much better and realistic than the obviously false and criminally defective views of Liberals that they do not have to be fair with Liberals. They only have to eliminate them or go around or over them wherever they are. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and thousands like them believe that it is not their job to carry anyone along in life, and that the country should not be asked to do that either. This notion strikes a very telling resonance within the rest of the Republican Party.

    The Republicans, after all, are the party that most closely subscribes to the notion of "social Darwinism," the idea that those who find themselves at the economic and social top of society are the fittest, and that the less-fit, defective, inferior people settle to the bottom—even children ... in both cases. Most of the normal Republicans take this view so automatically that they do not see the fierce hatred practiced by the radicals in their midst against the less fortunate. They see it as good ol' "politics as usual." They know the radicals as strong-willed and noisey people, but there has always been this kind, hasn't there? And, anyway, isn't there a germ of truth in what they say? And, too, it's much better "to go along to get along," isn't it?

    Also on the "negative" side, the side of things that the neocons are against, is pure democracy. The political right all believe that the problem with pure democracy is that the lazy, stupid, defective, inferior people will vote themselves a free-lunch using the national credit card. Many Republicans are so incensed by the implications of this theory that they refuse to call the United States a democracy at all and, instead, use the term "republic." At least this terminology gives them a moment of peace until people realize that a republic is defined as a "representative democracy." So, Republicans will take "representative" as long as the people being represented are not the inferior ones.

    But what are these radical rightwingers actually in favor of; what are they FOR? First, they are in favor of any system that tells them their presuppositions are correct. After all, who would want a government that from time to time told you you are all wet and need re-education? They require constant reinforcement of their believe system and find it frequently in church and from rightwing pundits and columnists.

    They want a system that provides opportunity to everyone with the ability to recognize a profit opportunity and work within the business system for it. Somehow they presume that inferior and defective people do not want opportunity and would not know what to do about it, if they did.

    They want a system where business is the business of the country and where it is respected for the good it does, namely, create jobs, create wealth, create products and services, and where the environmental disturbance and human costs are ignored. Highest on the food chain and totem pole is the corporation, with the multinational corporation being the very top elite. The reason is, of course, that corporations are "people" with civil rights too, and are in fact the meta-citizens of our country. Corporations are the essential engines of progress, they say. Corporations can be invested in and fortunes made when corporations are very successful. It is a complete package, a closed universe.

    The right wing believes in genetic breeding and wants to accumulate wealth in the hands of the families of their kind so that their sons and (sometimes) the daughters have a head-start on taking up life's opportunities, thus insuring (as much as these things can be predicted, of course) that high productivity and wealth accumulation will continue, genetically, thus (of course) providing lots of jobs for those who are not as "enterprising."

    The right believes that as people come to understand that government is for the nurture of the productive class of people that government programs and baseline government services—like national defense, national science, national health care, the national budget in factetc.—all should be designed to feed directly back into the constituency, namely, the corporations which in turn nurture the superior class.

    Accordingly, the right believes that in a relatively short time the government should be dominated by people who, coming from the superior class, see eye-to-eye on the purpose of government and the things it should avoid—like supporting people, who have been disadvantaged by government and corporate and other policies and opinions or other circumstances beyond their control. Such a government is not to be feared, they say; it is the government of the best, for the best, defined and carried out by the best.

    Well, what about terrorism and national defense? Two things: first, the Republicans are very much afraid there will be another terrorist event in America on their watch. They are paranoid about it, in fact, and have believed almost all of their own rhetoric on the subject. Like sports teams they have psyched themselves up on fear and made a habit of it. Second, everything they do in terms of anti-terrorism feeds either to the corporations or to the party apparatus. Contracts to Halliburton, contracts to anti-influenza drug manufacturers, and illegal electronic intelligence goes straight through to the politicos in the Executive and then to the Party. Bin Laden's latest announcement will surely play to their illegal surveillance of domestic Americans.

    Well, is this fascism? Yes; pure and simple, yes. It is a system built on intolerance of other ideas. It is a system of belief in "superior" "self-made" people who we all know are no more self-made than all of us who stand on the shoulders (or heads) of those who precede, those who teach, those who nurture, families, neighborhoods, and nations. It is a system of systematic greed and hubris not unrelated to the avarice and dogmatism of the "predestined elect." It survives on the premise that man is an animal for whom honor, care, ethical behavior, a belief in equality before the law are irrelevant window trimmings and facetious slogans of a by-gone year, spoken now and again to deceive the guileless defectives and inferiors in society. It is a system staked out on the notion of a master class and an under class. It is a system of systemic tyranny and oppression. It starts out with "innocent-looking" premises, but in its full flower and gradiosity is a negation of the human spirit and the tradition of enlightenment upon which this country was founded. It is from start to finish an abomination! And yes, it is fascism!

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Love is the Answer



    Maryscott O'Connor here. First post to American Liberalism Project, damned glad to be here.

    Okay, I’m going to skip the niceties and biographical overview and just get to the topic du my jour.

    My husband works in the film and television industry; he’s one of those “little people” they thank at awards shows if it can be jammed in after the usual obsequies to agents and lawyers and other people who can get the awardee future work.

    We saw Brokeback Mountain a couple weeks ago; loved it, natch. I bought the soundtrack on iTunes and have been obsessively playing (on incessant Repeat) one particularly evocative piece. The score was written by Gustavo Santaolalla; this particular song is called The Wings, and is almost instantly recognisable to anyone who hears it as being from the film.

