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Friday, December 08, 2006

Nothing Fails Like Success

So the Baker-Hamilton Commission decided, among other things, that we must engage in direct talks with Iran and Syria. As loyal readers of this column may remember, we called for the Iraq Study Group to make just such a recommendation (Shaking Hands with Extremists: An Exit Strategy , 22 October, 2006). Since the report's release on Wednesday, this has become one of the commissions most controversial points.

In his press conference with Tony Blair yesterday, President Bush was adamant (shock!) that the United States will not talk to Iran until it steps back from its nuclear enrichment program. Nor will there be any discussions with the Syrians until they stop trying to "de-stabilize" Lebanon.

Not to include regional powers in talks aimed at stabilizing Iraq is stubborn and shortsighted (and not limited to the administration, but more about that later). It also indicates that this administration will only accept a "working" Iraq on its own terms, which, according to the ISG, are no longer attainable.

Still, Bush speaks of his consensus-less success as if it were still just around the corner. He does not admit that success became failure in Iraq years ago. "If we were to fail," he said yesterday, phrasing it as a hypothetical even though it has already happenned, "If we were to fail, that failed policy will come to hurt generations of Americans in the future."

Doesn't that sound like something that should have been said before March, 2003? It appears Bush is setting it up to look like failure will be the future's fault - a future Congress, a future president - and not his own, criminal stubbornness.

And while we await the immediate future Congress and what they will or won't do about Iraq, the Senate Armed Service's Committee questioned the members of the Iraq Study Group yesterday. They also had something to say about engaging Iran and Syria in the process. Not surprisingly, Senator Joseph Lieberman wondered aloud if Iran was willing to "help the United States succeed" in Iraq.

Joe misunderstands the same thing that many who cling to this entanglement do: we are not there for the benefit of the United States. We haven't benefitted at all since Saddam fell. Our goal now is to help the Iraqis succeed, not the U.S.

That is the point of the Baker-Hamilton / Iraq Study Group report: the United States has failed in the goal of stabilizing Iraq. There is no more succeeding. It's a done deal. The report begins with that brutal, honest assessment. That is why we must create a new regional consensus - so Iraq can succeed, in spite of us and the mess our president's policy has made.

If U.S. policy is to have the Iraqis stand up, we need regional cooperation to help hold them up while we crawl out from under their massacred bodies.

-PBG

Friday, November 17, 2006

Break a Leg

Hold the cheers.
Hit the lights.


It appears a fungal pall has settled on the smooth marble walls and old leather chairs of the showpiece of political drama, the US Capitol. Like an aged theatre welcoming yet another revival of Annie, Get Your Gun, the building where our legislators do the people's business is filled with a new company of players who walk the stage in dusty costumes and continue to perform lines from anachronistic scripts that hallow old ideas of leadership.

This, however, is not the show the voters want to see produced. We want something fresh, informed by the great leaders of the past, but stepping outside that stale paradigm.

No more rehearsing
Or nursing a part.

Now the star of the show sits in her dressing room, a closed smile staring back at her from the lit make-up mirror. She knows the person she sees is accountable for the success of the run, and its failures. The worst thing she can do is not play to the audience, yet during the last dress rehearsal, she did just that. She went with a preconceived notion of leadership by following her own agenda, thinking the rest of the company would follow along to make her look good.

But the lead role in this play is not delivered through soliloquy. It is one of dialogue and requires listening, focusing and reacting, and only after she shows the concern one actor in a scene must have for another can she begin to act, and to lead.

A knock on the door breaks her from her intense stare. "Five minutes, Ms. Pelosi," says the anxious voice of an enthralled young assistant. Nancy gets up from her chair, and after dabbing her make-up with her finger and pursing her lips, turns off the lights on the mirror and leaves the dressing room.

Oh what heights we'll hit!

As the door closes behind her, she knows the mirror will be waiting for her to return, for when the act is over, she will face herself once again. Whether lauded by flowers or faced with an abrupt end of run, she will know that she is accountable, and maybe, just maybe, she will have brightened the stage of this dingy, old, white-domed theatre so that more and more people will clamour for following through on her farsighted commitments, and folks at water coolers and coffee shops will be talking about the greatest cast on the greatest stage doing the greatest work for our country and the world.

So Nancy, break a leg. We're counting on you.

On with the show!
This is it!

-PBG

Monday, November 13, 2006

Turning the Dirt in DC

This morning in Washington DC, between the memorials to America's two mavericks of liberty and freedom, Lincoln and Jefferson, behind long rows of dignitaries, shovels and a trough of dirt, stood Ambassador Andrew Young with a microphone in his hand.

Standing beside the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ambassador Young cued those assembled to "turn the dirt" to break ground on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in our nation's capital.

Like the results of the midterm elections, the groundbreaking in Washington, DC turned over the dirt that runs along the tidal basin, a short distance from Capitol Hill, to re-establish the people's America - our America.

With joyous choral voices fading, the Ambassador recalled the final planning meeting with this country's last great leader in Atlanta before they took that ill fated journey to help sanitation workers in Memphis. As Andy Young spoke tearfully and Jesse Jackson sobbed, Congressman John Lewis, who was also at that meeting in the early spring of 1968, stood along the shovel line, gripping the tool's handle with one hand, while the other held his bent head. His shoulders were shaking; his wet face was hidden in his palm.

Ambassador Young talked about how Dr. King told them, in the hours before his assassination, that they were laying the whole movement on him, that they needed to step up and be the leaders as well, that he was thinking of stepping down if he couldn't count on them.

With tears, the great men at today's event showed more than the sadness that comes from memory and loss. They were the tears of great men awed by the grace life gave them to be in the presence of the greatest of men.


So, at Andy Young's cue, the group "turned the dirt," and in the wake of the speeches and the songs, an old era of struggling for liberty was insured of its endurance, and a new era of reclaimed promise was insured of its time in the sun.

From the changes wrought by their marches and protests and even their blood, we can now all affect change through the ballot box, as we did one week ago.

May we all humbly take the torch they now hand us and - as they did when Dr. King handed it to them - move it forward strongly, resolutely and justly for the sake of all America, all Her people, and all the people of the world.

-PBG

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Milk Run

This is the time to gloat. Tomorrow we get to work. Great job, America!

So why do I feel like this is a Joseph Heller novel?

While I hate to rain on this "Happy Days are Here Again" parade, there is something about yesterday's vote that really bothers me. In order to control committees, we needed a majority. In order to get a majority, we had to field conservative candidates like Jim Webb (Virginia) for the Senate and Brad Ellsworth (Indiana) for the House. Not Democrats I can usually get behind, but I'm happier than I was in 2002 (and of course '04). Control the committees, control the world.

