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December 15, 2005
Blog for America will feature highlights from DFA-Link groups around the country each week. Jeff Gardner from NJ for Democracy will write posts about the Northern half of the U.S. on Thursdays. You can see more local DFA actions going on at www.dfalink.com.
Here's the week in DFA from the Northern half of the country: Local DFA groups from Washington (Bellingham and West Seattle) to Illinois and from Central Virginia to NY's Hudson-Mohawk Region, started holding and planning for candidate forums for campaigns in 2006, proving it's never too soon to start identifying and supporting great candidates.
With an eye on 2006 and beyond, a big issue many DFA groups are focusing on is Voting Rights, including Verified Voting. In support of what many consider the most fundamental issue facing our political system, DFA Central Ohio and Democracy for Ohio have helped promote an online voting rights petition, while Democracy for New York met to discuss clean elections, and New Jersey for Democracy pushed for support of H.R. 550, the voter-verified paper-trail bill sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).
Around the country, opposition to the war in Iraq is reaching a critical mass, and DFA groups are demanding action. While the folks from Democracy for Vancouver are co-sponsoring an out-of-Iraq event with local activists, members of Ocean County DFA are partnering with MoveOn Political Action to deliver petitions to members of Congress.
Of course, it's December, and that means holiday parties and charitable works. Last week, the Morris County DFA group also found a great way to help the needy over the winter. With energy prices soaring, they decided to plan a DFA Corps event helping local residents install window insulation - an inexpensive way to help homeowners and tenants alike save on heating costs, build relationships with the community, and save the environment by conserving energy.
Until next week, keep fighting for better tomorrows!
DFA Chair, Jim Dean delivered your letter to Senator Joseph Lieberman's office in Hartford yesterday. The Senator replied in writing. We at DFA believe in free speech and giving those we may disagree with an opportunity to make their case. In that spirit, here is Senator Lieberman's letter (click for full-size PDF):
Thank you for writing. Your opinion is important to me, even if it is critical of a position I have taken. Debate is the nature of our system. In fact, it is one of the enduring sources of our national strength.
I know we disagree on the war in Iraq, and I want to be clear: I believe we were right to go into Iraq and I believe we are pursuing worthy and achievable goals. I also believe our country, as well as the Iraqi people, will be far better off if we, and they, are successful there than if we fail there. I have visited Iraq four times in the past 17 months and I have seen the progress there on the military, political and economic fronts. It is enough? No. Would I like to see it happen more quickly? Yes. But we are making progress.
In a recent series of speeches, essays and interviews, I have been trying to encourage a conversation in Iraq that will focus our nation's minds and hearts on what can be done to win in Iraq. And on a subject so important, I have asked that it be a debate free of politics and posturing on all sides.
I have been clear all along that I believe the Bush Administration made many mistakes in the run-up to the invasion and its aftermath. I have encouraged and supported debates and Congressional investigations into those mistakes, whether in intelligence, war planning, or Iraqi reconstruction. I have always believed that out of those types of debates, even on sensitive issues, comes better public policy, and a healthier, more vibrant democracy, especially when those debates are respectful and bipartisan. We must find out what went wrong so we can fix it now and make sure it never happens again. And we must hold those who have made mistakes accountable.
But I also believe we must be careful not to allow debate about why we over threw Saddam and who is responsible for the mistakes to draw our attention away from the national focus we must maintain now to try to find a way to achieve a stable democracy in Iraq. It is crucial for the security of the Iraqi people, for the Middle East, for our nation, and for the world. I believe a debate about how best to do that [sic] is necessary to achieve our national goals while protecting our men and women in uniform.
Throughout my career, I have worked to be fair-minded and responsible about the positions I take, especially when it comes to sending our troops into battle. My criterion has always been the same: what is the best policy for this nation and the American people, regardless of politics or party?
Again, thank you for writing and taking part in the very debate I hoped to begin. I hope you will keep an open mind and consider this the start of a crucial conversation we all need to share in.