    Adam said, in an offhand manner, on hearing it when he walked into the house yesterday, “You should hear the guys at work rag all over this movie.”

    I shouldn’t have, but I did it. I asked.

    “Why? Have they SEEN it? Do they think it’s a Bad Film?”

    “Are you kidding me? They’d never SEE it. It threatens their sense of their own masculinity. Of course it’s not about whether or not it’s a good film.”

    Well, you can imagine, perhaps, my indignation. Perhaps not. I spend a lot of time in the blogosphere, and I’ve run into a terrifying and depressing number of so-called liberals” who have expressed… squeamishness… at the thought of even SEEING the film. One in particular spent a good deal of time and energy trying to convince his audience that he wasn’t homophobic, but that it was perfectly reasonable, in his estimation, to excuse him for not wanting to see it – because he’s “just not into guys kissing and having sex.”

    Well. Probably for the same reason Adam hasn’t pressed the issue at work, I backed off the conversation at that point. The fact is, there’s exactly ONE sex scene in the film, and it involves more suggestion that actual skin and motion. Kissing? Hell, I know they MUST have kissed onscreen, but I can’t remember it.

    That’s hardly the point – even if there HAD been sex and kissing scenes, it’s rather nauseating to consider that there are people out there in the world who are so stultifyingly unimaginative and outright ignorant that they cannot see past the homosexuality depicted onscreen to the overwhelmingly obvious theme of doomed true love. That it happens to be between two men is ALMOST incidental to the genre or archetype. Once upon a time, the doomed lovers were Romeo and Juliet, and their ill-fated love was proscribed because of a feud between families – personal politics, I guess you could call it. Tristan and Isolde, the newest cinematic version of which I just happen to have seen recently in my capacity as an online film critic, depicts yet another kind of doomed love – doomed by perverted concepts of honour and loyalty.

    What we have in Brokeback Mountain is simply the most recent and, yes, most progressive version of the Star Crossed Lovers genre. This isn’t about WHY their love is doomed… it’s about the fact that it IS doomed, and that it OUGHTN’T be doomed, damn it.

    Fear and ignorance are the breeding ground of hatred. The ignorant fear the unknown and hate it for that reason only – though they themselves may not know it to be the reason for their hatred.

    Which is why I am so profoundly depressed by the fact that so many people who are the VERY people who OUGHT to see this movie… will stay away because of their ignorance and fear. It’s a terrible struggle, this war between fear and love. I don’t know why some people seem to be born with an innate ability to eschew fear and embrace love, and others quite the opposite. But it’s clearly a human epidemic. Even those who call themselves “liberal” can awake from a slumber of denial to find they, too, suffer from ignorance and fear, and have allowed it to colour their worldview, however subtly.

    These are our choices: love, or fear. There is nothing else. We can love one another, and enact laws and programs that feed, clothe, house and employ each other – or we can live in fear, and enact laws that restrict behaviour that ought never be anyone’s business but the individual’s. We can love one another, and stand up for each other – or we can fear that which we do not understand about each other, and cower behind the familiar, the supposedly safe… and miss out on so much of what it is that makes life as a human being on this planet worth living.

    It’s about love, people. And that’s coming from a confirmed curmudgeon. So, if by some strange chance you’re one of those people who’s been avoiding Brokeback Mountain because of the subject matter, because of what you fear (or find “distasteful,” which is just another ignorant version of fear) -- get the hell off your ass and go see the movie. If only so you can see for yourself that I’m right and they’re wrong. Sure, you might not enjoy it as a cinematic experience – there’s no accounting for taste. But at the very least, you will have opened yourself up to an experience that, once having been had, turned out not to be scary or ugly or uncomfortable at all.

    All you need is love.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    (Special Notice)

    Maryscott O'Connor is joining us tomorrow, Thursday, with her first essay for the American Liberalism Project. She is by no means a novice, though. Her own website
    My Left Wing is an important opinion site originating in the Los Angeles region. Maryscott's contributions here should bring some good Left Coast flavor to our offerings.

    Latecomers: Do not miss Susan Goodwin's Wednesday Blog. It's right on!

    Optimism/Pessimism

    I had always considered myself an optimist. My motto had always been, "this too shall pass" (it always seemed to), seeing the good in just about anything. I am a pretty happy person, certainly not an Ambien candidate. I am glad to be an American, proud of my country, her accomplishments and her place in the world. Then I was presented with a new President.

    As I have said before, he was the newly elected (appointed) head of my country, and even though he had not been my choice, I would support him as the head of my government. Knowing that in another 4 years I would have an opportunity to perhaps make him go away was enough to keep my optimism afloat.

    Then terror struck. The horror of 9/11 bit deep into the souls of us all. Bush, amidst the rubble with his bullhorn, was the reassuring father and we all fell into lock step behind him. We would allow him to do whatever it took to get the perpetrators of this heinous act. Little did we know at the time that the sly fox knew this and played on it. The P.T. Barnum mode had become operational and the moment the Twin Towers collapsed all we suckers were born.

    Unless one lives in a tribal society, where warfare is the norm and any day may find you with a new leader, the usurping of power takes time. Of course we were eager to go after the architect of the WTC attack, we were still reeling from the aftereffects of it, but in our blood lust, naivete and fear we were blinded to what we were about to give up. And slowly, slowly, the "neocons" started undermining our laws and trying desperately to dismantle our Constitution.

    We watched as the world cried for us and with us. We had tears in our eyes as our legislators stood on the steps of the Capital and sang God Bless America. We were the United States of America. A cry of "do whatever it takes to get them" was almost palpable. The administration heard all this and they smiled.