I also find the part of the country I live in stuck in a really bad cycle. I wrote the following letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today:

The results of Tuesday's election shows how much the South has distanced itself from the rest of the nation. While most of the country was seemingly going out of its way to vote for Democrats - even voting out anti-Iraq War, anti-Bush Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island - Georgia voters went out of their way to add zero new Democrats to our Congressional delegation. Zell Miller, in his TV ad for Sonny Perdue, said that Georgia is "the envy of the nation." He must mean the Republican nation, because that is what the South has become. With Trent (the-country-should've-made-Strom-president) Lott's re-election in Mississippi and Zell waving the banner, the Republicans have completed their transformation into the Dixiecrats of the 21st Century.

-PBG

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

From Anxiety to Confidence

With less than a week to go before we push the touch screen and vote for the ersatz leaders of our country for the next two to six years, it's time to move from anxiety to confidence. Don't let yourself be numbed into distraction by the "Dancing with the Stars" soap opera, Madonna's new kid and Ryan & Reese's break-up. Forget JK's badly delivered joke and Babs' using her concerts as a forum for dissent. We don't have to defend their opinions nor their rights to them. What each person who loves this country the way we do must embrace is our own vision for a fair, free and open government.

This Congress has legislated closing our borders, shutting down habeas corpus, turning off the lights on freedom of information and damming our rights to privacy. They warn us that terrorists want to limit our abilities to enjoy our way of life while the laws they enact do just that. They want to limit the rights of Americans who happen to be gay, and see it as a rallying cry when the courts do their job of constitutional oversite.

Now they want to follow the old tradition of European racism and make Muslim women take off their burkas and hijabs. What group will be hit next? Sikhs forced to abandon their turbans? Rastas their locks? Jews their yarmulkas? Maybe they'll want black folks to bleach themselves.

Curiously, the people that advocate cultural homogenization are the same ones who see no problem with a nativity scene in the public square. Obviously they believe that if it's not White and Christian, then it's not American. I'd like to think they're wrong about that.

If there is anyone to be afraid of, it is the Nuremberg Law mentality of this administration and the Congress that enables it. How long do you think it will be before the so-called Minute Men on the border storm the U.S. border towns like Brown-shirts, drag Latino women and children from their home and put them on a bus to Mexico (after a beating to "teach them a lesson")? I heard on Marketplace yesterday that Malaysia is forming enforcement groups to do just that with their "illegal" Indonesian immigrants who come to Kuala Lumpur for the unskilled factory jobs that Malaysians won't do.

So don't be afraid of the terrorists, my friends. You're odds of winning the lottery are about the same as dying in a terrorist attack. If there is something to fear it is this good-for-business government that wants the rights we are guaranteed in this country to belong only to those who can pay for it. When Karl Rove refers to the Christian Right as "nuts", he means any idealogue voter, including us. The only vote they really want is the money vote, and fuck the rest of us.

As Streisand would say, "Shut the fuck up!" Now go vote. Maybe we can make this one count.

-PBG

New Bumper Sticker / Poster!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shaking Hands with Extremists: An Exit Strategy

Bush Policy Called Arrogant and Stupid
One of the reasons we are given for the generals and the overpaid, overindulged and over-empowered policy makers meeting in the White House is that they are discussing changing their "tactics" in Iraq. It leaves one with the impression that we are a flexible force that, like an NFL team at half-time, quickly adjusts to the changing scenarios on the field of combat.

But the truth is, the strategy being talked about by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Casey is political and not military. In fact, the only military aspect is the one that defines the President as Commander-in-Chief. Like his closed door discussions with wavering Republicans earlier this year, this is just the president not too gently reminding the generals and the diplomatic corps to toe the line, that he is "The Decider," and that they better speak more optimistically about Baghdad's realities.

What he wants to avoid is waving the white flag of surrender to Democrats, not insurgents. Can you imagine what it must be like around that conference table, especially for U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, when officials at the State Department are being interviewed on Al-Jazeera calling the Bush policy arrogant and stupid? "Undoubtedly," Alberto Fernandez of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs told the Arabic television network, "there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq." I wonder how loyal this chummy president will be to this latest inside critic.

They are not changing policy. Changing policy to this administration is the equivalent of abandoning victory, or as they so myopically put it, cutting-and-running. The (James A.) Baker Commission, that is due to issue its report after the mid-term election, will advise a policy change. I have some thoughts on an option they may have not considered.

While it's true that we have "friendly" nations in the area, they are not the problem when it comes to the future of Iraq. The malevolent governments of Iran and Syria are the issue. Iran's latest call for discourse is specifically geared toward their nuclear enrichment program is something Condi Rice has said in the past is the only issue this administration is willing to discuss with them. When Iran offered to have discussions about Iraq earlier this year, Dr. Rice said that we would only talk to them about their nuclear program. Well, now is the time. (It's actually almost too late.)

The biggest concern about the civil war in Iraq is, what will happen after we leave? In order to secure a more manageable Middle East, we must enlist the support of Iran and Syria, as well as nations we can usually count on, like Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Not too comfortable a list of names, is it? Well, discomfort aside, these nations are responsible for the future of the region. We must discuss with all of them how they will help secure Iraq for Sunni, Shi'ia and Kurd. We must allow them to rebuild the infrastructure, with our financial help, and the oil program. This war can no longer be for sale to American profiteers. You and I bought it a long time a go on an installment plan. I'd rather pay more with my wallet than with any more of my neighbors' blood.

We must encourage them, these nations that have a lot more at stake with what goes on in Iraq than we do, to help stabilize the region after we leave. We can no longer wait for the Iraqis to stand up on their own. It ain't gonna happen, as my mother says. That stool is through the chute. Their neighbors have to move in and assist their fellow Moslems in rebuilding their country. Whether it has to be partitioned or not, I don't know. I think that will be a stumbling block in the negotiations, but the region must unite to make peace happen. I truly believe that an Islamic federation that is united in principal in Iraq may even lead to support for a secure peace in Israel and Palestine as well.

Only then can we give reason to the so far unreasonable, ill-defined, deadly mission of our troops, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Ghosts are Real

Look out your window in the setting silver moonlight and be mournful in your gaze. The spirits of war are in your neighborhood. Flag draped coffins float like ghosts from the back of your minds and onto the streets of America. The apparitions of failed policy are on parade.

It is a march that has been going on for decades, but so long were the pauses between the floating dead that you easily mistook them for the reflection of a passing, powdery moth. Look out into the wet, moonlit streets, and see the translucence of a government whose greed is as transparent as its stubbornness is plain.

Go to the mirror. Is the image you see translucent or opaque? Do you hide behind the flag and gaze out through its holes like a child through a blanket, or do you face yourself with the plain knowledge of moral certainty? Maybe you cannot see them - our dead, our dying, our injured. Maybe you don't notice them if they are Iraqi, or Syrian, or Moslem. Yet the taxes we pay have killed them. I wish we had used the money to feed our poor instead, and theirs.