December 14, 2005
On a Monday night, in late November 2004, about 15 of us met at the Blue Moose Cafe. The task was to form a set of by-laws, elect officers, and prepare papers for filing as a state PAC. It's been a little over a year since that night when I was elected Chair of WV for Democracy. The faith of those around me was something I took very seriously and still do. I decided, then and there, that I was going to use all my energies to help this group grow and become an effective local political force. As part of taking those duties seriously, I now present to you a report from the Chair on our first 12 months as a political organization.
Our first few months as a group consisted of a lot of detail work, bank accounts, web site transfers, meeting places, etc. It was also a time of outreachof trying to grow the group. Many valuable members came to us in this time, particularly from the Mon County for Kerry group. During this time, we were staying in touch and encouraging the growth of our sister organization in Clarksburg, Harrison County DFA. This was a time of debate, deciding direction, and deciding who we wanted to be.
Andrew C. White, a longtime DFA member and Chair of Democracy for the Hudson-Mohawk Region, has posted this diary at DailyKos today. He has offered Democracy for America the opportunity to share the entry on Blog for America.
When I saw a headline quoting Gov. Dean saying the US could not win in Iraq I knew we would shortly be hearing all the usual noise and complaints about his latest "gaffe." Of course, I was reminded of his definition of a gaffe... "When you tell the truth and the people in Washington think you shouldn't have." Forgive me if I take a moment to smile at that.
You see, I don't care much what the people in Washington think. Like most of you, I live in the real world and I am not afraid of nor shocked by the truth. I'll let you in on a little secret... neither are my Republican and Independent neighbors. What we care about is whether the people in Washington are getting the job done. And let me tell you, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is getting the job done.
From the moment he started asking the question "What I want to know is..."
Through the end of his Presidential campaign; from the formation of the Democracy for America PAC through his election as DNC Chair; from his promise to help rebuild the State Democratic Committees to his fulfilling that promise by having placed staff in every state; to this moment right now Gov. Dean has been in the trenches doing his part to take our country back.
What convinced me to back Gov. Dean for President was the common theme in his campaign to get people active and involved. As Gov. Dean says "Voting is the minimum requirement of citizenship in our democracy." When his campaign ended Gov. Dean immediately turned to his supporters and said, "Get involved locally. Run for office. Find a candidate to support. Fill a seat on your local Democratic Committee." He continues to say that everywhere he goes, in every speech he makes.
Kim Hynes is a DFA leader in Connecticut and one of the many DFA members that joined Jim Dean to deliver his open letter to Senator Lieberman with over 55,000 signatures yesterdayTuesday, December 13, 2005.
On a warm day last spring, Senator Lieberman came to our house to talk about and plan a meeting with the DFA groups in Connecticut, which were growing concerned about the Senator's stance on the war in Iraq and his growing closeness with the Bush administration. We had all just watched President Bush kiss and hug Senator Lieberman on national TVa clip that seemed like it was shown almost as often as Governor Dean's exuberant yell in Iowa.
Senator Lieberman was gracious and congenial in person, and seemed genuinely interested in an open discussion. He told us that the media had overplayed his hawkishness, and claimed he was just as taken aback as we were about the infamous kiss. I told him that we were interested in getting the most progressive and best Senator elected to serve in Connecticut, and that as far as I was concerned, I hoped that it would be him. That statement earned me my very own kiss on the cheek and hug, and we made plans for his office to be in touch about the upcoming meeting with the Connecticut DFA group.
Yesterday morning, the weather was anything but warm and congenial as a group of stalwart DFA folk met up in Hartford with Jim to present Senator Lieberman's office with the "Let Joe Know" letter, signed by 55,000 Americansover 1,500 of who are from Connecticut. We braved a distinctly unfriendly security guard and icy temperatures to make sure the heavy box containing the letter and all those signatures got into the hands of Senator Lieberman's aide, Ken Dagliare. Ken was friendly as always, and promised the Senator would pay close attention to the letter, and was open to a meeting with DFA.