    Somewhere along the way the Congress voted on money to wage a war, but they were never formally asked to declare a war. Ooops! Oh well, nothing major, the devil is in the details, we were on a mission! How were we to know there was a mission within a mission? No one, no one thought to err on the side of caution. But, I was still optimistic!

    Created for us was the office of Homeland Security with a four bar color code to help us assess the terrorist threat. It was used so much for awhile that the colors threatened to fade. This also was a set up, designed to scare the bejeezus out of us when it hit orange, (pretty darned high!) and make us more reliant on those at Homeland Security when they told us they were on top of everything. After all, nothing happened did it? Yes, we said, you are so vigilant in your protection! (Not to worry about our unprotected ports, chemical plants or railroads). And, weren't we happy when they managed to gather up all those "suspected" terrorists and whisked them out of the country? Darn tootin' we were! Saved us from constantly looking over our shoulders. (Guantanamo thy name is gulag!) Pessimism is starting to nip at my heels.

    Now we were told we were in even more danger from that dastardly, desert dwelling, devil, Saddam Hussein, who (we were told) had actually be in league with that fiend Bin Laden, and we just had get him before he launched a suicide bombing camel in our direction. No anthrax infested camel materialized so Homeland Security sure was on the ball, and we swarmed into Iraq, determined to get the Butcher of Baghdad because he was such a maniacal, Kurd gassing, murderous thug who, amongst all his other sins, had tried to kill our President's daddy! I am now trying to shake off the ever growing feeling of pessimism, but, it was getting harder.

    Finally, as the body count grew, the directives from the White House became more bizarre, our President and his administration, were more cloaked in secrecy, less open to us, and my optimism's toes touched bottom and full blown pessimism landed with a very hard thwap!

    Could things get any worse? Yes, indeed they could, and they did. This man who had managed to take my country from the highest levels of prestige and honor to the depths of depravity, was re-elected to office. My pessimism was now absolutely full blown, and there seemed to be no hope for recovery for my beloved country. Even the media, which for all intents and purposes seemed to be protecting this mental midget from his detractors, was not putting much into print. My middle name was now pessimism.

    Suddenly, on the horizon, the sails of scandal hove into view and just as rats desert a sinking ship, members of the administration, and those in the halls of power were in the spotlight. Some who had cried the loudest of patriotism, those quickest to denounce those of us of who were of a different mind set, were being shown to be nothing more than the crooks and opportunists they truly were. There was hope yet! My optimism started to sprout once again.

    As much as some dismiss the parallels of the rise of the Third Reich and this administration, if one is a student of history, those parallels are very real. Were one to take a closer look, and this administration was allowed to travel on their course, we would almost certainly see the courts and the laws being dismantled as they were in 1930's Germany, that slow usurption of power that I mentioned earlier.

    Why has it taken so long for so many to see what has been happening? Have we become so complacent and apathetic as a nation that we feel we do not have to be vigilant in protecting what is ours? We must turn the tide. We must push for impeachment! Surely, if any president or law maker has been guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, George W. Bush and his compatriots have.

    For our President, the man who swore an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, to refer to it as a g**damned piece of paper is not worthy of leading this country.
    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Courage and the Big Picture


    A pair of essays on what it has meant and what it will mean to be for social and economic justice and political change.

  • What King Really Dreamed by Rich Benjamin and Jamie Carmichael, The Boston Globe.
  • Sedition, Subversion, Sabotage by Wm. T. Hathaway.


    JRB

  • Monday, January 16, 2006

    A Retired Intelligence Analyst Looks at Bush and FISA

    In my over twenty years in the intelligence world, with CIA, DIA and the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center, I was constantly reminded of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and it’s clear prohibition against spying on United States’ Citizens. Every year we were required to attend refresher classes on the Act and the language which spelled out what the Intelligence Community’s role was in gathering intelligence on foreign but not domestic targets. The prohibition against spying on domestic targets was absolute; there were no exceptions for any reason and it applied to all levels of government. Moreover if someone in authority ordered you to violate FISA and to spy on a US citizen you were required under FISA to report this illegal order and refuse to obey it. If you acquiesced to this request you were just as guilty as the party who gave the order.

    Each year we were required to examine all files we held including electronic data base material, to be sure we held no information of US citizens. If any information on US citizens had inadvertently been collected we were required to report what was in the file how we had obtained, it and to purge it immediately. Any violation of FISA, even an inadvertent one, was treated as a very serious matter and would trigger an investigation by security personnel. It could lead to at the very least a notation in your personnel file and at the very worst your dismissal.

    Given my experience, I believe George Bush has deliberately violated FISA by his ordering The National Security Agency to spy against US citizens with out first obtaining a court order. There is nothing in FISA which permits the President to order this action without a court order and his failure to do so is grounds for impeachment. Those senior officials at NSA are also in violation of FISA and should be removed immediately. I call on those of you who read this to call your congressional representative and demand an immediate investigation be undertaken to ascertain if George Bush should be impeached. If we are, as we claim to be, a nation of laws then we must show that this is not simply rhetoric and act. No one, no matter how lofty their position, is above the law.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Corporations


    One of our favorite themes here is the problem of corporate power in a democracy. There could be oligarchy or plutocracy without corporations, but corporations make it so much easier. Fascism probably would be impossible without the public's general fascination with the idea that corporations provide jobs and consumer products and services at costs consistent (given mass credit) with wages.