Please vote.

-PBG
_______________________________________________________________

A quick note about the last blog entry, "Conditioned to Kill Innocence". Apparently blogger published only the first paragraph of an earlier draft on the PnT group email. Please check out the website for the full, final of: "Conditioned to Kill Innocence," published 10-06-06.
Thanks!
PG

Friday, October 06, 2006

Conditioned to Kill Innocence

There was never any glory in war. Even in those heady, Times Square celebration days at the sunset of World War Two, the happiness was in the peace; the enemy's defeat was defined by those who fought and bled and survived. Victory is in the next morning's waking.

Even so, between Hollywood and politicians, the fifth and sixth decades of the last century painted the Allies' victory with a broad, hard brush of red, white and blue. By the time Baby Boomers came of age, we were brainwashed by the envied, impervious America we saw on Gunsmoke, Combat and The Patty Duke Show.

Some say that illusion was first exploded in an open Lincoln in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and in the very public way that television played the tragedy out, from Cronkite to John-John's salute, that is true. JFK's murder shook our faith in civility less than four months after Martin Luther King, Jr., announced his dream for a better America in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Dreams shatter loudly when they are crushed so soon after their declaration.

By the time the television networks started announcing numbers of our Vietnam dead on the news three years later, the disillusion of desperate red-white-and-blue raised Americans left a bobbing bloodstreak that over the course of the following four years ran from Berkeley to Washington, DC.

Johnson, and then Nixon, became the targets of a generation that had lost the sunshine of freedom's just victory that their World War Two parents had earned for them as a birthright. We were lied to about Ton-kin. We were lied to about the numbers of dead and the progress of the war. We were lied to about the bombings in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. That our leaders would be so cavalier with our lives, our taxes, and the future of our nation enraged many, even igniting violence in cities and campuses around the country.

We had no leaders left in which we had faith, no glory left we could ever believe in again. We got Jimmy Carter elected to make up for abandoning Humphrey, but by then the blowback from the sixties made his success untenable.

So here we are, at least five military operations and three decades out from Vietnam, with an administration that is stuck in a twisted Disney version of Eisenhower-land. Between Beirut, Somalia and Iraq, we can no longer be the right and just Snow White. We have no innocence left. By basing the illusion of an empowered, balanced policy on a mercurial, mythical past, our government regretfully sends soldiers to fight and die for doomed, false causes. As John Kerry might say, how do you ask someone to be the last to die for a myth?

Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, is the tale of an administration that bought into their own mythology. They forgot which Kool-Aid they fixed for our consumption and began to drink it themselves.

Let's say that the "Kool-Aid" is a toxic concoction, a story of how freedom and liberty are a flag-draped bubble we must hide inside of, for our own protection. It wants us to say that attacks on our politicians, however rhetorical, are attacks on our way of life. As the prez said last week, any anti-government rhetoric is feeding the propaganda of the "enemy."

Now let's call the true-brew "Cool-Aid." It says that freedom and liberty are the pillars on which our nation stands. It is the immutable basis from which the greatness of America spreads. The more we allow our government to imprison us in their idea of freedom, the less liberty we will have.

If you are of my or my brothers' generation, you must know by now that we will never be innocent again. It will never be the fifties again and it is too late to reclaim the lost opportunities of the sixties. But at the other end of lost innocence one can always find political maturity. More and more of us can, and are, stepping up to dump the Kool-Aid down the toilet. Like paying your own bills for the first time, it is the responsibility of the politically mature person to show they are grown up and do something, anything, that can legally and morally bring about the change that is needed. After all, you almost never stick with the partner with whom you first lost your innocence. You thank them for the experience, and then you grow. Buck the conditioning. We'll never be innocent again.

-PBG

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lessons from an Amish Schoolhouse

On the wooden floor of a one-room schoolhouse, beneath the blood-stained bonnets of the five dead Amish girls killed this week in Pennsylvania, is the open lesson-book of a closed society.

We force them to meet our violence and fear, and they dutifully give us their love and forgiveness. How can they do that? How many out here, on the "English" side, would respond to such a horrid act without a call for retribution? If Charles Roberts, IV had not taken his own life, it is certain that ordinary Americans would have called for his head to be spiked on the fixed scales of stone Justice.

The Amish community's swift forgiveness is a lesson in commitment. The Baghavad Gita says that your nature compels you to engage in the challenges of life, even when you don't want to. For the Amish, putting faith ahead of a desire to do violence is their nature. The great Mahatma Gandhi forgave his assassin because that was his nature. It is past time for us to look at our own natures and see where our commitment lies.

The Jewish community I come from is at once part of society and yet separated from it by millennia of active tradition. The more integrated we become into secular society, the more difficult it becomes to make choices based on faith alone. Indeed, it is the more traditional communities of my people for whom such choices are easiest. They are just following moral precedent and the Torah.

It is a similar community sense of faith that moved the Amish affected by Monday's tragic events to follow their moral guidance to the doorstep of the family of their children's killer.

But a sense of commitment need not always be tied to the ways of a religious community. The ACLU, for example, is a civilian agency zealously committed to the enforcement of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many of those who want to continue fighting in Iraq are religiously committed to a belief that by doing so, we are ridding the world of terrorists.

Similarly, candidates are committed to getting elected. If not, just like a rabbi eating a ham sandwich, they are probably in the wrong line of business. So our candidates say things to get us to commit to them. They do things to convince us they are part of our community, like showing up at a Greek festival when they're Irish, or awkwardly donning a yarmulke at an Israel Independence Day celebration. In doing so, they hope to make us feel as if we are a part of their group, that our survival and the survival of what we believe somehow depend on them winning. They call it reaching out, but it is known more cynically as "pandering".

Mark Taylor, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia facing the Republican incumbent, reached way out to the conservative, blood-thirsty community of the Georgia right a couple of weeks ago in just such a gesture of pseudo-solidarity. He has called for the death penalty for repeat sex offenders. Well, I don't care how much Georgia needs more Democrats in office. The death penalty is something I don't believe in even in the way it is currently applied. I'm actually very pissed off that the state's leading Democrat would go so far out there on this one. It may be just politics, but my commitment is to not have my government kill people in the name of justice, even heinous criminals. That's why I cannot possibly vote for Taylor now. My conscience won't allow it. My nature compels me to buck my commitment to Democrats getting back the Governor's Mansion because of this issue. I won't vote for the incumbent either. Hopefully there's a better candidate out there.

Admittedly, my attitude is usually laissez-faire when it comes to the ways people choose to behave. As long as no one is being hurt, I'm usually ok with it. Beyond that, I assume people are guided by their commitment to their personal philosophy and their god.