We then stood with Jim as he did a great job with the press, which has been very interested in the unrest in the Senator's constituency. Later I watched the evening news with my daughter, Fiona, who at this point is fairly blase about seeing Mommy on television. The press, of course, cut out much of the interview with Jim, limiting themselves to a couple sound bites. Still, it was a great day, and I am proud of everyone who joined me in the cold to stand up for our right to free speech.
It is unconscionable that a distinguished Senator such as Lieberman suggest that Americans exercising their First Amendment rights are "undermining our president's credibility at our nation's peril." Bush no longer has much credibilityespecially as far as this war is concerned. As patriotic Americans, we owe the brave servicemen and women who have put themselves in harm's way an open and honest debate. Only by an open and honest debate will we be able to find a responsible exit strategy that will bring our troops home safely and achieve our goals.
As a resident on Connecticut, I am disappointed in Senator Lieberman's position. As an American citizen I fully intend to keep exercising my right to free speech. The war in Iraq is too important not to. And Senator Lieberman, we are still waiting for that meeting...
Status: Your Support is Still Much Needed
The normal and abnormal live side by side in New Orleans over 100 days after Katrina. Holiday Shopping is no exception. This past weekend, New Orleans saw its first annual "Home for the Holidays"a day of holiday shopping and entertainment to celebrate the return of residents and shop owners alike.
Magazine Street, along the riverside of St. Charles, was spared the devastating floodwaters, but saw the less-damaging effects of Category Four hurricane winds. Against the backdrop of blue-tarped roofed, duct-tapped refrigerators and downed-trees, balloons, 50% sale signs, and strolling musicians signaled that shops were open for holiday traffic.
My mom and I broke away from construction workers to join "Home for the Holidays." The jewelry at Ruby Ann Bertram-Harker was exquisite and we found the items in the New Orleans Collection especially poignant. However, despite a 50% sale on most items, only three or four customers were in the store. We bought ourselves a beautiful baking dish at Potsalot. This artist-run shop does not have a website but hopes to get one by the beginning of next year. You can call them at (504) 899-1705.
In short, while "Home for the Holidays" attempted to celebrate a return to normal life (and business) in New Orleans. Your support is desperately needed to give the city the care and capital needed to rebuild in the New Year.
PS - A more complete list of shopping outlets is available nowkudos to the many people working on this effort!
December 13, 2005
Joan Fox of New Orleans was featured on the Voices of Katrina weblog this past weekend with an entreaty to France to buy back Louisiana. She lists a few reasons why it would be an attractive purchase for the French:Some things you might like here:
1. We named the state after your King Louis
[Hat tip to Monisha Sujan for sending along the link.]
At 12:21 a.m., the first drug, five grams of sodium pentothal to make Williams unconscious, was pumped into his arm. That was soon followed by injections of 50 cc's of pancuronium bromide to stop his breathing and 50 cc's of potassium chloride to stop his heart. After a few minutes, Williams' stomach begin to spasm and contract. Soon he was not moving. The roomful of witnesses sat in silence looking at Williams' unmoving body. Three of his passionate supporters, including Barbara Becnel, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, cried out, "The state of California just killed an innocent man."
American's Doubt Bush's Plan
According to a set of poll results released by CNN/USA Today/Gallup last night, the majority of Americans do not believe President Bush has a plan that will achieve victory in Iraq. "Fifty-eight percent of those polled said Bush doesn't have a clear plan on Iraq, compared to 38 percent who said they believe Bush does have a plan for victory...The results come after efforts by Bush and other administration officials to promote what they bill as a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."
FOX's War on Christmas
As Bill O'Reilly bemoans the so-called war on Christmas, his own employers demonstrate their inclusive seasonal spirit with not one, but two, "Holiday Parties" for FOX Network employees and their guests (click to see the invitations).
Like Sam Seder says:"Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas. I mean, I believe that Christmas, its almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas. And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money."
Blog for America will feature highlights from DFA-Link groups around the country each week. Dave Reiter is a member of DFA Miami-Dade. You can see more local DFA actions going on at www.dfalink.com
Last week, DFA Miami-Dade kicked off a statewide election reform campaign that aims to mandate a paper trail and create a statewide voter information guide. DFAM will form a coalition for support and is working with local and state legislators in order to influence the introduction of a bill for the upcoming session of Congress.