    We think you will enjoy this piece on sociopathic corporations.


    JRB

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Dream World


    Saturday morning! The winter weather impinges only slightly on the warm glow of the computer screen. Breakfast is done and the day is about to crank out its chores and errands and later, perhaps, some entertainment. Life is good, even if politics is going grotty right before your eyes.


    The problem with criticizing George Bush and his arrogance is that he does not care what you think. He is going to play this charade of a Presidency right up to ... and perhaps beyond ... the place where most of us fear to tread. George may or may not think he is right to prosecute this strange war in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan) (and perhaps in Iran in a few weeks). He may think himself righteous in accreting power to himself (and his Office) under the guise of being a wartime President, which he pronounces "Commander-in-Chief." It does not matter whether he believes it or not. He is also Cheney and Rumsfeld, and what one lacks in acumen or common sense or courage the others seem to have. They don't give a damn for the Constitution or anyone who does. Keep that in mind as you read the first of today's articles.


  • The Rule of Law
  • Sue Diebold
  • Seizing Absolute Control
  • Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman


    JRB

  • Friday, January 13, 2006

    Political Resolve

    Last week we discussed the problem of political courage. We showed how even retiring and bashful people could participate by making simple telephone calls to their elected Representatives. I am certain that no one (or very few) actually did call their Representative, but eventually some will, just to call my bluff, and there will be born at that moment a spark of hope for our form of government and the kind of society that supports it.

    Since that essay hit the internet there have been calls for people to get into the streets wherever they are and protest the nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, and even more broadly to notice that the Bush Administration is ever bent on ignoring the Rule of Law and destroying the Constitution.

    It must all seem like a blooming, buzzing confusion to people who find it difficult enough just to keep abreast of the news ... most of us, in other words. Normal life is tough these days and the incessant chatter of opinion begins to wear. After all, what politicians and pundits and essayists all do is try to convince you about a point of view to take. But, eventually we learn that all views are from some point, even mistaken and uncritical views, even highly developed views like you hear in college.

    Remarkable scientific news on Tuesday appeared in my local paper about "mirror neurons" in the brains of every one of us, a subject that might be appropriate to mention here in this context. Followers of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, especially, will feel vindicated and will be talking about Categorical Imperatives loudly from now on.


    See: PBS Nova and V.S.Ramachandran'sMirror Neurons.


    You have to read into this subject because, as one of the authors says, this discovery will be as important to psychology as the discovery of DNA has been to biology. At last, in other words, there is a physical reason for behavior. The interesting thing is that we have known about it forever and called it "Monkey see, monkey do."

    We learn by copying (aping) what we see happening around us. Interestingly though, our brains flash through the neural circuits kindled by experience whether we actually do what we see or not. So the expression should be "monkey see, monkey think of doing." So, for instance, a monkey seeing a laboratory technician coming back from lunch eating an ice cream cone experiences the same flash of neurons as when the monkey himself eats a banana.

    The implications of there actually being neurons whose job it is to form mimicry circuits are huge. As I suggested above, the concept undergirding Kant's "Categorical Imperative"

    Act as if what you do will serve as a model for the actions of others

    is now vindicated, as is the Golden Rule. We should continue, and indeed accelerate our endless worries about children being raised in abusive homes and watching endless violence on television.

    But, mirroring behavior is not a spell cast over us that we cannot control. We decide to practice our golf shots, go to the range, and hit a bucket of balls. We decide to practice our pilotes, put on the videotape, get on the floor and exercise our hearts and sinews. We decide to join a dance group so that we can practice our cha-cha or ballroom dancing. We join a political club to challenge our brains with the points of view of people who have an interest in the same kinds of outcomes.

    We sit down and read blogs about Liberalism to keep in touch with ideas about the points of view of people who share that Liberal concern for social, economic, and political values. We take their advice about how to be Liberal and how to be in a world where everyone is not Liberal.

    Then, along comes a threat—a guy named Bush—who, according to those who spend all or most of their time watching politicians and their agendas, is systemmatically acquiring powers in the Executive that are potentially and realistically destructive of our way of government and way of life. What do we do? What behaviors in situations like this do we automatically begin. What is our "monkey" response to someone eating OUR banana? (... or cheese?)

    Our response typically is to cower behind our understandable ignorance of events and to be quiet, lest the ravenous intruder decides to eat us in addition to our banana and cheese. We learned all of this in elementary school and nursury school before that. By the time we were in fourth grade we knew how to stay out of fights, and our parents praised us for it. We were good kids when we came home for supper without black eyes, bruised cheeks, and bloody noses. We are, whether we know it or not, trouble avoiders. Even the kids who spend every waking moment playing violent computer games are avoiding confrontations with real life outside their homes.

    But, there are bullies!

    So, if you called your Representative last week and told him that you would call again to speak about impeachment, didn't you wonder what on earth you were going to say, if you every got up the courage to make the call? Weren't you a little nervous? You should have been nervous. In fact, you should understand the call you ARE going to make as not imposing your opinion on your Representative's political assistant, but instead as you modeling a behavior (it is: "calling your Representative") to the Representative. They are going to see you as one of many, because that is the way they think. If one calls, how many of a like mind have lost the courage to call? Answer: Many!

    You have the phone number, you have a friend there who answers the phone, call.

    "Hello, this is (yourname). I called last week about Representative 'Smith's' availability in the district. Hi! Good to talk to you, too! Today, I would like to talk with someone about ... (half-second pause) ... impeachment."