The Amish live for the grace of being able to forgive, a teaching that helps them emulate their Lord. Without the influence of a secular society in their schools and homes, they are more able to follow their commitment. It is easy to know which road to follow through dark times when it is the only one that is lit up for you. Yet that does not diminish the value of the lesson. Love the teaching even if you don't love the teacher.

For that, the Amish community associated with these gruesome events get my first "Stand Up/Stand Down Award" for standing up to the expected reaction. By doing so, they got us all to examine our own reactions, so that the hate and the evil in the world may, for even a brief moment, stand down.

I invite you to take this lesson and explore your own commitments. Declare them. Indulge in them. But don't ever, ever devalue or abandon them. The survival of your community, your society and maybe your world depends on it. So do you.

-PBG

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Evil that Men Do

The innocence of a detainee was confirmed yesterday. But we didn't torture him, thank G-d. We let the Syrians do it. In the spirit of the season, I'm sorry to those for whom I've not done enough: the suffering poor, the tortured, and the soldiers who have died for blood-stained glory.

Empathy for the Devil

Farewell, oh tortured souls.
Those to whom they attached electrodes,
I bid thee, rest well.

In innocence you protest,
"I'll never wear a bomber's vest,"
While they apply the drowning test.
But now it's time for you to rest,
Oh bloody, pained and faithful soul.

Your agonized cries of note
Lead to the fall of leaders,
We are told.
But the heads that should be on the ground, still,
Are down the street from the white-domed hill.

It is agreed that if no law is conceded,
The CIA will have to cease it.
There's danger there, though,
Don't you see it?

Sure, they will be forced to desist,
But secretly, the worst will persist.
Then, once discovered, they will wake you in the gloam,
And shoot you all ere they send you home.

When the massacre's exposed,
Calamity will ensue.
And finally they'll fall
For what they've done to you.

Yet to my ode I add this apologetic truth:
I've not much sympathy for your abuse.
Fear is my purpose in protesting thus,
For when they're done with you,
They're sure to come for us.

-PBG

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Descent of Greatness

The descent of greatness is the true American tragedy.

One morning, five years ago, a rumbling was heard that wrinkled the gossamer of reality like a crunched plastic wrapper. Rolled into the film's flimsy folds were ash and glass, dust and death. Shock and sadness spilled from the shadows of its sharp, crumpled peaks.

Is this the ground where greatness stood?

We let the image of the horror of that morning wash over our emotions for days. For some, the tragedy endures, an unwelcome specter that never finds the bright light of the World to Come.

For others, the deaths that day are a fading memory, the decaying fringe of a sun-bleached September dress left on a dusty street long ago.

It is sad that television makes revisiting tragedy so easy, so cheap. They've taken that crumpled skin which once held a portrait of reality and stretched it before our eyes again and again. Every time they do, the dust from its folds explodes and blankets lower Manhattan once more.

We call those images "9/11," and now named, they can be recalled with the cold detachment of a record captured on film, tape and computer drive.


The constant replay is good. It helps us remember.

But emotionally, I watch the tragedy through the imperfect lenses of an old spyglass; so distorted have they become! Like and old dollar bill that's been chummy with the lint of too many pockets, holding up images or invoking memories of 9/11, whether by the press or politicians, is symbolism that's value is so destroyed by abuse it is no longer recognizable.

I want to go back.

I want to be there again on that clear Manhattan morning. And after it's over, I want to sweep away the wrinkled reality with the rest of the debris so I can see America's future more clearly.

I want to be there and raise my eyes to the blue sky and rebuke the fear and despair, because I know the only way to dispel the darkness is to be a source of light. That is how America's greatest tragedy becomes her greatest triumph.

There is always a way.

Even now, when there is still a hole in New York and soldiers continue dying overseas, if you stand in a place of progress, of creating a better country and a safer world, we will ascend again. It is what America really wants - to be fearlessly great and a beacon to the world once more. Lift your lamps and you will light not only your own path, but the way for all those around you. We all move forward together. E pluribus unum. Long live the republic!

-PBG

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Decider's Wrong Decision


Donald Rumsfeld may be slapped by the time you read this, but he won't care. His sallow, weepy-skinned cheeks and the way he talks while inhaling will sadly be around at least through the end of the year. He is the bad taste that just won't go away. He stays because the Decider says he does, and the Decider is, by definition, decisive, though he's giving decision making a bad name.

Let's set down a few truths: none of us - none - ever always make the right decision. Even before he became the Totem of the Right, George W. Bush had a life that was full of bad decisions - drug abuse, alcohol abuse, cheerleading - that made him a threat to himself.

If he only stopped there, maybe everything would have been alright with the rest of the world. Too bad for us he met Karl Rove, who probably told him something like, "You help me get laid, I'll help you get Jesus. That way we both might have a future."

The Decider took us into a war with at best faulty, and at worst falsified or selective intelligence. Can anyone really believe him when he talks about the British police finding an anti-American terrorist manual in 2000? Or is it easier to believe this is just more fear mongering? Who really has decided to take up "the diplomacy of the cannon and the machine gun" rather than engage in dialogue those who threaten us?

The Decider's latest rhetoric points to the bad men of the twentieth century, namely Lenin and Hitler, as the reason he decided that this is America's next enemy. (We can argue the merits of using Lenin's name instead of someone really evil, like say, Stalin, but that was the Decider's choice.)

The problem is, what he said yesterday to the Military Officers Association of America is true. "History teaches us that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a mistake." Unfortunately, we have underestimated the capacity for evil that this administration has unleashed in the world. (Maybe the reason they don't enter into dialogue with the "Axis of Evil" is because like-forces repel each other!)

I agree with Bush that organizations that preach evil and intolerance should be stopped. That's why I'm hoping everyone who reads this weblog is doing all they can to stop this administration the only way we legally and morally can: by shifting the balance of power in Washington.

I watched C-Span this morning and they had on Sharon Burke, a representative from Third Way (www.third-way.com). They have a phenomenal site for researching everything that is wrong with the way our federal government currently engages in lawmaking and foreign affairs. If you want a resource that will help you make a change in your community this November, then I urge you to check them out!

If you love this country and the liberties that make us great, it is our moral imperative to make a stand in your community for change. Support a Democrat. Support an Independent. Just don't let this government to continue to abuse the Constitution.

Another Republican Congress under this administration will mean suspension of habeus corpus, military tribunals for detainees, and more illegal wiretaps. It is their goal to make laws legalizing the administration's illegal and unconstitutional prosecution of the War on Terror. They will do it unless we stand up between now and November 7th.

Remember, when we stand up, they will have to stand down.

-PBG

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Eerie Glow

This morning I awoke to the remnants of a misty sunrise. Every morning during the week begins with the ritual of clothes, cats and coffee. Throwing on a T-shirt and shorts, just enough clothes to not be embarrassed when I walk the dog, I grabbed the empty water glasses and headed downstairs. As usual, the cats raced me to the front door, eager to begin their daylong adventure of hunt, nap and play. I held the water glasses tightly to my chest with one hand as I pushed open the door with the other to let the cats out.

