Thursday, April 27, 2006
I've said quite often to "newbies" in politics that there is a startling difference between the acts of running for office and actually governing. If a new office holder has even a modicum of self-awareness then they are usually struck hard by this distinction. Once this stark difference hits you, it becomes imcumbent upon you to re-evaluate your goals.
It has been a lot of years since I last engaged in public service and I have been through this business of holding public office often enough where I knew the drill and thought I was completely prepared for the transition from candidate to office holder....but it still took me by surprise.
As I observed the actions of our governing body on Public Access TV and later, live, in-person, I thought that holding local office was about two things:
First, Ask the Right Questions. I always felt that the legislative body was off-topic; almost as if their questions on any particular topic were non-sequitors to the topic at hand.
Second, Hold the Executive Branch accountable. The executive brance has been, and continues to, get away with gross incompetence and nobody in the Legislative branch either knew or cared.
Those two issues became the basis for my "platform" upon which I sought office.
Once elected I found out the startling truth. The two planks of my platform are endemic to the system. The entire culture of our local government is based on something OTHER THAN WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE CITY. It's all about the City Government perpetuating itself and its system. My very first venture into challenging this system resulted in being treated like I was from another planet.
Fundamental Change is needed.
And that will become the goal of my office-holding experience...no matter how short or how long.... forget the subject matter....forget the issues....those will be only the vehicles for effecting change.....
Now....just how do we fit those pieces together to make this work the way it's supposed to?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I think if I've ever had an "over-riding" fault* in politics it has to be my tendency to go off on "Crusades". That is, to stand obstinately behind a principle even if it means certain political defeat or damage.
(*just to be clear here, I have more than "one fault" but I'm talking about a specific theme here...not to imply that I'm arrogant enough to think I'm that close to perfection -hizzhoner)
The reason I mention it now is because upon diving back in to public office again after a long (too long) hiatus, I find one issue after another coming up which violate some of my core beliefs and principles of government. As always, my first instinct is to "man the barricades" or dig in my heels to fight for those principles. But the interesting thing is, my fellow elected officials don't see the issues as ones of "principle", they see them as small, minute even, little issues that should be disposed of in the quickest possible manner. Or, more likely, they see them as "budget-cutting", "cost-saving" or "frugal" measures. I still can't bring myself to look at these issues in that way because they speak directly to the question of "what is government supposed to be funding?".
I think I'm going to have to learn to pick my battles. Save what little political capital I have, (being a "newbie" they have shuffled me off to dust bins...I have to build seniority and power) for the really big battles. Right now, the only power I really have is my ability to speak forcefully and articulately and the ability to do my homework. Strangely enough, I have more power on the council floor than anywhere else.
We'll see if I can reform myself...or is that "restrain" myself?
Monday, April 17, 2006
I'm told one of the first big issues that we will be deciding is whether to put in place and ordinance that mandates a primary election whenever there are more than two candidates for a public office. This is, of course, as opposed to having the Council decide independently each time there are more than two candidates for office.
On the surface, at least, this appears to be a no-brainer.......and come to think of it, it IS A NO BRAINER!
Think about it for a minute. Under the present system, the mere act of deciding to hold or not hold a primary is manipulation of the election results. If the Council "likes" the incumbent Mayor, they naturally want to have as many challengers as possible to run against him to split the vote that wants a change in leadership. Conversely, they can choose to hold a primary if they don't like the incumbent and want to give the challenger(s) every reasonable opportunity to defeat the incumbent.
In a sense, the Council, or at least a majority of the Council, can hold the proverbial "Sword of Damocles" over the head of the Mayor not only during the duration of his/her term, but especially during election season
In addition, there is a distinct possibility that the successful Mayoral candidate could be elected (in a three-way race) with as little as 34% of the vote. That may be a very, very small number of actual votes. Do the math...
Say 4000 people vote (about 35% of the electorate)
Say there are three candidates and the it goes, 34% to 33% to 33%
So the winner (at 34%) got:
.34 X 4,000 =1360 votes....
that's 1360 votes out of an ELIGIBLE VOTER LIST OF 11,400
11.9% OF THE ELIGIBLE VOTE!
50.1% of all eligible voters would be 5711 votes.
So what I propose is making the mayor get a Majority of the votes AND remove the sword of Damocles from the hand of the council as it pertains to the Mayor.
I am not "moved" by the argument that a primary election is "expensive" and that not holding a primary is a "cost savings" measure. This is the argument I've heard over and over again on the floor and consider it to be a subterfuge for another agenda.
I'm looking forward to the fight really.
could be a good one!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
In a few days I'll once again take an oath of office and be seated as an elected official again.
I've been through it enough times now where I'm over the initial shock that all elected officials go through the first time the words of the oath sink in. When you realize what you've just done, what responsibilities you've taken on, it's a little intimidating. I approach it with more solemnity now than I did in the past because, as I'm growing older, the consequences of holding public office seem more......more....Profound.
Let me share a few thoughts with you.