    The person who answered the phone (perhaps your "friend") will maybe recognize you and in any case will forward your call to someone, or will say that no one is available at the moment because of committee meetings, and that someone will call you back.

    In either case, when you finally do get to talk to one of your Representative's assistants, they will not be sure what you want to talk about, so you will say this:

    "Yes, I called last week because I am very interested in the possibility of there being an impeachment of President Bush. I am worried that President Bush has gone way beyond his Constitutional authority. I think the matter is very serious and I want to know what Representative 'Smith' thinks."

    There! You have mirrored exactly what the person hopes and expects, a worried constituent with a real and serious question. You have opened the question, not closed it. You have given the person and the Representative the respect you needed to, after all, they have opinions too and they are sitting right there in Washington.

    Listen. Listen carefully to what the person has to say. Listen especially for anything that sounds like a question being asked of you. If you do not hear anything like a question, thank the person, and end the call as comfortably as you can. If you do hear a question aimed your way, say that you are not sure, but would like to think about it and call back. Or, if you are feeling your confidence (mirrored from successes you have had in team sports or social interactions in high school or at your job) tell them what YOU think. At this point it is important to not just agree with the person, but to stand on your own hind legs and say what you think, briefly, respectfully, and in your own words. And, you can always add, that you are going to think more about it and maybe call again.

    There! It is done. You have opened a dialogue, a neural circuit between you in the district and your Representative in Washington. You have raised the bar; you have participated in public responsibility. You have done a political act, and you feel better about things than you did five minutes earlier.

    Here are some things we did not ask you to say. They are nevertheless true and real. It is not up to individual Representatives in the House to make the decision whether Bush is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors or treason. It is the job of the whole House only to decide whether there is a prima facie case. To make this easy for you, consider whether you would send a child to the principal's office for pulling pigtails if (a) there were an explicit rule saying that pigtail pulling is illegal, and (b) the child stood there in front of you and admitted pulling pigtails.

    The answer is clear; either you believe in upholding the law of the school or you do not. Since your Representative has taken an oath to defend the Constitution, he must believe in the rule of law. How then can he or she possibly NOT vote articles of impeachment and send the case over to the Senate for deliberation?! He has seen a crime and heard an admission of it!

    If you got the impression that your Representative is thinking about whether there is any evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor, you will have to write him a letter explaining the mirror situation of the pigtail pulling bully. The evidence is in his lap, he needs only the courage to follow his convictions. But he must! He is officially sworn before his God and his sacred honor to do so!

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Alito Hearings


    I awoke to a red-state newspaper in a blue-county and city calling the Alito hearings "bickering" and the deportment of leading Democrats "preening" and "self-absorbed." They singled out Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del), of course, because this man is the very epitome of political posturing, discharisma, and situational myopia. But be that as it may, the situation is far more serious than the Democratic leaders seem to be letting on, even with strong questioning sending the wife of Mr. Alito to the lobby to finish her weeping.


    The Ostroy Report has three good and short blogs on this subject. We recommend them.


    JRB

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Once Upon A Time...

    Once upon a time a boy was born. Descended from Puritan stock, he was the eldest child of a war veteran and his wife, an intelligent woman with a strong religious bent. When the boy was still quite young his father took up a new occupation, the family moved and settled into a new life.

    Although a healthy child and quite robust he seemed not able to adhere to any sort of regimen as regards work, and after entering college and receiving a degree, he set out to make his mark. Several occupations had him for a brief period of time, but none hung on. Finally, he and three friends, pooled their resources and bought a business, an enterprise which finally generated some decent income for him. He developed a relationship with a local woman and they married, however, other liaisons continued.

    About this time he caught the eye of a political manipulator and lobbyist. His charisma, and some grooming by the lobbyist, and we was elected to state public office. His blossoming political career might have been over before it started as he was not particularly adept at politics, however, he was seen as a conservative uniter, and that, coupled with some smear tactics by some of his followers, he won election handily.

    Strictly innocuous as a legislator, his handler, the ever present manipulator saw potential and scoured the countryside, drumming up support for a candidate he felt would handily win election because of rifts in the opposition, and indeed, within their own party. Although he swept the election with electoral votes, it was not a positive victory but more a negative one, as it was seen as a repudiation of the previous administration.

    His cabinet posts were filled with those who had groomed him and were old cronies and the White House resembled a gentlemen's club. The only cabinet post to see any opposition or concern was that of a staunch anti conservationist as Secretary of the Interior. Once at the helm of the Ship of State he preached political, economic and educational equality, called for reformation in government with tax cuts, the end of bonuses and promotion of agricultural interests, and, rates were raised on manufactured goods.

    Sadly, due to a lack of oversight, corruption soon became rampant and his popularity started slipping away. The following mid term elections showed how much the public had been paying attention, even if those in power had not. Scandal after scandal now seemed to ooze out of the capital with many going to jail. The master manipulator managed to escape such a fate, but, his portege suffered a thrombosis and died before most of his administration's crimes were brought to light.

    This story was about one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of our country. It happened, as is so often the case, to be a Republican one. Any similarities to this past administration and the current one are not intentional but just the facts. The man, moral though he may have been, was in a situation which was above his capacity.

    History repeats itself. Rather where we find ourselves today, isn't it?