That was when I first saw it - a grayish, green glow hanging over the wooded yard, like a curtain of mourning veils, subduing the usual summer chroma of suburban yards and street and sky. "Hmmm," I told the cats as they leapt through the doorway, "Strange looking morning." They must have thought so too because they stopped for a moment as soon as they got outside and took in the muted light.

It was not until I took the dog out for her walk more than an hour after sunrise, that I really felt the heavy shadows that the dawn had yet to lift. True, it stormed during the night, but that only partly explains why it looked that way. This was not the kind of golden summer glistening that one usually sees after a big rain. It was a surreal glow.

I wondered how America glowed today. The odd morning light seemed to me a metaphor for the unreal optimism that has been demonstrated by the president in talking about the Gulf Coast's recovery or the upbeat Rumsfeld talking about how great things are going in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow, this country's leaders (sadly they are our leaders by default, if not by choice) have begun a new newspeak campaign, coloring the bad news with a rosy glow that is usually reserved for partisan sports announcers praising an incompetent player or team.

That they try to tell us that something good is happening when we know it's not would not be so bad except that they begin to believe it themselves. They say, "We live in wonderful, peaceful, prosperous times" as if it's an incantation, and just saying it makes it so. But like this morning's weird light, it does not reflect the truth. It hearkens back to Hurricane Katrina and the fact that the federal government tried to say that everything was under control in New Orleans when it clearly was not. Michael "heckuva-job-brownie" Brown said as much yesterday on the Today Show, pointing out that in Washington, DC they actually believed everything was ok.

It's the same with the economy, which really did not recover for the majority of Americans, and for the war in Iraq, where we never "turned a corner" and the mission is not accomplished.

The problem is people want to believe the deceptions, because it hurts to face the truth. That does not mean they don't, at some level, know what the truth is. That's why if we want to make a change, it will take more than just exposing the lies that everyone already knows are there (and it doesn't help that most Americans believe that such misstatements are politically bipartisan).

In order to take back our country from those who would drive it into the ground while telling us we are soaring, we have to show we stand for everyone being successful, and we have a plan for it; that we stand for the United States being safe and we have a plan for it; that we are a true global partner for peace, and we have a plan for that.

Only by saying what changes we will make will those changes come to pass. It's not magic; it's commitment, and we must be fully engaged in making it real.

PBG

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Root Cause

" People understand that there needs to be a cessation of hostilities in order for us to address the root causes of the problem. The intent of the resolution is to make sure that we address the root cause."
-George W. Bush, at a press conference about the Israel-Hezbollah War, Crawford, Texas, August 7, 2006


Decades of conflict aside, what really is the "root cause," Mr. President? Let's look at some facts.

You chose to believe liars like Chalabi, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and engaged in a failed foreign policy that held on to a narrow-minded belief that democracy is the opiate of the people. Democracy frees neither nations nor individuals. All it does is enable the establishment of a government, and as we know, governments are beholden to no one but themselves. The arrogance of your administration has destroyed years of diplomatic activity that has kept tensions in check. Healthcare is what people want, and food and shelter and gasoline.

This isn't just a butter-or-bombs argument. CNN's Henry Schuster, in a recent cnn.com article titled "Hezbollah's Secret Weapon," talks about a young girl in Beirut named Zeinab, who, influenced by Hezbollah's community assistance projects, declares," 'I hope that when I be big and grow up, I want to be a doctor for Hezbollah. If someone is hurt, has a hurt in his hand, I will help him '." And, as Schuster points out, "That is Hezbollah's strength."

To millions of poor, hungry Arabs in the Middle East, Hamas and Hezbollah are successful as social welfare organizations, so the people put up with terrorism in their politics.

There's a lesson for you there. By cutting off relations with your so-called "axis of evil" you opened a void that, like Iraq, is being filled by the terrorist organizations. Radical ideologues that call for the destruction of Israel and the United States fill the bellies, hearts and minds of the people you forget are part of the world. A government, no matter how terrible, is still only a small group compared to the populations they govern. Governments change, but the people don't forget who fed them when they were hungry, who healed them when they were sick.

Frankly, I think Israel could do a great deal in the region if they were to provide some social help to their estranged neighbors, if the Arabs would let them.

Maybe if you took care of Americans like that your poll numbers wouldn't be in the toilet and your party wouldn't be so afraid of losing power. All this money to help heal the world, and it seems all you want to do is subdue it. And that's too bad... for all of us.

-PBG

Friday, July 28, 2006

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Stupidest Georgia Politician

There are many who would point out the redundancy in that header, and they wouldn't be wrong. This is most definitely a contest that will field a large group.

It would be easy to start with Zell, if he weren't just one in a long line going back farther than I can remember - maybe even to Button Gwinnett (look it up). But what do you expect from a state that's public education system is always in the bottom three?

Here are a few from just yesterday, in no particular order, when Georgia held its gubenatorial and congressional primaries.

1) Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) 4th District
Although her scuffle with the Capitol Police over the winter garnered a lot of attention, back here that was only another "Oh, that Cynthia" moment in the life of this outspoken suburban Atlanta Democrat. She is very popular in her district, probably the most liberal and ethnically diverse in Georgia. Most people admire her "straight talkin' " attitude, and believe she is one of the few people who actually speaks the truth in Congress.

Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star Mothers were at her post-primary election party last night to lend their support, and if you consider yourself a good liberal, like I do, it is very hard not to stand with her. She's been outspoken about the war in Iraq, and was the first in Congress to raise questions about the Administration's prior knowledge regarding 9/11. She also brings a lot to her community. So while many in Washington consider her boisterous and ineffective, not to mention a loose cannon, most at home admire her.

Because she enjoys a certain popularity, she did little to campaign except a few yard signs. She skipped debates with her other Democratic challengers in the lead up to the primary. She said she had commitments in the community, and in one debate in particular, she was just a no-show.

Only she and the media were surprised by yesterday's vote. After not getting the required majority (50% + 1 vote), she is now in a run-off for the Democratic nomination for her congressional seat against Hank Johnson, a county politician making his first bid for national office. They finished only a couple of points apart.

So why, in particular, was this stupid? Well, her speech to her supporters when it became apparent she was not going to win outright, was angry and venemous. She attacked her colleagues in Congress, in the Democratic Party, and, of course, the media for her failure. She didn't acknowledge her own mistakes during the campaign itself. No one expects her to apologize for her actions in Washington. She doesn't have to. She's Cynthia. But maybe she should have admitted to having made mistakes during the campaign and take some responsibility. Stop blaming others for your bad judgement, Cynthia. Stupid thing to do in a close race.