Almost any public office you can think of involves making decisions which could some day, somehow become a life or death decision for somebody, somewhere, somehow. When you're voting on the annual City Budget for instance, you've got to understand that some of the "cost saving measures" you're voting for could eventually result in placing a life at risk. I'm not talking about cutting the Park and Recreation budget. Or maybe even the Library budget. But when you're dealing with Police, Fire, Ambulance and even Public Works, make no mistake about it, you're gambling with human life. You will (if you are a person of conscious) at least once in your career, go to bed asking yourself if the $40,000 you cut from the Police/Fire/Ambulance Budget is worth the loss of a single human life. You'll wonder. And worry.
Contrary to popular, cynical logic, WHO you elect DOES make a difference. The philosophy and character of persons running for office should be scrutinized very carefully. A tough-talking, red-meat-eating politician may amuse and entertain but do you really want that kind of person deciding how often the garbage gets picked up? Or, if the roof will be repaired on your kids school?
My patience has grown thin with the "fast burners" in local government. You know who I'm talking about, don't you. We've all seen the bright young person (there are as many Woman fast burners as men these days) who has the endorsement of the local Rotary/Lions/Kiwanis/Chamber of Commerce, dresses immaculately for each meeting and feels the need to speak to each and every issue on the agenda. These people are likely to jump out of their seats in order to "Move" a motion or even "Second" a motion for the sole purpose of making sure their name appears in the newspaper, or, at the very least, in the meeting minutes. They all harbor a common dream: that this seat is a stepping-stone to a higher public office. When I see them on the street these days, I'm amused because I picture that commercial of a man walking down the street who is being followed by another man holding a "boombox" which is playing the first man's "own theme song". I'm certain, in their minds these folks hear their own theme song. They add nothing to the debate except sound-bites and I think we more than enough of them these days.
In my younger days I complained bitterly about the "idiots" serving on the City Councils where I worked. I complained that we were dealing with "garbage can government" in that the people serving on the council were there because nobody else wanted to be there. Today, I think those people were geniuses. Let me give you an example:
One of my old nemesis' used to infuriate me by quoting Abraham Lincoln and then "zinging" me with a swift and well-placed parliamentary maneuver. I came to learn that whenever he asked to be recognized and then started quoting Lincoln, I was in for a long, long night. A goodly number of public office-holders I've talked to recently have ZERO, ZIP, NADA knowledge of Parliamentary Procedure, much less any appreciable knowledge of Abraham Lincoln.
I've rambled on enough, I think so let me leave you with this thought.
I'm growing older now and I've have a couple of recent encounters with my own mortality. The age and the experiences have taught me to appreciate and honor the position I am holding and treat it with reverence. I hope others do also.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
The death and subesquent funeral of my Mother-in-law took up most of my attention from March 30 through April 4. This is as it should be. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Sylvia's brothers and one Nephew (who we haven't seen in 18 years.) and I think that was wonderful. Despite the fact that the family had reconciled itself to Mom's death for over 14 years (that's how long she was in a nursing home) there was a lot more grief and sense of loss than anybody had imagined. The funeral was a chance for all of them to come to grips with the whole ordeal of Alzheimer's Disease. The fact that they were all gathered at our house was also a chance for them to share stories of their youth and their time with their mother...actually a chance to literally celebrate their life with their mother...and then to say good-bye. It was good. And then, on Tuesday Morning, one-by-one, the whole family left and normal life, the new normal life, began.
But Tuesday was election day for local offices in Wisconsin and I was on the ballot. I had almost completely forgotten that little fact for the last five days before the election...good thing I was running unopposed....
After that, it's been a whirlwind.
...the bizarre ending to the Mayor's race
...the flood of phone calls on various issues
...decisions to be made about committee assignments
...several issues within the party to deal with...
Welcome to the "new normal"...
I think I'm in for quite a ride.
Friday, March 31, 2006
In some ways my Mother-in-law was luckier than most in that almost the first thing she lost was any sense of awareness that anything was actually was wrong. The event that led to the end of her independent living was one evening when I was on the phone with her and she started coughing. I asked if she had a cold and she said "No, there's just so much smoke in the house that I can't breathe." She had been cooking bacon in a pan and let it set on fire but had no idea that the fire was unusual. Losing that awareness, we think, kept her from suffering.
The next five days or so will be tied up in the minutae of funerals and family visits. No grips. No whining. No complaining. It's all a part of the tapestry of life.
See you later.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
My son is getting married.
I'm running for public office.
My Mother-in-law is dying.
That's three distinct events...all of the landmark in their own right and all three are happening at the same time. How can you "compartmentalize" three events so emotionnally dissimilar? Also, is it normal to even think about "compartmentalizing" those events?
There is a technique for dealing with all of this...it's called "living". That's all I can really do. Take each day as it comes, do what has to be done and move onto the next thing.
My wife is in a similar position...only her "third rail" is a high-pressure, responsibility-packed job. I'm quite worried about her because the emotions are running very, very high. A big part of my efforts for the next few weeks will be to be supportive of her....to help her get through these days as easily as possible.
I thought about complaining about not being able to experience the stand-alone emotions of joy for my son's wedding but I suppose the joy of the wedding will keep me from experiencing the stand-alone grief over my mother-in-law. Maybe the juxtaposition tempers everything....