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Now! ... is the winter of our discontent


    One of the most annoying things about the current political epoch is that the far right has been on a war footing against Liberals and Democrats for decades, perhaps since the impeachment of Nixon. At the same time we have been our good old benevolent selves, scarcely recognizing the glint of bayonets the the Capitol cloakrooms, or the smell of blood and sinew as one after another of the good guys gets gutted by swiftboat tactics unworthy of a mafia brawl, or some junior person in the press is made a eunuch in front of his peers, chilling them all.

    The situation has not changed, only our perception of it has. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove in the White House, Santorum, Hatch, and Frist in the Senate, DeLay and Blunt and many others in the House have been playing fast hard ball and we have been standing at the plate without a cup, without a helmet, and without a clue.

    Now comes Dr. Allen Roland, whom we referenced on Saturday, and Rob Kall, of leader of OpEdNews.com, each with a clarion call.

    Listen up!

    JRB

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Election Reform Now!

    As soon as I wrote it yesterday, I knew that I had left something out. Yes we desperately need campaign finance and lobbying reforms—serious reforms with teeth and courage. But we also need election reform, for without it the whole thing's a sham.


  • Dr. Ernest Partridge on Voting Fraud.
  • author unknownTwenty Amazing Facts.
  • Rep. John Conyers Report on Ohio.


    JRB

  • Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Trees, Orchard, Forest

    Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue is a favorite of ours. He is about as honest as you can get in Washington where connections are the key for politicians and the people who follow them around taking notes.

    We choose to disagree with Doug's Rant today, however. It is the power and logic of metaphors that has him whacking down the orchard to save the trees. Had he chosen a metaphor about causes rather than effects he would have seen that the root and branch cause of corruption is the mistaken notion that you can buy First Amendment rights and that the person with more money gets more rights.

    The key to fixing Washington is ... and always has been ... serious, thoroughgoing, no-nonsense campaign finance and lobbying reform. We can do this, you know. The best time is just as this current mess begins to peak.

    JRB

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Psychologically Speaking ...

    Two articles from OpEdNews.com today strike completely different notes. First, the alarming story of "Teen Screen" the pharmaceutical industry's attempt to give itself perpetual customers. A ten minute questionnaire is being pushed that has the potential to label a person for life, based on the American Psychiatric Society's vague knowledge about brain function and personality disorders. This is one of the most dangerous situations in our country today, and you can do something about it locally and nationally!

    Second, but not to be dismissed as flippantly humorous, is an examination by a practicing psychologist of the tortured logic undergirding the Bush administration deliberative processes. Clearly Bush and his advisors have pushed reason over the edge and stand nakedly before us as the Machiavelleans they really are. They care not a whit for the Constitution or the American people. They are carrying out a coup d'etat before our very eyes!

    JRB

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Political Courage

    I have been struck by the virulence of George Bush's response to criticism of his recently-revealed, illegal spying on domestic Americans. I am even more astounded by his "signing letter" related to the renewed Patriot Act in which he, with unbelievable arrogance, declares the McCain Amendment against torture to be his to interpret, his to avoid if he says so, his call. It is that sort of Karl Rovean and Dick Cheneyean stick-in-your-eye retort, a virtual "what are you gonna do about it" response that challenges everyone to look around for allies and friends. It portends a very difficult time for all Americans.

    But, we have let this happen to ourselves, you know. We have dreamt of some guy coming along to save us from the terror of Islamic Jihadists and our own homegrown madmen, from poverty, from social progress and social justice, even from association with human beings of other colors, classes, and creeds. We have hoped way beyond reason that the 1960's would finally go away, leaving us in our fat American cars to vacation at littered beaches and amusement parks and drink beer until we are senseless. We have hoped that God still loves our country and that second coming will somehow be an American event, bigger and better even than the Super Bowl or the World Series, bigger even than WalMart!

    We are a nation of ignorant, thumbsucking, hindbrained immigrants, whose typical claim to fame is that our ancestors had the good sense to bail out from wherever they were—dying of starvation, unemployment, disease, despair—yearning to breath free, but scarcely understanding that with freedom comes personal and public responsibility. We are nation of cheats and petty lawlessness. We cheat on our taxes at every level of society. We break traffic laws with impunity and with utter disregard for 55,000 deaths each year because of it. We condone stealing when it benefits ourselves or hurts our supposed malefactors. We own and misuse guns, allowing criminals to murder thousands of us annually. We (some of us) believe catastrophically insane religious doctrines because they give us respite from our days and a sense of belonging that only well-rehearsed brain-washing will. The rest, well, we slumber through religion as if an omniscient God would somehow not notice. We are childishly stupid, you see, unable to draw a logical conclusion from our vocabularies, unwilling to draw rational inferences from our real experience.

    Do you wonder that Dick Cheney thinks so little of us that he would offer up our entire military to torture by our enemies, and just so that he can drag two cents worth of blood-stained intelligence from an some occasional Arab caught in his web of pseudo-security and Machiavellian machismo? Do you wonder that rich brat George, in his drug-induced, brain twitch of cognitive incompetence, would care so little for us that he would joke about devastation in New Orleans and then put the most corrupt advisor ever admitted to the West Wing in-charge of dispensing federal assistance? Do you really wonder that Donald Rumsfeld would sacrifice American men and women for a lost cause based on manifestly insane reasoning and manufactured evidence?

    You should not wonder. It is the reappearance of the slaveholder mentality in America, the fundamentally and diametrically freedom-opposed notion of a society composed of big winners and pathetic losers, entirely antithetical to the idea of a democratic community of persons.