In Tennessee, Democracy for Tennessee Chairman, Mark Naccarato, has kicked off the DFA Film Club to take advantage of the growing popularity of political documentaries. The goal of the club is to enlist the support of groups nationwide to set up screenings for current and upcoming documentaries that can be used for community education, recruiting, and fundraising. Political Training Democracy for Tennessee is also coordinating a workshop for Tennesseeans for Fair Taxation (TFT) to discuss the how to effectively discuss the subject.
American University DFA in D.C. hosted a Progressive Political Skills training course that included trainers from the ACLU, Campaign For America's Future, Blue State Digital, and a top fundraising group for congressional democrats.
Direct Action Henderson, Nevada DFA has joined efforts with Citizen Alert to protest the use of Yucca Mountain for the storage of nuclear waste; Harry Reid and other notable guests were there at Nevada's Atomic Testing Museum to speak in protest on the first of the month.
In Virginia, Fairfax DFA organizer Rebecca Williams is calling for a letter writing and call-in campaign to protest Tom Davis's decision to ban whistleblowers from testifying on his Committee on Government Reform subcommittee hearings on National Security and Emerging Threats; The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition plans on boycotting the hearings.
Candidate Support Democracy for Houston hosted a fundraising party for Janette Sexton, District 144 State Representative, to support her effort to unseat an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-environment incumbent Republican. DFA Houston is also celebrating DFA member Melissa Taylor's appointment to the Harris County Democratic Party as the Director of Party Administration.
In California, DFA Orange County is joining with the Newport Bay Area Democratic Club in a pancake brunch fundraiser for 48th District Congressional Candidate, Steve Young. Also in California, Democracy for Riverside is throwing all of its weight behind the city council runoff election to keep it in the hands of Democrats.
Kety Esquivel is the Communications Director of Latinos for America.Those who put their faith in the Risen One and work for a world more just, who protests against the injustices of the present system, against the abuses of unjust authorities, against the wrongfulness of humans exploiting humans, all those who begin their struggle with the resurrection of the great Liberatorthey alone are authentic Christians. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, March 26, 1978
Yesterday, December 12th was the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, so today I'd like to talk about being Hispanic, Christian and progressive. I am a Latina, first generation American. My father is from Mexico and my mother from Guatemala. I was raised Christian. I am progressive because I am Christian. I believe that Jesus was in his time a radical liberal and he calls us, his followers, to a ministry of social justice.
We Latinos come from a strong tradition of leftist social and political vision rooted in Christianity, in liberation theology and Latino Pentecostalism. The focus on principles of social justice present in Latino faith are quite distinct and separate from the right-wing interpretation of Christianity and they are the thread that unite Latino Christians to the progressive agenda.
Last month I had the honor and the privilege of meeting with members of the Latino Leadership Circle in New York, a self-described cohort of progressive ministers dedicated to theological reflection, mutual support, and social justice. A group of us from CrossLeft.org were getting together for a progressive Christian Happy Hour and we decided to invite this group of Latino ministers focused on social justice to meet with us over appetizers and drinks. What ensued was an amazing conversation about our common progressive values and how to translate those to a Latino community of faith that is being bombarded by sound bites from the right.
The passion and conviction of these ministers to their understanding of the social gospel and its progressive call simply blew me away. The right would have Latinos focus on divisive wedge issues that Jesus did not speak to and they are working hard to exploit our faith to churn out more votes for a right wing agenda. We are lucky to have leaders such as these wonderful men who on a day to day basis serve as a balancing force reminding their congregations that the ministry of Jesus Christ was one of social justice and love.
I think it is high time that progressives get what is happening and do something about it. Instead of being wary of embracing Christianity, why not proactively acknowledge that one completely valid path that leads people towards a progressive agenda is Christianity? For many Latinos across the U.S. this is often the case. If the progressive movement is a big tent movement is there not room for progressive Christians in the tent?
Why not encourage your Latino brothers and sisters to stay strong in this mission of social justice and support them in embracing an ever broadening progressive vision?