Maybe it needs to be tempered.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
In the meantime I'll post on some major events that may be coming to a climax this week nationally:
- More later
Friday, March 24, 2006
News is breaking as I type about Bush's "signing statement" that accompanied the renewed Patriot Act. Here's how it's reported by the Boston Globe
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.
The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.
What enrages me about this?
Well, to begin with the Patriot Act was almost not renewed except for the fact that Republican and Democratic Senators cut a deal, an "understanding", if you will, about the provisions of the bill. Obviously, the White House didn't share with the Senators it's intention to ignore the reporting provisions contained within the bill.
Next, there's that whole "F--k you! aspect of Bush's statement. Can you imagine for even a second what would have happened to ANY Democratic President who told Congress he would obey the law only if he/she felt like it?
I am stunned that he has the Congress in his pocket and chooses to ignore them anyway. I am also stunned that REPUBLICAN Senators aren't leading a revolt to CENSURE or support a House of Representatives led effort to IMPEACH HIM. Why Republican Senators? Because they have been slighted more than anybody. For the first time in decades, the Republicans have control of the Senate and they are being belittled, bypassed and ignored by their own President.
Congress must realize that they are fast becoming irrelevant.....and act quickly.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
this from the Observer
But Democratic Congressional leaders are treating the G.O.P.’s ability to dictate the terms of debate as a virtual law of nature. It is arguably the whole point of political leadership to make volatile forces swing in your direction, and harness them to a coherent stand. By contrast, Mr. Michael said, the reigning mentality among Democratic leaders is that “if we take a stand, we risk defeat. That’s a chicken-shit refusal to have a real debate …. The Democratic establishment and the press establishment won’t let that debate happen.”
Message to Democratic leadership:
Grap your ears with both hands
and PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS.
Maybe the grassroots...or netroots can wake them up.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Digby put up a great post on the Democratic Party's objections to Feingold's Censure Resolution. You can read it here:
Buried in there was the germ of an idea. A strategy if you will. Try this on for size:
Bush is wildly unpopular because he has made so many bone-headed moves that even his base is furious with him. The Republican strategy is to RUN AWAY FROM BUSH as fast as they can...
If the Feingold Censure resolution gets debated in the Senate, either in committee or on the floor, the Republicans HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO RALLY AROUND BUSH...
Thus, the Republicans bind unto themselves all the incompetence of the Bush Administration just in time for the '06 elections.....
Maybe but High risk yields high reward.
Or as my old, reprobate father used to say, "No guts, no blue chips!"
Friday, March 17, 2006
Russ Feingold has a backbone and he's not afraid to use it.
And last night, our local party showed that it had one also by passing a resolution in support of our Senator Feingold.
I'm being called "radical" by friends these days because I support Feingold and a lot of other "crazy, liberal causes." It's funny because I've haven't considered myself to be an activist or radical since my college days (there was a lot going on in '66, 67 and 68 wasn't there?) so the label "radical" was sort of unsettling to me.
I've had to ask myself, since when did the exercise of your citizens rights and responsibilities become "radical"? Maybe it happened at the same time that it became unacceptable to have a backbone.
Here is the resolution:
WHEREAS President George W. Bush has approved domestic wiretaps on American citizens without seeking a legally required court order, and
WHEREAS he has misled the public prior to public disclosure of the National Security Agency surveillance program by indicating that his administration was relying on court orders to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the United States, and
WHEREAS Senator Russ Feingold has introduced a resolution to censure this unlawful action by the President,
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the membership of the Wood County Democratic Party supports the Senate Feingold Resolution, and urges all Wisconsin Democratic elected representatives to do likewise.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Let's recap for a moment.
On This Week with George Stephanopolus, Russ Feingold announced that he would introduce a resolution to censure President Bush.
True to his word, Feingold introduced the resolution around 3PM EST on Monday on the floor of the Senate. After some weird theatrics by Arlen Spectre, Senator Frist tried to call for an immediate vote in order to embarrass the Democrats.
But that wasn't the bad part....the bad part is still going on...that is, our congressional democrats are still RUNNING AWAY from Russ's Resolution. They're actually hiding. According to press reports, there are few who will speak for the record. So the unattributed accounts of "Democratic Staffers" proceed to Trash Russ.
While this is going on several on-line petitions in support of Russ are being circulated and one of them collected over 200,000 on-line signatures OVERNIGHT! You can see the petition here
In addition, The Nation has an editorial which every liberal/progressive shoud read entitled A Pecular Politician which you can read here.
It says, in part:
The senator is peculiar in this era of decaying> democracy. There was a time, believe it or not, when his type was a> familiar presence in the Senate. I think of Sam Ervin of North> Carolina, a conservative Democrat on most matters but always a lion on> the Constitution. Ervin is remembered for his heroic role in the> investigation of Watergate. Old-timers remember that before Watergate,> Senator Sam led courageous hearings on the illegal spying on civilians> by the Army and FBI (Democratic scandals predating Nixon).>> When liberalism was in flower, the Senate always included a good mix of> such maverick voices. They were party loyalists but departed on principle> in ways that sometimes kept the majority honest. Voted against the> President's war in Vietnam and never let up. Ernest Gruening of Alaska,> Wayne Morse of Oregon, Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee. Phil Hart of> Michigan was his own one-man reform party. George McGovern of South> Dakota was another.>>
We might ask why the Republican Party has not produced a similar> collection of independent thinkers. We might mourn the fact that> pursuing a career in the Senate no longer seems compatible with> stubborn self-directed character.
