January 27, 2006

Why Aren’t We Mad Enough Yet?

We didn’t get mad enough when the conservative-leaning Supreme Court handed the 2000 presidency to W after he stonewalled the recount in Florida.

We didn’t get mad enough after we found out that all reasonable permutations of the recounts would have handed to presidency to Gore.

We didn’t get mad enough when we found out about the tens of thousands of mostly poor people in Florida who were disenfranchised because their names were similar to convicted felons in either Florida or Texas. This would surely have given Gore enough votes to defeat Bush, since he lost by only 537.

We didn’t get mad enough when W stole the 2004 election by owning the Secretaries of State in both Florida and Ohio, as well as the companies manufacturing the paperless, audit-less voting machines. Sure… it was just a quirk that the exit polls didn’t come close to the ‘actual’ results in counties deploying those machines.

We didn’t get mad enough when W’s largest corporate contributor – Enron – fabricated the California energy crisis costing millions of people billions of dollars, and started a rash of corporate corruptions & closures that kicked off the 2001 recession.

We didn’t get mad enough when we were attacked on 9/11 and learned that W had a myriad of warning signals and still failed to act on them to protect our country. After all, he was busy vacationing the entire month of August 2001.

We didn’t get mad enough when W gutted the Clean Air Act for the Clear Skies Initiative allowing measurably more pollution into the air.

We didn’t get mad enough when Dick Cheney formulated the Bush Administration’s energy policy directly from the desires of the energy companies, under a veil of secrecy, and in the process allowed them to gut essential environmental protections.

We didn’t get mad enough when W withdrew our country from every major treaty, in the process alienating almost every international ally.

We didn’t get mad enough when W turned a massive billion dollar surplus into a massive billion dollar deficit, essentially mortgaging our children’s future.

We didn’t get mad enough when W attacked our public educational system with his ‘No Child Left Behind’ farce, and then refused to adequately fund it.

We didn’t get mad enough when W broke down the separation of church & state with his ‘Faith-based Initiatives’ program sending tens of millions of dollars to Christian religious organizations.

We didn’t get mad enough when W breached our civil rights with the USA Patriot Act and started detaining citizens indefinitely, without due process, with no access to legal defense, and no charges.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned that W was torturing detainees, sending them off to secret prisons, and putting our own troops at risk in the process.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that W knew it all along and still coerced us into war.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned that there was NO connection between Sadaam Hussein and al Qaeda, NO connection between Sadaam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and NO connection between Sadaam Hussein and the attacks on 9/11, yet he lead us into war in Iraq on that basis.

We didn’t get mad enough when the Downing St. Memos proved that W had every intension to go to War in Iraq and fabricated the intelligence to support his evil plan.

We didn’t get mad enough when the Iraq body count surpassed 2000, the cost of the war surpassed $200b, and with no end in sight, Bush asked for another $82b, while at the same time gutting domestic spending in the new 2006 budget.

We didn’t get mad enough when W leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent, whose mission was to find & expose the weapons of mass destruction, as retaliation for her husband exposing the unsubstantial reasons for going to war.

We didn’t get mad enough when W let 4 days go by before taking any action in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We thought it was amusing when he was seen playing guitar while FEMA completely fouled up the rescue & recovery effort. Heck of a job they did though! And how are things going now, George?

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned that W invaded our privacy and subverted the constitution, breaking the law, to eavesdrop on our conversations, email, etc. We didn’t even get mad enough when we found out he’s been spying on non-terrorists like PETA, Code-Pink and Greenpeace.

We didn’t get mad enough when gas prices breached $2/gal and shot upwards to nearly $3/gal. Yes, now they’ve settled back down to around $2.40/gal. Let’s see, now… where were gas prices before W started his Jihad? Oh yeah… in our atmosphere!

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned of Halliburton’s no-bid, multi-billion contracts, bilking our military by over charging and not delivering, and then “losing” $8.8b.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned that W was paying off media pundits for favorable news coverage, giving prime press access to right-wing reporters, and manipulating the media at every juncture.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned how Tom Delay laundered thousands and thousands of dollars through the RNC and into the Texas state congressional races, redistricted the state, swinging a number of Democratic seats over to Republican seats.