Latino Christians need to see that they are a part of the progressive community and not excluded because of their faith and/or a perceived secularism of the progressive agenda. To be tolerant and inclusive does not end when it comes to those who are a part of the Christian faith does it?
Like Ralph said in his post last week:
- We believe in families.
Most importantly, we want to be respected as valuable members of American society, as contributing members to our American dream.
Let's focus on this, the things that unite us as progressives. It is only by doing so that that we will be successful in building a movement.
When they try to divide us, let us unite and come together in solidarity. Remember, ¡Juntos Si Podemos! (Together we can!)
December 12, 2005
Arnold Denies Tookie
Stanley Tookie Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection one minute after midnight Tuesday. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday afternoon that he was denying the convicted murderer and former gang leader's appeal for clemency. You can read Schwarzenegger's six-page statement online. Below is an exerpt:Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise? Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case. Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.
At 8:00pm tonight, a peaceful protest is planned at the East Gate of San Quentin.
Fallen Fighters as Freight?
A San Diego, CA family was horrified to find that the body of their son, Matthew, was shipped home from Iraq "stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.""When someone dies in combat, they need to give them due respect they deserve for (the) sacrifice they made," said John Holley.
John and Stacey Holley, who were both in the Army, made some calls, and with the help of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect.
"Our familiarity with military protocol and things of that sort allowed us to kind of put our foot downwe're not sure other parents have that same knowledge," said Stacey Holley.
Can our government not even honor those who have given the greatest sacrifice for their country?
The Nuclear Option Rises Again
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has threatened to strip Senate Democrats of their right to filibuster Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court."The answer is yes," Frist said when asked if he would act to change Senate procedures to restrict a Democratic filibuster...
"Sen. Frist has thrown down the gauntlet at a time when the country least needs it," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. "The American people know that checks and balances are an integral part of our government."
This is getting exciting. The Hartford Courant, The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Associated Press have all taken notice. Nearly 40,000 patriots have co-signed Jim Dean's letter to Sen. Lieberman telling Joe that we won't be muzzled.
Here are few of the personal post scripts from across the country:Sen. Lieberman, you have always had my respect. I believe that it is our duty to show the world that we still cherish our right to challenge our leaders to find a better way to tackle terrorism. Let us all accept the blame together, and make a better moral decision-TOGETHER! Airie, FL
You are some piece of work, pal. Dissent seemed to be just fine with you when Clinton was president. Kirsten, CA
You are out of touch with the majority of Democrats, the majority of the American people, and the majority of the world at large. Its time to start paying attention to what is going on! Jennifer, IL
Please encourage open discussion, not discourage it. Joanne, IA
And a couple more from Connecticut:Please stop telling us to quietly accept a mistaken Iraqi policy. American credibility and lives are far more important than George W. Bush's credibility which he alone is responsible for. Return to your senses and let us find a solution to this disastrous ideological mistake that is killing our children and bankrupting America. Trinidad, CT
In regards to the war in Iraq, you have a blind spot that is truly alarming. To ask us Democrats (who are Americans, incidentally) to essentially shut our mouths for 3 more years while this country continues a reckless & flawed war is an outrage. I'm not entirely certain what your agenda is but I certainly know mine & it will be reflected come next election. Jack, CT
Jim Dean will deliver the letter with all of the personal post scripts to Sen. Lieberman's office in Hartford on Tuesday. Sign on and send your message to Joe today!
Liz Herbert is the Editorial Director of the Rapid Response Network. The Rapid Response Network offers guest commentary at Democracy for America every Monday.
This week, the RNC released a web ad accusing the Democrats of waving the white flag on Iraq. This, among other over-the-top radical right attacks of the week, the steady stream of cut-and-paste sound bites, so reminiscent of the primary assault on candidate Dean, got me thinking.
Rewind. It's 2003... the Fourth Estate suddenly springs to life... the DLC takes a powder... when Governor Dean speaks, people listen like we did.
On Saddam's capture:This development provides an enormous opportunity to set a new course and take the American label off the war. We must do everything possible to bring the UN, NATO, and other members of the international community back into this effort.