The media, instead of kissing off> Feingold as a dumb politician, might do a little honest reporting on> the substance of what he is saying.>> For the moment, however, let us celebrate the man. The club will try> to shove him in a closet and forget his little unpleasantness ever> happened. I hope they fail and other Dems are properly embarrassed.> Amid scandals in high places, Senator Feingold is fresh air. The> country should rise up and sing.
In addition, I haven't heard a single Democrat, either in the blogosphere, liberal radio or liberal columns who has criticized or condemned Feingold for his resolution. Not one!
So why have only 5 (by some accounts five, by other accounts only one, Tom Harkin of Iowa) Democrats standing behind Russ?
That's where we get to WHAT I HAVE LEARNED..
What I have learned is that our politicians in Congress don't give a rip about what we think.....they don't fear us anymore. They don't give a rip....
Oh, to be sure they want our vote, but let's face it: We don't have anywhere else to go. Who among us would vote for a Republican over a Democrat? Not many. So in a sense, they know they have our vote by default and don't actually need our money because the big bucks people will keep them in office...the single issue voters will finance their campaigns, and, in the end, we'll have no choice to but to "throw the lever" for them.
Or are they?
How much more will we take before we exercise some "options"?
Options like: Throwing our support behind a candidate to run against them in a primary.
Options like: Forming a coalition with the Green Party?
Would we actually go so far as to "sit out" the next election and let the Republicans take a seat by default in order to run against a weak Republican in two years?
I don't know the answer. All these "solutions" have been mentioned in other corners of the blogosphere but I doubt if there is any organized movement. But there could be an organized movement.
A Democratic Consultant recently warned our "leaders" in DC about ignoring the blogs....he said they should do so "at their peril". He' s right. I wrote a short piece on it here.
If a revolution within the Democratic party starts, it will most certainly start on the blogs.
Like right here.
Like right now.
Friday, March 10, 2006
I'm actually beginning to think that Feingold is engaging in an act of STATESMANSHIP.
I think that Feingold's Censure Resolution should pass the Senate by a vote of 100 to 0. I think every Senator, regardless of party affiliation should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their fellow Senators because they are not standing so much AGAINST George W. Bush but FOR the Senate of the United States and the Constitution.
I'm beginning to see that it is all about the Senate. It's about separation of powers. It's about checks and balances. It's democracy against monarchy.
Truthfully it's not all that complicated. Here's how it boils down "in a nutshell".
Bush circumvented the FISA courts because he didn't like the way the law was written. Instead of going back to Congress to change the law, he openly violated it for more than two years. After the fact, he had his Attorney General cook up the lame "unitary executive" and "the power was implicit in the Iraq War Resolution" excuses and then blatantly admits that he broke the law and will continue doing it.
That's unchecked power in the executive branch folks.
The "unitary executive" argument says that the President can obey or disobey laws passed by Congress as he wishes. He can have al la carte enforcement of the law.
Unless the Senate stops him.
Unless the Senate Censures him. Unless the Senate reasserts its authority and constitutional position as a check and balance against dictatorship.
100 to 0
That's how Feingold's censure resolution should pass.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
when did that happen?
When did all the cable talk shows turn so conservative?
On CNN, Wolf Blitzer is broadcasting live from the UAE. He blesses us with such in-depth journalistic gems as "Next up, we'll interview the CEO of Dubai Ports World and ask him if his company can keep America's ports safe." (note: I'm not such a skilled writer that I can convey his voice inflection in mere words. Suffice it to say, it's a combination of sounding breathless and constipated at the same time.) Who the hell sent him to Dubai to sell us on the damned ports deal?
Then, of course, there is Chris Matthews. Now that Chris' brother is running for Lt Gov as a Republican, Chris (aka Tweety because of his big head of blonde hair) has given up all pretense of being neutral or at least objective. Now they're having a "Countdown to Memphis" where he claims they will "pick the next president". Only problem with that is that its the republican convention in Memphis and the person they will pick as the next President is a Republican.
No wonder I still scream at the TV......
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Some interesting insights are put up by Digby.
In the meantime, Senator Olympia Snowe, who spoke out against the illegal NSA wiretaping initially, folded like a cheap suitcase to White House pressure and voted AGAINST an investigation. She was joined by fellow "cheap suitcases" Sen Chuck (ES&S) Hagel and the current King of Senate Wingnuttery, Senator DeWine of Ohio. Jane Hamser has more on it here.
Tom Delay is squirming a little bit tonight. He's facing a primary battle but he expects to survive but the general election is going to be tougher yet....GOOD.
More later.....blogger has been a little squirrely this afternoon.
Monday, March 06, 2006
"...however, when you're up to your ass in Alligators, it's hard to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp."