We didn’t get mad enough when we learned how corrupt the Republicans in Congress are by taking bribes and allowing the K Street lobbies to forge their legislation, having created a revolving door of money and jobs between them.

When will we get mad enough to do something about this incompetent, corrupt, hypocritical, arrogant excuse for a presidency (along with their evil henchmen)? Probably not until the ignorant sheeple in this country wake up and stop buying the bullcrap.

January 20, 2006

Commander in Geena – II

Several months ago I wrote an article about President MacKenzie Allen (Geena Davis) on the ABC show “Commander In Chief”. I was enthralled by this president’s leadership in a tense situation, and compared her actions, behavior and thought processes to that of our current president’s. Needless to say, it was no comparison. This week’s episode was another thriller, and worthy of discussion. It was a continuation from last week, so let me set the stage…

One of the United States’ secret submarines was stranded within 20 miles of the North Korean border. What were they doing there? Spying, of course. They were on a mission originally ordered by the previous president (the Republican who died in order for MacKenzie Allen to ascend from the Vice Presidency) and unbeknownst to President Allen. The sub was immobile, their crew running out of air, and any mission to rescue them risked a confrontation with North Korea - a country known to possess nuclear weaponry.

In simplistic terms it came down to a decision between rescuing the crew and risk going to war with North Korea, OR letting the crew die and avoiding a confrontation. But unlike our current president, MacKenzie Allen didn’t see the problem as black-and-white. She used all the tools at her disposal and searched for creative solutions. Eventually she did reach a solution that saved the crew AND avoided war with North Korea, by summoning the North Korean Ambassador and negotiating. She explained to him that she did not want a war with North Korea, and would pull the fleet back as a measure of good faith. However, she was sending in one unarmed ship to rescue the crew of the disabled sub, and if that sub was attacked, she would consider that an act of war and retaliate with the full force of the United States military.

In the process President Allen came across as a confident and poised leader, worthy of commanding the most powerful military in the world. But… that’s not what I wanted to highlight.

The Republican Posture

Throughout the crisis President Allen was engaging the assistance of her colleague, Nathan Templeton, the Republican Speaker of the House (Donald Sutherland). Nathan Templeton is essentially President Allen’s nemesis and potentially her opponent in the next election. He was friendly with the ambassador from China, and China was instrumental in facilitating the rescue mission. As the crisis unfolded and options were examined, Templeton was being his usual Republican self by stressing the criticality of the United States showing strength. To him, the biggest sin would be for the US to show any sign of weakness. The lives of submarine’s crew were secondary to the United States keeping an upper hand.

While the Republican was hell bent on showing strength and practically itching for a confrontation to go to war, the level-headed President (don’t forget she’s an Independent) searched for every opportunity to avoid war and resolve the incident with all sides saving face. In the end of the episode, she made a chilling observation - “If Nathan Templeton had been president, we’d be at war now.”

The Crux of the Crisis

At the height of the crisis, as the lone rescue ship was about to breach the North Korean territorial waters, the North Korean ambassador called President Allen (in the Situation Room over the speakerphone) with a final demand - a public apology. It was the only way to resolve the incident without conflict, and it was the right thing to do, so she agreed. In the halls of the White House immediately after the crisis, Nathan Templeton congratulated President Allen. I thought this little exchange said it all:

Templeton: Congratulations.

Allen: Thank you. I really appreciate all your help.

Templeton: It was a brilliant ploy… telling them you’ll apologize.

Allen: It wasn’t a ploy.

Templeton: You’re not actually going to apologize to the North Koreans?

Allen: I promised I would.

Templeton: With all due respect… as a strategy it was brilliant, but a public apology would do nothing but make you look weak.

Allen: I want them to know they can trust us.

Templeton: Better they should fear us.