2) Ralph Reed (R) yes, that one
Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and state Republican Campaign Chairman, got endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and Sean Hannity in his bid for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. With all his name recognition, he lost, early and significantly, in a race that was not nearly as close as people thought it would be, to Casey Cagle, a member of the state house from the Atlanta suburbs. Despite his huge war chest, he could not deliver votes for himself.

In a very negative campaign, he ignored accusations about endorsing child labor in the Third World, and responded to criticism of his connection to the Abramoff/DeLay scandal with "I was mislead" about the money and blamed the media of associating him with wrongdoing. Like many modern politicians, he believed what people were telling him about his chances and the mood of the electorate in trying to win in a statewide vote. Again, for not owning his own shortcomings, for wasting more than a million dollars on an unwinnable campaign, he is now yesterday's news. Good riddance.

3) Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) 11th District
Finally, the oddest comment of them all. Even if you take into account any unspoken context, this is the dumbest thing I have heard that a politician said in a long time. After Republicans in Congress wasted time drafting and debating a constitutional ammendment against gay marriage, Gingrey deflected criticism from many quarters that pointed out that given the Senate already defeated a similar measure, and with all the problems in Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices, Iran, North Korea and the Israel-Hezbollah War in the Middle East, this was a pointless excercise.

He said that constitutionally defining marriage as between a man and a woman "is perhaps the best message we can give to the Middle East and all the trouble they're having over there right now."

Wow. Er...interesting perspective. And stupid.

-PBG

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Red, White and Bullshit

There comes a time in the life of a country when it has to assess its deviation from its founding principles. (see previous post)

There is no more United States of America. Though star spangled banners still wave over land within our borders and bloodied sands a half-a-world away, we are a country united only by governance, states only by convenience, and America only by arrogance.

Once a nation of people pursuing dreams, we have tossed and turned ourselves into a dark nightmare of glorified symbols - flag, family and office - that throw ghostly shadows of torture, rape, murder and mayhem. An oath to protect and defend our Constitution has degraded into just another empty campaign promise. Bound by chains of fear disguised as security, our constricted constitutional artery robs us of liberty and stunts the growth of our country. Compromised in this way, out of our control, our symbols are in need of re-statement of purpose. To grow a stronger, more tolerant, forward-looking country, we must take back not just our government, but the symbols that represent her as well.

The Flag and the Lady

Does the Statue of Liberty represent our past, our present or our future? For those who came in the Golden Age of US immigration, she was a symbol of freedom and opportunity. By their labor and love for this country, we grew, and grew strong. And while we cannot speak of toiling for the benefit of our nation without acknowledging those who came here as slaves, the sweat of immigrants, both slaves and free people, charts the course of the history of our country. Whether it's the Chinese who built the railroads or the Irish or the Germans or the Jews or the Koreans, they eagerly came to our shores for a better life. All of those groups continue to contribute to our economic and cultural growth.

New growth comes from commitment to a better life, and no one demonstrates that more than the immigrant. That's why it's not enough to say, as GWB has so often lately, "We are a nation of immigrants." He may as well say "We are a nation of racists," or ,"We are a nation of over-eaters." While a stroke of the cultural brush touches all those groups, that's not who we are, and it is too easy for many to disown. If you are an American, there is one fact you must take ownership of with pride: we are not only a nation of immigrants, we are a nation built by immigrants.

Latin Americans, who incidentally have been Americans longer than just about anyone else, likewise will continue to contribute their ethic for hard work and a better life. To criminalize them or penalize them for wanting to have more is the same as punishing our country and will suffocate our growth. Without immigrants who truly care about their future, we will soon become a country without a future.

A country is defined by two important things: the constitution of its government and its people. When one or both become downgraded to mere symbols that we love/hate/encourage/abhor, then we stand for nothing, and a proud history of a country that squandered its potential becomes just another tragic fiction.

-PBG

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Behold the arrogance of King George:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offencesFor abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1Georgia: Button Gwinnett Lyman Hall George Walton
Column 2North Carolina: William Hooper Joseph Hewes John PennSouth Carolina: Edward Rutledge Thomas Heyward, Jr. Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton
Column 3Massachusetts:John HancockMaryland:Samuel ChaseWilliam PacaThomas StoneCharles Carroll of CarrolltonVirginia:George WytheRichard Henry LeeThomas JeffersonBenjamin HarrisonThomas Nelson, Jr.Francis Lightfoot LeeCarter Braxton
Column 4Pennsylvania: Robert Morris Benjamin Rush Benjamin Franklin John Morton George Clymer James Smith George Taylor James Wilson George RossDelaware: Caesar Rodney George Read Thomas McKean
Column 5New York: William Floyd Philip Livingston Francis Lewis Lewis MorrisNew Jersey: Richard Stockton John Witherspoon Francis Hopkinson John Hart Abraham Clark
Column 6New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett William WhippleMassachusetts: Samuel Adams John Adams Robert Treat Paine Elbridge GerryRhode Island: Stephen Hopkins William ElleryConnecticut: Roger Sherman Samuel Huntington William Williams Oliver WolcottNew Hampshire: Matthew Thornton

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Red State Island, U.S.A.

There's no poetry in the presidency anymore. What was once a stage for soft talking and big sticks, of not fearing, of buck-stopping, and of doing for your country has been replaced by penis rattling and crotch grabbing games of "bring it on." Today's idiot bravado of presidential idioms floods our heartland with a sea littered with money that floats like lily-pads on its bloody surface of bobbing soldiers' corpses. That sea circles the middle of the country and the Deep South, making entire parts of our country a cultural island run by unthinking, selfish, greedy, redneck, red state bastards.

This is no time to pull punches. I've actually seen bumper stickers on cars and splash-guards on pickup trucks and even on a Lincoln SUV proclaiming "Proud to be a Redneck!" Pride and prejudice, indeed! Why are so many people around here proud of their ignorance? Because they can be. Because they're in charge. Because they believe their god, their race and their president will save them from the rest of us. Meanwhile, who is there to save us?

I think it is clear that we don't want to wade across their filthy moat and join them on their disturbed island. Oh, they'll try to get us there. They'll throw bad legislation as unimaginitive as their president's rhetoric at us to use as personal floatation devices so we can swim to them. Most insidiously, they'll even give us legislative "victories" in issues we care about, like civil rights (as in the flag burning issue) and privacy rights (as in the gay marriage amendment), but be aware: those round, red things they are throwing at us are not life preservers. They're targets, and they only tie up to the shores of Rove-land, where those most like them live.

Similarly, they will try to frame the "Victory in Iraq" resolution that's before the House of Representatives today and tomorrow in two ways. First, they will say that they gave Congress the opportunity for debate on the administration's policies in Iraq. Second, they will point to those who vote against it, and Prince Karl of Rove-land will be able to say that only the Republicans care about victory in Iraq.