I tried an exercise earlier where I attempted to count all the scandals/issues going on with the Bush Administration. I came up with a list:
Dubai Ports Issue, NSA Wiretapping, Plame outing,Abramoff Scandal,Katrina Scandal, Delay Scandal, The Tillman coverup, "Torture-gate", illegal prisons/extra ordinary rendition, The Downing Street Memos, The WMD lies...it goes on and on because everytime I try to put a "period" at the end of it I think of another.
on edit: A friend from DU just posted a list for me. You can see it here.
But the point of this exercise isn't to catalogue all the shady things Bush has been involved in it's to sugget that there are far too many of them for us to keep up with and deal with in any kind of effective manner. He is throwing so much stuff at us so fast that we can't seem to fight it all off.
I'm suggesting that we have to have a separation of labor within the Democratic party. That is, we have to have some people address a single issue and move forward on it while others address another issue and bring that to a conclusion. We can't possibly keep up with all the scandals as a large, committee of the whole. We need to delegate our efforts and eventually coordinate activities of all groups.
Our national leadership hasn't picked up on this yet. But they had better do it soon because those gators are getting close....and they're mean.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
So William Kristol disses Bush on Fox News Sunday? Georgia10 has a good dairy on this over at Dailykos.
Last week it was George Will who came out against the Iraq war.
And on This Week with George Stephanopolus, Republican Congressional Leader Duncan Hunter openly challenges Bush on the Dubai Ports World deal.
We're seeing a rebellion against George W. Bush by members of his own party. They seem to be running "away" from Bush rather than "with" him. Obviously they don't want to be tarred with the President's perceived failures, gaffs and incompetence, but the strategy of running as the "good republicans" as opposed to George W. Bush as the "bad Republican" is fraught with danger.
What theme are they going to campaign on?
How about this one: "If you re-elect me, I'll keep George from screwing up anything else!"
Or maybe, "Yeah, sure, I gave him a blank check, but nobody could have anticipated that he'd screw up that bad".
Or maybe, as a last resort, "Please give me another chance...I promise I won' support Bush anymore."
How are they going to portray themselves as "good" as opposed to Dubya's "bad" without admitting that the Republican Congress has enabled every last one of Dubya's ill-advised misadventures. They are just as culpable for these screwups as Dubya because they blindly rubber-stamped everything he wanted and when they did object, they were immediately cowed under by pressure from the enforcer, KKKarl Rove.
They must think the American electorate is stupid if they think that the good cop/bad cop routine will work. No, this time the public has caught on and they're not going to fall for the cheap theatrics again. This time they will be held accountable.
Oh yes, one more thing so it will be clear about where I stand. I personally like to use the term "Vichy Democrats". Those are the Democrats in Congress who were (and some remain) cowed by the Republicans and have voted with them for things like the Bankruptcy Bill, The Iraq War Resolution (yeah, that means you too, Hillary), the cloture vote on the Alito Nomination and maybe a dozen other crucial votes where the Democrats actaully had a chance of making a difference. Those "Vichy Democrats" will also be held accountable. Where there is no primary opponent, there should be. When the general election comes around, don't bother asking for my money or my time. I cringe at the thought of losing a Democratic seat but what good is having a Democrat holding the seat if that Democrat votes with the Republicans. We need to clean our own house also.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
The blogosphere is abuzz with the words and deeds of formerly disgraced FEMA Director Michael Brown. Since the release of the video tapes of President Bush being briefed on the dangers of Hurricane Katrina before the storm which contradicts what the President said after the storm, Brown has been rehabilitated.
On Friday you couldn't find a cable TV show without good 'ole Brownie on it. He did a two-segment lovefest with Chris Matthews on Hardball and then inexplicibly showed up on the flagship of liberal comedy shows, Realtime with Bill Maher on HBO.
Jane Hamser at firedoglake has done an excellent piece on this reincarnation of Michael Brown. In it she asks mentions that his sudden rehabilitation in the mind of the public "feels almost organized".
I'm not a gambling man but I would almost bet my last dime that it bloody well IS organized!
The multiple TV appearances are most definitely the work of a publicist. So who's paying for it? Where is the money coming from? Have they prepared for the inevitable Rovian counter-attack?
Oh yes and while we're at it let's ask this question: How did AP get that tape?
This is orchestrated and the only question is BY WHOM?
Who, besides Brownie, benefits from all this?
Obviously its the Democrats but have they matured enough to conduct such a sophisticated strategy? I doubt it. This has the smell of a classic Republican black bag operation and I think some traditional conservatives are finally fighting back.
Yes Jane, it's organized. If you can find out by whom then you're a genius.
Friday, March 03, 2006
I have to admit to taking a certain delight in watching Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report in Comedy Central Monday through Thursday nights. In case you haven’t seen it, The Colbert Report (pronounced as if French as in Colbear Reporr) is a parody of every right wing talk show host you’ve ever watched or listened to. He is arrogant, ignorant, biased, smug and overbearing as he joyfully mouths the latest Right wing talking points of the day in such a way that he lays their “truthiness” (a term which he claims to have coined which means: “sort of like the truth”) bare for everyone to see. This spinoff from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewert, has become an instant hit and a new media phenomenom.