Allen: They already fear us. A little trust won’t hurt.

And that’s the difference between Republicans the rest of us. Integrity. Trust. Humility. Caring. Governing with heart instead of fear. Diplomacy by negotiation instead of might.

January 13, 2006

A Progressive’s Look at Conservatism

As you probably know by now, I’m a liberal. Yes, I’m a liberal and proud of my liberal ideals. I prefer to characterize myself as ‘progressive’ (which is really the same thing) because the root of the word ‘progressive’ is progress. I’d like to think that my political leanings are that of progressing into the 21st century.

But I don’t want to talk about Liberals this time. This time I want to talk about Conservatives. I want to talk about Conservatism, what I think it’s all about, and where Conservatism is today. Inherent in the concept of Conservatism is to conserve. But what are they conserving?

Smaller Government

Conservatives will tell you they believe in smaller government. They believe that government has become too big and therefore should be cut down in size. And by cutting down the size of government, of course less taxes will be required. So, conservatives also believe in….

Tax Cuts

Conservatives want to conserve their own earnings. That’s really the essence of true conservative ideology. However, what we have in existence today is not true conservatism. What we have today is neo-conservatism, and that’s quite far from what true conservatism is all about.

To some extent I do respect the true conservative ideals. I agree that government should be less bureaucratic in order for business to function efficiently. However, I also believe that government has a role, and indeed a responsibility, to protect both the people and the environment, with regulation. Without governmental oversight, business would be left to self-regulate, and history has proven that they won’t do that.

The problem is - business does not self-regulate, because regulation has a cost, and higher costs mean less profit. Business of course doesn’t want anything impeding their profit. Theoretically, the more profit business can make, the better it is for the economy. That’s all well & good if it leads to American jobs. However, all too often, business out-sources their jobs overseas, again in an effort to maximize profit, which effectively negates the economic benefits, particularly when they’re cooking their books to pay little or no taxes.

The neo-conservative ideal is for less regulation (none if possible) so that business can maximize profits. But, what about our environment? Doesn’t it matter how much pollution is being released into our air and water? Not to the neo-conservatives. They’re concerned with earning their profits, keeping their money, and little else.

There has to be a balance between helping business make their profits, and protecting the environment & the citizens’ well-being. As a progressive (a Liberal), I’m extremely concerned with the environment, worker’s rights and consumer’s rights & safety. I believe the government needs to regulate business to protect the people, because it’s not in business’ interest to regulate themselves.

Sharing the Wealth

Conservatives believe in the ‘lifting myself up by my bootstraps’ theory of hard work leading to life’s rewards. To a certain extent, I believe there’s merit to that concept. However, I also believe that there are pressures, stresses and expectations imposed on many people beyond their control, and our society imposes requirements on people that in many cases are unrealistic. Often times Mother Nature’s wrath imposes catastrophic consequences on people. For whatever reason, there are people who need help. Those people should not be cast aside, ignored, and left for scrap for the sake of wealthier people to make and keep their profits.

I believe it’s government’s responsibility to share the wealth of our country, help the needy, and protect the citizens. Protect the citizens not just from terrorists, but from predatory business practices. Protect the environment from polluters. Protect our rights, our freedom, and our liberties.

The neo-conservative ideal is to gut the ‘New Deal’ which was a bastion of helping the needy by sharing the wealth in America. We help the elderly with Social Security & Medicare because not everyone was wealthy enough to amass great fortunes to sustain themselves in their waning years. We help the disadvantaged because not everyone was fortunate enough to partake of life’s advantages. We help those who have suffered hardship from devastating illness, birth defects, economic setback, or extenuating circumstances.

Many of us lost jobs that were eliminated due to the recession or shipped overseas to cut costs. Many of us lost our spouses, or our spouse’s ability to be a breadwinner, from injuries sustained serving our country or on the job. Many of us were born into situations of limited means or support, or skin color not conducive to affluence.