We must be vigilant. Like the southern border's new Minute Men, we must patrol the border of Blue-land, but not to keep people out. We should be watching to keep people in. (At least four Democrats crossed the aisle today to disallow amendments to the "Victory" resolution. Why??) We also need to look for people to pull out of the murky water who are trying to escape the red menace (allusion intended).

The Statue of Liberty still stands on our shores. Breathe free. Reach out and rescue a Republican from transparent rhetoric and veiled agendas.


Rescue a Republican and you may just rescue the country. Just remember that in our country, a strong military does not exist with out soft-talking diplomacy, that we do not give into fear-mongering, that we believe in government accountability and, for the sake of our nation, we all must participate in ensuring her a free and prosperous future. And one more from the last President's first inauguration speech: "We must be bold!"

When we stand up, they will stand down!

PBG

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Funny...You Don't Look Danish

As senator after senator takes to the floor to rail against same-sex marriages, several have cited an article in the Weekly Standard that supposedly talks about large numbers of children born out of wedlock since the more "permissive" Scandinavian societies the article cites have legalized homosexual unions. This argument is so fully bogus. It really has nothing to do with the United States or same-sex marriage.

How did the article define "wedlock"? If one or both partners of a lesbian couple has a child, is that considered out of wedlock?

When In Denmark...

To stand on the floor of the Senate and pretend that Scandinavians and Americans have the same magnets swaying their respective moral compasses assumes a commonality that just does not exist. They simply do not have the same qualms about the "out of wedlock" issue that we do. As our society hangs on to the last vestiges of Puritan morality that even make Victorian era conduct seem edgy, that very old part of the world just south of the Arctic Circle has not had a puritanical thought for centuries. (I'd say where we hold back they go forward, except that is only partly true because they move forward whether our status quo is in stasis or flux - neither of which is progress).

I'd like your input on this, because I may be off base, but to my thinking the stigma of having children out of wedlock is as faded as a 40-year-old draft card. As long as you're not still in high school, I don't have a problem with it. Your body. Your choice.

The Evolving Human Condition

Maybe that's why Americans under thirty don't see what the big deal is with Gay marriage. You don't have to be married to raise wonderful children. Many of them know that from their own experiences as children of divorce. Having a mommy and daddy is just another way to experience life, as is having no daddy, two dads or two moms.

Social spiritualist and philosopher Gary Zukav talks about society evolving away from the need for formal marriage, opting for commitment to a spiritual life partner. On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart referred to this social change as part of "the evolving human condition" and implied that gay marriage as an institution is inevitable.

To paraphrase the Guess Who, "Seasons change and so do societies. There's no time left for your kind of ignorance."

Bear the Pandering

In the end, the consensus is that the President and the conservative senators who are making this an issue are just making their base happy, and for that base, a principal of children as part of a "complete" (read: heterosexual) family is important. Yesterday James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, actually showed a big foam-core poster of his own large family, saying something like, "...and nobody's ever had a gay relationship. We're proud of that." (Not surprisingly, that little statement is missing from the text of the speech on the senator's website and from the "substantially verbatim" Congressional Record. That's why I watch C-Span.)

I truly believe no notion of family is wrong as long as love, guidance, support and true partnership are present to sustain it. And you know, in a hundred years family may mean so much more.

Francene Busbee Update

The results of yesterday's special election in San Diego for the indicted Duke Cunningham's seat in Congress is over and unfortunately our girl Francene Busbee fell just a few percentage points short of victory.
The bright side: with over 100,000 voters casting ballots, we lost by less than 5,000 and we were outspent nearly 2-to-1. The message is clear. We all must stand up come November and be counted. Don't let them frustrate you!
PBG

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Robust or Bust: The Keyhole Economy

NEWSFLASH! The war in Iraq is going badly. It's the albatross that is dragging down the president's approval ratings. At least that seems to be the consensus among the pundits in attempting to explain why the administration's buoyant claims of an improved economy aren't getting any traction with the American people.

But if you take a look at which sectors are cited the most for showing improvements, it's things like GDP, the stock market, and unemployment numbers. These are elements that ignore an expanding sector of society: the poor and the working poor for whom the so-called "robust" economy is a bust.

So while the top earners of society are reaping the rewards of privilege through record profits and lopsided tax breaks and golden parachutes, the middle class and the poor are being squeezed by record high gas prices and suppressed wages (Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage in nearly ten years) and shrinking opportunity. With the wealthy top of society getting more bloated and the struggling bottom shrinking, this expanding economy ends up looking more like a keyhole economy.

It doesn't matter how much the administration talks it up; there are too many Americans for whom calling this economy robust seems more like idle boasting and may as well be happening on Mars. But since when has Bush and his supporters let the truth get in the way of good rhetoric?

"...The U.S. economy has just shifted into fifth gear and is now purring like a Porsche."
Stephen Moore
The National Review
March 14, 2005


A Porsche, Mr. Moore? Why not "cruising like a Cadillac?"
With this week's reports of losses by the "big three" domestic automakers, perhaps Moore wasn't so much abandoning his patriotic principles as he was recognizing that production does not equal sales in a keyhole economy.

In fact, Toyota outsold the big three AND made a profit last quarter. The pundits assume it has to do with the better mileage and more hybrid lines that the Asian auto manufacturers have produced.

President Bush seems to agree. In a January speech at a Virginia trucking company, he said, "When somebody demands an extra good and service in a market economy, somebody is going to produce it to meet that demand." Well, yes. And that someone is the Japanese.

And it's not just cars. Electronic goods and clothing are also some of the leading foreign goods being "snapped up," according to a February article by the Washington Post's Paul Blustein. The Post story was based on a government report released February 10 noting that 2005 marked the fourth straight year that the trade deficit "soared to a record."

So what does that mean for you and me? Well, the trade deficit is supported by loans held by foreign investors; they could call in their marker at any time. "We're borrowing against the future and... our children will have lower standards of living than they would otherwise," said Harvard economist Jeffrey Frankel in the Blustein article, and he warns, "Just because a 'hard landing' hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't."

A trade deficit combined with increased domestic productivity means more unsold inventory and wasted worker wages if Americans prefer foreign goods. That torpedoes Stephen Moore's assertion that "Productivity improvements are the key to higher wage rates...for middle class workers."

In fact, census figures from last year indicate "an increase in the poverty rate for the fourth straight year," according to a newratings.com article from last August. (And yes, the trade deficit was also up over the same period.) Proponents of the president's economic policies claim that the poor have not benefited from the so-called recovery because it has not "trickled down" yet.

But with cuts in domestic social programs leaving poorer Americans in a freefall, will the current policies ever put "trickle down" within their reach? The president, in that January speech, does not seem to want to give people a place to land, hard or otherwise. He advocates "reforming the system" of mandatory spending on Medicare and Social Security, and implores bipartisan support for his way of abandoning the needy.