But therein lies the danger.
You’d think an old warhorse like me would be jumping up and down watching Colbert’s nightly lampooning of the right wing but it’s because of the “old” part of that phrase (old liberal warhorse) that I’m a little bit leary of Colbert’s popularity.
You see, I’m old enough to remember another TV phenomenon called “All In The Family” that started in 1971 and ran until 1983
The show is considered by Television historians to be one of the most socially significant shows to ever air on network TV. And I agree. It was a ground-breaking series.
The museum of Television sums up the plotline like this:
All in the Family's storylines centered on the domestic concerns of the Bunker household in Queens, New York. Family patriarch and breadwinner Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) was a bigoted loading dock worker disturbed by the changes occurring in the American society he once knew. To Archie, gains by the "Spades," "Spics," or "Hebes" of America (as he referred to Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, respectively), came at his expense and that of other lower middle class whites. Countering Archie's harsh demeanor was his sweet but flighty "dingbat" wife, Edith. Played by Jean Stapleton, Edith usually endured Archie's tirades in a manner meant to avoid confrontation. But that was hardly the case with Archie's live-in son-in-law Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), a liberal college student who was married to the Bunkers' daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers). The confrontations between Archie and Mike ("Meathead") served as the basis for much of All in the Family's comedy. As surely as Archie could be counted upon to be politically conservative and socially misguided, Mike was equally liberal and sensitive to the concerns of minorities and the oppressed, and, because both characters were extremely vocal in their viewpoints, heated conflict between the two was assured.
Archie Bunker could be counted upon to be outrageous in almost every regard. Remember in 1971 American Society was still being turned upside down by the War in Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement and it was just a scant three years since the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr so it was the time when we were supposed to see Archie as the past that we needed to leave behind. But it didn’t work out that way.
Over at http://www.apocalypsefiction.com/isstwo/ed2.html they do a good job of describing what actually happened. Like this:
... I watched as Archie espoused a seemingly endless monologue of racial slurs, bigotry, prejudiced, historical revisionalism, and all-around polital incorrectness with such heartfelt openness and honesty that you could not help but love him for it. Could not help but love him for all of his flaws and shortcomings--love him as a person.
They got it right. Only a few years after the show first aired, I remember seeing a magazine (I think it was Time but I can’t find the reference) that asked the question:
Have We Missed the Point of Archie Bunker?
Indeed we had. Couched in Archie’s context, ignorance, prejudice, jealousy, bigotry were “okay”. It was acceptable to be all those things as long as you were “loveable”. I secretly suspect that the ascension of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency just a scant 9 years later and while All In The Family was still on the air, had something to do with the nation learning to accept a “loveable bigot”.
So how does this relate to Stephen Colbert?
Colbert has recently been asked to address a Republican Conference on Blogging.
Got that? It’s a Republican Conference on Blogging.
Stephen Colbert has nothing to do with Blogging. His show is strictly a television phenomenon. The blogosphere has nothing to do with The Colbert Report.
But that’s minor compared to the incongruity that the Republicans would invite someone who openly mocks them and their philosophy four nights a week. It’s possible that the Republicans just do not “get it”. It’s possible that they actually think he’s a serious Right Wing Pundit, but it takes a long stretch of the imagination to believe that to be true. Contrary to what I’d like to believe, Republicans are not stupid so I doubt if they take him seriously as a right wing pundit.
More likely, it’s the Archie Bunker Syndrome.
Most likely, they love his celebrity. Most likely, they like him as a person and will put up with his barbs and jabs as long as he remains just a comedian and not a serious threat to their philosophy but he’s just as dangerous as Archie Bunker in that his parody may be taken seriously and internalized.
We tend to idolize celebrities. We tend to place them on pedestals. We expect them, and sometimes even the characters they portray, to carry the torch of our causes. In the end, however, they are just performers with a “shtick” we tend to like. Never confuse the character with the person.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
In case you missed it, the National Journal's Murray Waas carried and incredible story about the briefing papers provided to the President in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
And, they are damning.
If these papers were even read by the President, Vice President and National Security Advisor (at that time Condi Rice) then all three of them continually lied to us to get us into that war.
Among other things, the papers said:
- Saddam was no risk to the United States
- Saddam would probably never use NBC (Nuclear, Biological or Chemical) weapons unless his regime was under immenient threat.
- The infamous aluminum tubes Saddam had ordered were for conventional weapons not nuclear programs.
And that led to some interesting questions on some other progressive blogs. The most interesting one over on firedoglake was: Did Bush lie or is he so breath-takingly incompetent that he just didn't do his job?
My response is below.
He lied...not just during the run-up to Gulf War II, but in his campaign to become President.
Remember how, when asked about Foreign Policy in a debate, Bush said that his policy would be "humble"? He lied....He lied because even at that time he knew that he would attack Iraq, and, at that time anyway, he knew it would be for purely political reasons. It was only after Dead-eye-dick joined the team that he found "intellectual" (puke, puke, puke) cover from the Neocons with their PAX AMERICANA philosophy from the PNAC.