Sure, we like to help those who help themselves. We’d rather teach someone to fish instead of giving them a fish. And I agree – if the recipient is able to learn how to fish, we shouldn’t just keep giving them fish. But not everyone is able to learn how to fish. Conservatives feel like the ‘needy’ are living off of them, and I wouldn’t debate that there are those perpetually on welfare who fit that categorization. However, that does not preclude our responsibility for domestic programs to help those who truly need it.

Have you looked at Bush’s budget? If your ideals are neo-conservative, pray you’re never one of the needy.

January 06, 2006

It's About Oversight

If you’ve read any of my earlier articles, or lived in this country for at least 10 minutes, you know that the United States Constitution is the basis for our system of government. Built into our constitution is a system of ‘checks & balances’ that ensure an equilibrium of shared power. Why is that important? Because our forefathers understood the dangers of concentrated power.

That system of ‘checks & balances’ is a fundamental crux of our Democracy because it fosters oversight. Oversight is crucial because it ensures that power centers don’t get out of control. Power centers out of control are destined for corruption, and corruption is bad for everyone – except the corrupt, that is.

So let’s look a little further into that concept of ‘oversight’, with a particular regard to recent events…


By now we’re all pretty familiar with the recent revelations of the National Security Agency wiretapping and eavesdropping on domestic phone calls and emails without obtaining the warrants. The Bushites insist that they have the authority to do it and need to be able to do it in order to protect America. They try to wedge Americans by framing the issue as that of (black & white) security vs. privacy. Then they chastise and demonize anyone who disagrees with their imperial agenda (par for the course).

Make no mistake - this issue has nothing to do with security or privacy. This issue is about oversight. No one feels that the President shouldn’t have the tools he needs to protect America & Americans. No one thinks that the National Security Agency shouldn’t be spying on terrorists to gather the best intelligence in an effort to protect America & Americans. However, without oversight, there’s no stopping the NSA from eavesdropping on non-terrorists. Without oversight there’s no stopping Dubya from eavesdropping on Democratic strategists, peace/anti-war activists, environmentalists, or even desperate housewives.

Recess Appointments

Our Constitution accounts for oversight in people that are appointed to positions of responsibility in our government. Although the President is tasked with (read ‘has the prerogative’) to select these people, the ‘checks & balances’ part of the process allows for Congress to approve or disapprove the President’s selection. That’s the way the system works to ensure that qualified people, who reflect the values of America, are appointed.

This week we learned that the President made nearly 20 ‘recess appointments’. These are people he appointed to positions of responsibility that likely would not have withstood the muster of congressional scrutiny. So once again, just like his appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations, Dubya waited until Congress had their backs turned to install his neo-conservative thugs into power. This is another case of the Bush Administration subverting the Constitution’s premise of oversight.

The Sago Mine

This was a sad, unfortunate tragedy in Tallmansville, West Virginia. Of course it’s a terrible shame when something like this happens, and we as humans are always looking to point a finger and blame someone or something. It’s our nature. My first inclination is to blame the Bush Administration if at all possible. Fortunately, that’s so easy because they’re always to blame!

Since Bush came to power after winning the (s)election of 2000, he has systematically dismantled most every semblance of regulation in every industry. It was Bush’s payback to big business lobbies, and the mining industry is no exception. It’s not a coincidence that the toothless Mining Safety & Health Agency (MSHA) has peeled back rules and enforcement to the point where mining companies are not encouraged to provide a safe environment and remedy safety infractions.

Out of this particular accident we learned that the mining company had been previously cited for 273 safety violations. One has to ask oneself - Why did they not fix the problems? There’s only one plausible answer. Because of deregulation, the mining company felt it was cheaper to pay the miniscule fines instead of making the remedies… clearly at the risk of the miners. In the final analysis, this tragedy was a result of a lack of oversight.

So you see, dear reader… oversight is a necessary and critical component of our system of government. Without oversight, we have anarchy, imperialism and corruption. Without oversight, we have dishonesty and lies. Without oversight, there’s nothing stopping us from doing what we shouldn’t. Without oversight, we all pay… dearly. Some of us with our lives.