    Why do you not know you are at war with some of your fellow Americans, fighting for your very life, for the promise of opportunity for your children? Are you comatose? What will it take to get you to understand that the Right is Wrong? They are selling you cheap, meaningless, emotional gratification for the price of your liberties and freedoms, and you are buying it by the ton. With politics you have always "let Joe do it," partly because you are lazy and partly because you are insecure and don't know how to talk to public people. How tragically pathetic!

    Listen! They really do want your freedoms curtailed, your liberties lost. Why? It is because they believe in a society in which those who have proven themselves to be capable of callous indifference to working people by becoming fabulously rich themselves are to be the vanguard of society, the best, the elite, the "philosopher kings," the ones who mean to be supported and enriched further by government, who will spend your taxes to support themselves and their feckless children forever. In the end they will provide you a little job and your kids a little classroom so that you can stay little just where you are and serve their interests. They don't despise you; they give you only the interest they would give a passing bug, something to swat when it dares to crawl near their hors d'oeuvres or cocktail, but otherwise easily ignored.

    Who tells you different? Does your parish priest or parson tell you to disregard politics and all this worldly stuff? Think about it; they want your tithe, your children's minds, your freedom of choice, your freedom to be what you are. This is worldly stuff, and they tell you how to vote, and when to be vocal about people they do not like. Did Jesus or Mohammed or Moses or Buddha or Mithra or any of the pantheon really hate homosexuals? Did they really preach "abstinence?" Did they condone slavery, promote union-busting, and ask you to kill people who wear turbans or bikinis?

    Do your television newscasters tell you the truth; do he and she litter your viewing with crime stories and meaningless jabber about meaningless events in towns that look like yours but have their WalMart across from Walgreens? In fact, they tell you what their corporate offices tell them to tell you. They are little parts of huge conglomerate corporations who see people as consumption units and as percentage points on scoresheets created to define the cost of advertizing on the airwaves we the people gave them for free. You should watch the Weather Channel for news, cartoons for baby-sitting, and Commander-in-Chief or West Wing for a rare glimpse of intelligent progress.

    We are going to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney soon. Are you ready for it? Do you have the courage to call your Representative?

    You know him, the guy who calls himself a Congressman, but is really the Representative of the citizens of your district. He's the guy who says he's all for improving the economy of your district, but seems to miss the point that a rightwing conspiracy has really taken over the government? Will you call him and tell him to honor his oath of office? Will you tell him you are very afraid that if George and Dick are not impeached now they may just toss out the Constitution altogether. Will you tell him the Constitution is not "just a g.d. piece of paper," it is the backbone and muscle of the greatest experiment in government and social justice ever conceived. Will you?

    This may be your last chance, friend.

    This is what you do. You look up the phone number of your representative here.

    Okay, now you know your District number and have found your Representative's website and Washington and local telephone numbers. If you are smart you will notice what committees your Representative is assigned to. Your first call will be simply this.

    The phone rings and quickly someone answers, saying, "Congressman 'Smith's' office. How may we help you?"

    "Hello? My name is (your name) and I live in (your town/city/county). (Take a breath ... you're doing fine so far.)
    "I was wondering when Representative 'Smith' will be available in the district next. Can you tell me if any open meetings have been scheduled for, say, the next month?"

    The staff assistant will either know off the top or will check with someone else and get back to you. "Congressman 'Smith' will be in (yourtown) on (whenever). Is there anything else we can help you with today?"

    "No. Thanks," you respond. "I hope to talk with Mr. 'Smith' about domestic spying soon, that's all."

    Your Representative may have a stock answer for your comment, or may be just a junior person who is not allowed to discuss things with constituents. You will listen for an opening, but really don't want one on this call. Your response should be this: "Okay, thanks again. I will be in touch as soon as I can. Can I have your name, please. I really appreciate the way you handled my call."

    The person gives his or her name. You can almost see the smile beam through the telephone.

    You say: "Well, thanks 'Julie'/'Fred'/'Ms.Jones'.
    Bye."

    You have just called your Representative! Hooray! You are now part of the political process and, guess what, it's not all that difficult and certainly not sordid or slimey. It's just people talking to people. Write down the name given to you and save it.

    Sit on the experience and think about who that person who answered the phone might be. If you called Washington it could be a resident of the Washington metropolitan area, someone who grew up there or who came from your state or district to Washington because of the government. If you called locally, it could be anyone from your district, perhaps a person you have met somewhere.

    Think about what the person said about domestic spying, if they said anything at all. Notice whether the person was interested in what you might say to Representative "Smith" or not. Listen to the edges of the conversation for signs of openness or, sometimes, self-importance or in-groupitis. Congressional offices, both Representatives' and Senators' are usually well oiled machines after a year in office, but sometimes are staffed with "legacy" workers they inherit from contributors.

    Next week you are going to call and ask for a senior staff member and you are going to talk with him or her about impeachment. Scarey, yes, but we will walk through that call in a couple of days. Stay tuned!

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Impeachment is a Broad Political Process

    It takes time for a big idea to be chewed into small enough pieces that the average voter can swallow and digest.

    It takes time for the national "mainstream" press to screw up its courage (considering the heavy-hitters among their advertizers—where the money comes from, afterall) to launch into something as detailed (sordid) and volatile (outright disruptive) as impeaching both the President and Vice President of the United States.

    It may take even longer for elected representatives to understand that their re-election depends on shifting their own gears and getting down to the awful business of fulfilling their oaths of office, but they will—one way or the other.


  • Tom Englehardt writes eloquently of the current President.
  • Andrew Bard Schmookler views the press.
  • ImpeachPAC reads Zogby loud and clear; 53% of us are ready for the other shoe.