He knew during the campaign that his foreign policy would be PAX AMERICANA and deliberately WITHHELD that plan from the American people because nobody in America (at least those in their right mind) would have voted for him on that platform.
He fulfilled a tenet of the Neocon faith: Tell the "noble lie to the populace because they are too stupid to understand and condone your truth.
I don't know which lies are worse: The ones that got us into war or the ones that made Bush our President.
Well, of course this makes it a three-way race for the April election. There won't be any primary because it is at the discretion of the City Council as to whether there will be a primary. More on that later.
This is shaping up to be a very interesting race.
There is, of course the incumbent who would appear to have the logical edge in the race and then there is the significant challenger who is running hard, putting yard signs out like they're going out of style. So far, we have absolutely no clue about what each of these guys stands for. I suppose we'll be getting some information from the candidate's forums shortly.
I've heard comments from people in my neighborhood about both candidates and so far it's a "a plague on both their houses".
Nobody seems to like the incumbent very much and I suspect that has to do with the conventional wisdom that we have a "weak Mayor" system and he does everything he can to live up to it..
On the other hand, the major challenger has been described to me variously as "arrogant ". I've also been told he is into "privatizing" as many of the city services as possible.
The above-mentioned third candidate is running because somebody told him he'd make a good Mayor. Ooooookaaaaaaaayyyy..........
So I guess it's going to boil down to weakling vs arrogant....I suspect I'll choose weakling.
The Common Council really missed the boat by refusing to change the Charter Ordinance to automatically trigger a primary whenever there are more than two candidates for any City Position. I got the distinct impression from one of the Alderpersons that the Council sort of likes the idea that they can play (political) God by forcing and incumbent to go through a primary or not depending on how much they like the Mayor or maybe by how much they like the challenger. That attitude just rubs me the wrong way and I'm quite likely to rebel against it.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
It's beginning to seem like that Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. That's what January, February and March are like around here....same winter weather, close to the same temperatures every day, the same old routine day-in-day-out.
Of course there's something to be said for living a boring life. I mean, really, it's a lot better than living in fear and loathing every day isn't it?
And most certainly, it's magnitudes better than what our soldiers are going through in Iraq everyday.
Scanning the blogs this morning:
Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting concerning the NSA spying. No surprises so far. Live blogging going on here:
WITH UNAPOLOGETIC PARTISAN GLEE
We note that a CBS News survey finds Dubya's popularity at 34%!
Even better, "Dead-eye Dick" Cheney is down to 18%!
THINGS ARE JUST "DUCKY" IN IRAQ.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 — Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue.
I hope to have a fellow "team-mate" blogger on board soon. Invitations have been sent but Blogger is slow on these things....
Feel free to jump in any time.
Monday, February 27, 2006
It's like one of those old nightmares where everybody is in on the joke but you and they're all laughing at you for being so dumb. And no matter who you ask to explain what's going on, they won't tell you and just keep laughing. Only this wasn't any dream. It was a forum on the Democratic Party's Health Care initiave moderated by four of our local State Legislators.
Here's what the Legislative Democrats are trying to do. They're trying to pass some kind of legislation that commits the legislature to solving various well-documented Health Care issues in the State of Wisconsin by some date certain. Do what, exactly? There isn't any "what". There is just a "do something" with a set of broad goals.
Now it's obvious that being outnumbered in both the Assembly and the Senate, the Democrats will need a lot of aisle-crossing and true bi-partisan muscle to get "something" done...hell, they'll need all the bi-partisan support they can get just to get a "sense of the legislature" resolution on this issue. If they don't, then of course the Republican leadership can make absolutely certain that anything (resolution, legislation, whatever) gets assigned to committee and never sees the light of day.
That's when the awful moment happened.
As I read through the prepared handout it occurred to me that the Republicans would never be so accommodating as to give the Democrats even the tiniest of victories. Or, as P.T. Barnum
once said, "Never give a sucker an even break." I peeked over the handout and looked up at the panel and sure enough....There it was: They were ALL DEMOCRATS. There wasn't a single Republican on the panel.
I got it.
I got the joke.
There isn't going to be any Health Care Initiative.There's only a going to be a campaign issue for the 06 elections with a headline reading
The sad part is that I was probably the last person in the room to "get it".
After the conference, conversations with a couple of the legislators confirmed my guess. I was told that the Republican leadership has already dug in their heels and that they were refusing to participate in this effort.
So this state-wide effort is all form and no substance?
Maybe I've been living in the political "boondocks" for too long to recognize the sheer genius of this strategy. Maybe the logic goes something like this:
* We'll never get health care reform as long as the Repubs control the Legislature.
* The only way to retake the legislature is to defeat Republicans
* The only way to defeat Republicans is to let the public know it's the Repubs responsible for sky-high health care costs
* So make the Republicans responsible for killing healthcare reform.
So the FORM IS THE SUBSTANCE.
I guess when your party is hopelessly outnumbered, you play the best hand you've got.