On America's place in the world:
Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore: The legitimacy that comes from the rule of law; The credibility that comes from telling the truth; The knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology; The strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy; And, of course, I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation.
No wonder the radical right is forced to twist and contort when it comes to Governor Dean. They probably wish they (italics) had listened, as well.
Liz Herbert (FL)
December 11, 2005
A holiday song from Mike Silverstein.
In the old Soviet Union, the secret police had dossiers that chronicled everyone's political lives so dissidents could be quickly identified and punished. In today's America, credit bureaus have very detailed records of everyone's economic lives, and one false spending move brings out the dunners.
Barbed wire kept dissidents from escaping Soviet political bondage. A newly "reformed" bankruptcy law does the same for American debtors. Here's a seasonal ditty, sung to the tune of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," that sums up this new reality.
Oh, you better take care
You'll recall that we introduced you to Deb Mayer, who stopped by DFA HQ last year to share her story of being fired from her job for discussing peace in the classroom. Deb, a fourth grade teacher, talked with her students about the Iraq war during a current events lesson. She then opened the discussion to antiwar demonstrations, as well as alternatives to war. After a parental complaint, she found her teaching contract dropped by the school.
Well, there's an update in the caseDeb's story has been garnering more national attention as people like Cindy Sheehan and Kurt Vonnegut have offered to lend a hand:Mayer has shared her story at gatherings in Crawford, Tex., in Washington, D.C., and at a vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan in Madison, Wis. "Raw Story," an investigative Web site, ran a story about Mayer's case. Out of it grew a blog.
Mayer's mood is considerably improved on Oct. 13 after receiving a telephone call from author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., to whom she had written. Vonnegut, she says, offered to try to bring attention to her cause and to intervene to gain support from the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ICLU).
The ICLU, in response to previous requests from Mayer, declined due to "workloads and limited staff."
"I always tried to follow the rules and do a good job and be a good person," Mayer says. "I thought if I did those things I would succeed. After I made what I thought was a perfectly innocent statement, I lost my job, my career, my house. I was taken from my friends and family. I lost my community, spent most of my life savings. This problem has consumed my life.
"When George Bush said, 'If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists,' it was the most divisive thing he could have said," says Mayer. "He got people thinking that if you're not supportive of him, then you're not patriotic. I am patriotic! I want my country back. I want my life back."
We want our country back too, Deb. We want to live in a nation where you can freely discuss peace as well as war. Where "peace" is not just an empty saying on a holiday greeting card.
This Week (ABC) - George Stephanopoulos sits down with Sen. Joe Biden, (D-DE), to discuss strategy and progress in Iraq. Also joining the program is Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. Roundtable: Martha Raddatz, Fareed Zakaria, George Will. Voices: Dr. Andrew Weil on the secret to aging well.
Face the Nation (CBS) - Topic: The War in Iraq; Torture. Guests include; Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), Ranking Member, Defense Appropriations Subcommittee; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Armed Services Committee.
Meet the Press (NBC) - Iraqi voters head to the polls on Thursday in their parliamentary elections. What will they decide? What will it mean for U.S. troops stationed abroad? And how will the elections change American foreign policy in the Middle East? MTP will ask a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). And, for the Democrats, former President Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
Then, Mike Allen of Time Magazine, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and David Brooks of the New York Times will share their insights and analysis into President Bush's poll numbers, the political standing of Tom DeLay, the direction of the Abramoff investigation, and the latest on the politics surrounding rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Chris Matthews Show (NBC) - Guests include: Howard Fineman -- Newsweek; Cynthia Tucker -- Atlanta Journal - Constitution; Gloria Borger -- CBS News; John Heilemann -- New York Magazine. TOPICS: WHO WILL THE REPUBLICANS PICK TO GO UP AGAINST HILLARY IN 2008? MCCAIN? RUDY GIULIANI? ARE DEMOCRATS SOFTENING ON ABORTION? WHY?