    JRB

  • Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    True Crime Drama

    I have to admit that I am a true crime drama fan. I watch "Cold Case Files", "Forensic Science", the new TV show "Bones" which is based on forensic anthropologist Kathy Reich's books. I have devoured all of hers, as well others written about characters who have populated our society at one time or another and have foisted their deviousness upon us unsuspecting "good" people.

    The one thing that manages to stand out in all of those, above mentioned, is the something missing in the perpetrator's childhood or some trauma to them that set off their aberrant behaviors, not easily understandable for most of us, but nonetheless a real psychological reason for their behavior. But how would one classify the true crime drama that is just now unfolding with the guilty plea of Jack Abramoff? I think I would have to classify it as just outright "down and dirty" "I am going to get mine" greed.

    Greed: an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. It is also known as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Can anyone still honestly believe that these people are the Christians they scream about being?

    Today, if we are to believe the mainstream press, there are many in Congress who are shaking in their boots. Oh yes indeedy folks, those selfsame lawmakers who swore a return to good clean government are being outed and they have done it to themselves. Yes, there are lobbyists all over Washington like a plague of locusts. However, there is a huge difference between many of them and the likes of the Jack Abramoff.

    So will we have televised hearings such as we had with Watergate? ... the Vallachi papers? I honestly do not see much difference here between Joe Vallachi, the mafia whistleblower and Mr. Abramoff, except perhaps their diction. One already has, and now one soon will, tell where the bodies are buried. And, as in the case of Mr. Vallachi, I am sure a deal has been cut in order to gain Mr. Abramoff's cooperation. When push comes to shove there really is no honor among thieves.

    At this point I am sure Tom DeLay is cursing the day he met Jack Abramoff, the rounds of golf he played in Scotland, the trips to the Marianna Islands all directly linked back to his good "friend." All those who trusted Abramoff to deliver what they sought, and now to hear that he basically loathed them as human beings, only seeing dollar signs as he used them for his own nefarious ends. All of K Street must be twitching like a flea on a wet dog today, but perhaps it is an object lesson to those who still practice sleaze when lobbying for their causes.

    Our President, I understand, is supposedly intolerant of sleaze, although that is hard to understand given the number of sleazy characters which seem to surround him. But then, they are loyal, a trait Bush prizes. Who knows which way the loyal sleazes will fall, but it certainly promises to be a very interesting true crime drama.

    So far we have seen only the top of the iceberg, but I do believe it might just be the one that sinks the Bush administration. We all live in hope.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Courage is not Optional


    These are perilous times. There seems to be a growing accord on that point alone. The prospect of a man in the Presidency of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet sinking back into alcoholism and drug dependency, as reported by one or two normally reliable newsmen, raises the specter of a national anguish the likes of which has toppled less firmly rooted governments.


    Here are two articles you should not miss, even as the footballs crowd common sense from the screens of television sets coast to coast.


  • Jonathan Schell writing in The Nation, and

  • Dr. Gerald S. Rellick in OpEdNews.com.


    As you can see, our duty is clear. Congress really has only one option. Anything—literally anything—short of impeachment (bringing of charges) is tantamount to violation of their oaths of office. Whether they convict in the Senate or not remains to be seen, but clearly partisan politics is also on trial. The Constitution is not a document elected officials can observe one day to get elected and ignore the next to stay in office.


    JRB

  • Monday, January 02, 2006

    A Year of Disgrace


    I t is easy to forget just how bad this year has been for the rabid right; so here are some lowlights of the year:

    January 7 The Administration is caught paying conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote its agenda
    .
    January 12 The WMD experts hired by the administration quietly conclude Iraq has none.

    February 10 The Administration is caught promoting a fake reporter, Jeff Gannon, from a fake news agency to ask fake and softball questions at the White House Press Conferences.


    March 21 Bush, in an attempt to pander to his irreligious right base, cuts short his vacation to sign the Schiavo bill.

    May 1 The Downing Street Memo is published proving that Bush lied the US into a war. For any other president this would provide more than enough ammunition to begin impeachment proceedings.


    August 11 Jack Abramoff GOP super lobbyist indicted for fraud. Hopefully he will bring down a whole raft of corrupt legislators with him. Stayed tuned.

    August 28 to September 3 Bush blows the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and even had the stupidity or gall to congratulate FEMA Director Brown on what a great job he is doing.


    September 28 Tom Delay indicted on multiple counts. The Hammer is hammered.

    October 3 to 25 Bush totally mishandles the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court.

    October 26 The US troop death toll in Iraq reaches 2000

    October 29 Scooter Libby indicted on five counts in the Plame scandal

    November 2 The Washington Post, finally doing its job, reveals the existence of a network of secret overseas prisons where torture is the norm.

    November 5 Declassified memo proves that the Administration pushed claims of an Iraqi source known to be a liar to provide more fake information to justify the Iraq invasion. Impeach!

    November 17 Congressman Jack Murtha, a decorated Viet Nam vet, calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He is promptly declared a traitor by the rabid right including the VP. Murtha has the last word asking how many deferments Cheney had during the Viet Nam war.

    November 19 The New York Times reports that death squads are now operating in Iraq. Not the first time the US has supported death squads.

    December 16 Revelations of Bush authorizing illegal wire taps of US citizens by the NSA. Something expressly forbidden by law. Impeach!

    David Goldberg

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Happy New Year ... Perhaps

    And then again ... let's Watch as the World Vanishes.

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