Pictures will follow with edit
I often have a hard time trying to explain to my very technically/scientifically oriented son exactly why I am and have been so heavily involved in politics, or, for instance, why I frequently engage in shouting matches with a cable TV talk show.
I think he was particularly perplexed when last summer he learned that I was out standing vigil for Cindy Sheehan along with about 35 other people.
He knew of course that I had been involved in campus "free speech" protests and had marched for Civil Rights and (eventually) against the Viet Nam War while I was in College. What the hell...it was during 1966 through 1970....what would you expect? I spent 15 years in public service practicing what I believed and left disillusioned. Although I was effectively "out" of politics for anther 15 years, the old passions never actually died and so I jumped right back in.
Truthfully, I'm far more "mainstream" than I was "back in the day...." but something very strange has happened: What was "mainstream" back then, is considered "radical" now. In fact, to my never-ceasing amazement, the simple act of writing a letter in opposition to The President's policies is now an act of radical sedition. Participation in a peaceful vigil or demonstration brands you as a member of the moon-bat, looney left.
How the hell did that happen?
My family jokingly now refers to me as the "crazy neighborhood liberal". They joke that I probably have a huge FBI dossier. (I probably do....college...military...managing federal programs...I wouldn't be a bit surprised) I think sometimes I should "tone it down" a bit to keep from embarrassing them.
Nah......can't do that....
It's against my nature....
Stephen C. Day has a character from Last Chance Democracy Cafe, Winston, explain his "radicalism" to his family in this way:
So I’m sorry if my bluntness sometimes makes you cringe. But don’t expect me to change. Because if there’s one thing this country doesn’t need right now, it’s one more person running with the crowd
I'll probably remain outspoken and also continue trying to explain myself to my family but I think my "blog buddy" Rasputin1952 put it quite nicely.
We fight because others are too timid, or lack the conscience of the humanity we fight for. We are old, but wise beyond our years. We have fought this fight before, and won; we fight again, if for no other reason than it is simply the right thing to do. by Rasputin 1952
Sunday, February 26, 2006
If I get a few hits where people want more local information, then I'll do it...otherwise we'll just continue with National news....
Hope everybody had a nice weekend......
Rita Cosby said that it's wrong that the Republicans in South Carolina are asking for church rolls to target the evangelical vote but it's just as wrong that Democrats are targeting the "hoodlum vote." Yes, the hoodlum vote. When a plainly confused Chris Matthews asked what she meant, she explained that Democrats were going through voter rolls to find felons to vote for them.
Can you even imagine what would have happened if a Democratic/liberal/progressive had made this remark? I understand there are a "few" emails in to MSNBC demanding an apology.
Wonder if it will happen??
Update: Stephanie Miller took a few swings at Rita this morning. She questioned whether anything will come of this. It seems like the other blogs have moved on to other issues...sort of the scandal fatigue thing again I guess.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
When I saw this picture of the eagle on another site it immediately struck me as symbolic of how most Democrats have felt for a long time (5+years) and how more and more "middle Americans" are feeling every day.Think about it.It's almost an outrage per day with the Bush Administraion. Their arrogance and shear audacity are breath-taking. What has been done to our system of checks and balances is shameful as well as frightening.
I've spoken before about "scandal fatigue". It seems that we, the loyal opposition, can never focus quickly enough or sharp enough on a single outrage before the next one erupts and drags our attention away. I've noticed that over the last five years and believe me, I've lost count of the number of incidents that have raised calls to "man the barricades" from activists all over the country. I used to think that our inability to bring any single outrage to some conclusion that would require the Bush administration to stand accountable was due to a political version of "attention deficit disorder" but now I am convinced that it has to do with a certain powerlessness to do anything BUT be enraged. My fondest hope is that all the unresolved outrages and scandals triggered by this administration will act more like open, festering wounds and eventually grow so fetid that they will, in aggregate, bring this administration to an ignomius end.
The saddest of all, however, is the evil that these people have done is about to erupt into more violence and bloodshed than we could have ever imagined. I'm talking about Iraq, of course.Reading on-line news and blogs this morning about Iraq is absolutely frightening. One obscure foreign policy blog I read this morning pointed out that in 1996 a middle-eastern think tank study rightly noted that the only thing keeping Iraq from descending into the hellacious realm of sectarian civil was the brutal control of Saddam Hussein. Neocon scholars of the time decided that even in light of the risk of civil war that Iraq needed a "clean sweep" and from the chaos, democracy and peace would flourish.I think that's what the (cough: idiot) pundit Terry Jeffreys was trying to say on Blitzer's show yesterday...that civil war in Iraq meant George Bush's plan is working.....(I swear you can't make this crap up!)
The sooner Bush and his administration are removed from office, the better as far as I'm concerned. Strangly enough, during the first two years of Bush's term of office a person to whom I am close said, "I never knew one person could screw up so much in such a short length of time." God help us if he finishes the next three years.
Friday, February 24, 2006
I had almost forgotten that I had this space up....now that I'm posting on another site (actually three sites) I'll be making more use of this one.....
This one I think will be more specific to the things I'm doing in my hometown and less oriented toward "party" matters.
There are a lot of issues I want to cover and I'll just have to start plugging away at them from here on in