Fox News Sunday (Fox News) - From the Patriot Act and Iraq to taxes and the Alito nomination, the partisan bickering continues between Republicans and Democrats. Should we expect a political stalemate or does the GOP have a plan to win these battles? Chris Wallace will examine the Republican strategy in an exclusive interview with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-TN).
Then, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the founder of the Los Angeles street gang, the Crips, is on death row for murder. Will California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spare his life? We'll get a read from Bianca Jagger, activist and Willams supporter, and Robert Martin, the original prosecutor.
Late Edition (CNN) - The U.S ambassador to Iraq discusses the upcoming elections, stopping the insurgency and the potential withdrawal of American troops. Guests include; Zalmay Khalilzad: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq; Sen. Jon Kyl, (R-AZ); Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-NY); and Bob Baer: Former CIA case officer.
60 Minutes (CBS) - DYING TO GET IN - Efforts to secure the Mexican border have done nothing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants but have had the effect of driving more into the desert where upwards of a thousand died this year. Ed Bradley reports. RENDITION 60 Minutes investigates this alleged CIA practice of handing over terror suspects to countries whose interrogators are known to use torture. Scott Pelley talks to Khaled al-Masri, the German citizen now suing the U.S. government for his alleged rendition to Afghanistan. SWIMMING WITH SHARKS Because tour operators use food to attract sharks for their shark tourist customers, critics say surfers and swimmers are in more danger now because the dangerous fish are associating humans with food. Bob Simon reports.
December 10, 2005
Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear and of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See www.paulloeb.org for more information.
"Advice to Retirees: Embrace the future," syndicated columnist Tad Bartimus recently wrote in my local Seattle paper. Sounds good, but for Bartimus the future was a layoff, in a corporate cutback, from a 25-year career at the Associated Press news service. Faced with the Hobson's choice of agreeing to it or losing all health care access and pension benefits, she suddenly had to find ways to reinvent herself and survive, with less than half of her previously promised pension. She explores how her situation echoes the predicament of more and more Americans, like those who took middle-class futures for granted at companies such as General Motors, Delta Airlines, and Ford, but who now scramble to get by at jobs paying a fraction of the wages they were used to. America's social contract is being ripped apart, she writesthen she backs off to counsel individual adaptation and seeing life as "a banquet," where we need to savor even the unexpected courses.
I know lots of people like Bartimus's friend Sue. Sue worked for United Airlines for 23 years, lost her savings when the company's stock crashed, may lose her pension in the current bankruptcy, and has to supplement her now part-time wages with a second job cleaning houses. I recently spoke in Kokomo, Indiana, where a major Delphi plant is likely to be closed, devastating a once-secure community of decent blue-collar jobs. My brother-in-law, now eking out a living as a substitute teacher, has been out of full time work for almost a decade now, in part because of a heart condition which would saddle any but the largest employers with prohibitively unaffordable insurance costs. Everywhere I go, I encounter people with once-comfortable lives who are borrowing on their houses, running up their credit cards, losing their health insurance, and generally running faster and faster to avoid the economic abyss.
Bartimus highlights a real and urgent problem. The promises on which many of us have based our entire economic lives are no longer being honored. We're increasingly a winner-take-all society, where those at the top gorge on luxury consumption to an extent that makes the Robber Barons look like paupers, while those at the bottom scramble for crumbs. But the solutions Bartimus counsels are exclusively individual. "The trick," she writes, "it so figure out what comes next," and to focus "on possibilities, not regrets." Maybe, she writes, she'll forge a new future in woodworking, or open a gardening shop.
I hope Bartimus keeps landing on her feet, and I bet that she will. Of course people should, like her, be optimistic and muster all their resourcefulness, creativity, and tenacity to deal with the cards they're dealt. But we should also work together to help insure a future where everyone gets dealt a decent hand.
The problems Bartimus describes can't be solved by quietly accepting the global corporate mantra: "It's here. It's the future. Get used to it." It's not our individual decisions that are gutting our pensions, raising medical costs sky high, and making our lives on this rich and fruitful earth increasingly precarious. The economic squeeze faced by everyone except a handful of individuals at the top comes from thirty years of deliberate political choices--union-busting, regressive tax and trade policies, an eroding minimum wage, and a collapse of moral and political restraints on destructive greed. These pressures have been accelerated vastly since Bush took office. Think of the moral obscenity of funding the rebuilding of New Orleans by cutting food stamps, Medicaid, and low-income energy assistance. They'll only be reversed by common effort.
I worry that by framing the solution totally in terms of individual adaptation, Bartimus steers her readers away from the major lesson of the stories she tells: that ordinary citizens must join together and speak out on the larger roots of these problems, on the choices we're allowing to be made in our common name. If we simply buckle down and accept our fate, some of us will indeed find ways to adapt and survive, but many more will fall through the cracks. In a time when we're taking The Apprentice as a national model, we need less silent adaptation, not more. Life should indeed be a banquetfor all of us. Whether we make it so is contingent on our common actions, not just how well we handle our individual challenges.
We shake our heads at this story out of Iraq:
As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.
Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.
The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.
This once would have gone without saying, but that's what makes it so important to point out now: America should not need to do this.
A nation pursuing democratic ideals shouldn't need to do this. A people confident in their motives should not need to do this. A people welcomed as liberators — and pursuing a righteous mission that could take flight on its own, rather than needing a lift on the wings of propaganda — would not need to do this.
Thanks to the Americans who brought this story out, for making sure we knew what the Bush administration does in our names. But the aggravating part of this — and the part it's the job of each of us to respond to — isn't that the Bush administration twisted the truth. [That's old hat.] It's that now, almost three years after starting the war, the Bush team still has yet to learn that wishing "facts" into existence doesn't make them so.
It's about time Washington had more people who understood that. Don't you agree?
The Boston Globe recently reported on House Republicans quiet push for new leadership in 2006, referencing the growing concern about the two indictment charges that were upheld against Rep. Tom DeLay earlier this week. Now while this is neither new, nor surprising...after reading a little further into the article, I came across this astonishing excerpt:House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and his top lieutenants are seeking to avoid a divisive intra-party leadership fight. They engineered a scenario whereby the majority leader's position is being filled on a temporary basis through at least the end of the year by the number-three House Republican, majority whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, with other members of leadership taking on increased responsibilities.
Hastert has scheduled the first House session of 2006 for Jan. 31 -- after a holiday break of more than a month, and two weeks after senators are due to return to Washington. The late start gives DeLay, a Texas Republican, a greater amount of time with which to dispose of the charges, as new leadership elections could not occur until the House is back in session....
Are you kidding me? The House is planning a vacation for the ENTIRE month of January in order to allow DeLay enough time to clear his name!?
Let's just for minute assume this isn't the case for the extended vacation, does this mean that the members of Congress are forgoing a month of pay? Something tells me that the answer is "no."
December 9, 2005
Corzine Taps Menendez
Today, new governor-elect Jon Corzine named Rep. Robert Menendez as his successor in the United States Senate. "Bob is a fierce and articulate advocate. He's a man of integrity," said Corzine, who was elected last month. "He is eminently electable."
No problema? Apparently not.
All Cooped Up
The bird flu, though not yet a problem of epidemic proportions, has changed the way European farmers conduct businessand threatens to do the same for America's chicken farmers. Organic farmers in Germany are forced to keep their usually free-range chickens locked inside pens to prevent the spread of the disease:"It is really a pity because it was a beautiful October, and we had to keep them in," said Bosshard in German, in between clucks and coos directed at the birds...
Though bird flu has not yet been seen in this part of Europe, its very existence is changing the way farmers do business, particularly in the high-end organic farming industry, where birds normally live outside for much of the day.
With cases of H5N1 now confirmed in wild migratory birds in Romania, Croatia, and - most recently - Ukraine, farmers in much of Europe are taking extraordinary precautions to protect their flocks. The challenge is greatest for organic farmers whose animals must by law live "in nature" to carry the designation "organic," but also, by law, must now be temporarily kept in an enclosed space to protect them from H5N1.
"For conventional farmers this wasn't a problem since their chickens can be kept inside all the time, but ours need contact with the environment," said Albert Rudisuli.
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