Like the White House meeting of former cabinet officials in January, all he wants to do is convince those who command more respect than he does to spread his misleading, uninformed rhetorical statements. It could be that is why he chose so many Bush I legacy cabinet members and advisors for his administration; somewhere in that odd brain of his he realizes that people just don't respect him or his "decider-ings."

Reforming mandatory spending means an even larger poverty rate for years to come. An expanding economy means more growth for those who already have money and less room to move for a middle class that continues to be squeezed. A robust economy? For most Americans, the economy is a bust, and there will be no credit given to this administration for a keyhole economy that does not support the financial well-being of all Americans.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Quick Shot

Source unknown

Brrrrr. Heebeegeebees. I don't know if you'll find any volunteers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Petri Dish of DeLay: Where's the Bleach?


Hear that sound? That's the band striking up to celebrate at least one more Republican standing down.

But it's been so long since we had something to actually be happy about, the music sounds as discordant as the first day of junior high band class. Why? Because though far from pyrrhic, this is only a small victory. Sure, if you toss in "Duke" Cunningham from California, that's two in the last six months, but getting the "poster boys" of Republican corruption - er, make that culture of corruption (gotta remember the talking points) - out of Congress is a far cry from getting corruption out of government.

If you're a little nerdy, like I am, then you can't hear the word "culture" without thinking of growing mold in a Petri dish (or that to-go container of unknown origin in the back of your fridge). But then, both biological cultures and social cultures involve finding a way to make it easy for like-natured organisms to join the fray. After being sealed and hidden in a dark place, away from prying eyes, they feast on the food that sustains them. For mold, it's yeast. For fungi-faced politicians it's money-money-money. I know - it's all bread - but isn't that part of the point?

Two things for sure that kill mold are light and bleach. So we shine a light on corruption in the well-founded belief that this kind of exposure should kill the culture. But , in truth, the Congress has passed nothing that will sustain the sunshine on their culture. In fact, they want us to believe that the small, under-nourished (read: under-funded) colonies they leave out for us to see is all there is to worry about and they've taken care of it. But they have done nothing to dismantle the system that perpetuates this kind of corruption, and continue to hide the cash-cow cultures.

Apparently - surprise - once again it's up to us. We should be asking (with apologies to Wendy's), "Where's the bleach?" Do you know how to find out who your representative is taking money from? Well, you can try petitioning them for their donor list. You know - write them a letter.

At least some of it is public record. The Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives says the following on their website:
"Members, officers, and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives are required by certain House Rules and federal statutes to file official documents on travel, income, gifts, etc. and to make this information available to the public as Public Disclosure documents. These documents are filed with the Clerk of the House and are available from the Legislative Resource Center, B-106 Cannon House Office Building, during normal office hours. The telephone number is (202) 226-5200."


Lobbying firms are required to report how much money they spend and on whose behalf. Those records are compiled by groups like The Center for Public Integrity. If you find out anything regarding lobbying, ethics and your representatives that you want to know more about, contact the Center either from the interface on their site or the old-fashioned way (pasted from their website):
"The Center is located at 910 17th Street, NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20006. The telephone number is (202) 466-1300."

Finally, talk about the issue with your friends and especially your neighbors. Don't let them sock away the Petri dish of corruption like it doesn't matter. Be the bleach. Then more will have to stand down.
-PBG
PS. The special election to replace the prison-bound Cunningham is April 11! If you know anyone in California's 50th District (San Diego County) please let them know that there is a progressive Democrat, Fran Busby, running and she stands a good chance of winning in this usually very Republican district. Get out the vote!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Peace in Iraq, Justice at Home

On April 1, 2006, several thousand people marched from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change in Atlanta to nearby Piedmont Park to rally against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's war on providing for those in need at home. The event was co-sponsored by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition.

Called "The Southern Regional March for Peace in Iraq & Justice at Home," the event was scheduled to coincide with the third anniversary of the War and the 38th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination.






Once in the park, the protesters were treated to a giant puppet show with a giant, blue coated, cardboard Bush with an army of cardboard puppet airplanes was defeated by an enormous cardboard MLK puppet and a flock of white cardboard doves.



Speaking of puppets, there was a puppetmaster at the event showing who really pulls the strings in this administration.






























Among the notable and noteworthy speakers at the event was form president and co-founder, with Dr. King, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, who spoke about sending "smart bombs in a dumb war."
Dr. Lowery also answered critics of his remarks during the funeral for Coretta Scott King in January, during which he mentioned the foibles of this administration with President Bush sitting right behind him! The service, of course, was in a large church east of Atlanta. Ten-thousand people were there. "People want to know how I could say those things with the President in my house," Rev. Lowery said Saturday. "First of all, it's not my house. It's the Lord's house." Cheers erupted. Then the reverend, who has been ministering for over fifty years, asked, "Who is he to tell me how to run a Black funeral? Has he ever run one? I've run hundreds. [At a Black funeral] we praise the good works of the departed so that those there can pick up the [mantle] and continue."


While there were several anti-war veterans' groups represented, it was riveting when four veterans of the Iraq War and founding members of the Georgia chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War took the stage.

I spoke with one of the vets afterward and he expressed to me how he felt like he let down his country by going and fighting in Iraq. I did my best to reassure him that it was not his fault, that we didn't blame him. But the pain of what he did in the name of the United States was evident on his face.




One of the most moving demonstrations was a display of a couple of hundred army boots with the names and ages of those killed-in-action lined up neatly on a hillside in the park, overlooking the event.
























Near the army boots was another gathering of pairs of shoes, formed into a peace sign.
These shoes represented the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including the children, whom our bombs and guns have taken in this terrible war.




And at least one little protester was there to voice her opinion- in the only way she could - the direction our country has gone.

Thanks Hannah Claire!


Finally, I urge you to click on the embedded links and see if there is something you can contribute to these courageous groups who are taking a stand for America at home. They know, as we do, that when we stand up our horrible president and his misguided supporters will have to stand down.
-PBG

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Siezing Consensus from a Place of Power

During the Cold War, politicians and pundits used to bandy about a phrase we don't hear much any more - "balance of power." As I recall, it described the goal of essentially balancing the military might and political influence of the Soviet Union and her Warsaw Pact allies with that of Britain, the United States, and the rest of NATO and their allies.

The balance, though, was never really equal. The West, and especially the U.S., were public and predictable in their free societies, and almost always had the upper hand organizationally and technologically.

The Soviets, paranoid and unpredictable, were able to feel good about their position at the opposite end of the scale - they too had technology, missiles and a massive army - but their problems were kept quiet, seen as a sign of weakness, and those who questioned the status-quo propaganda the Kremlin promulgated frequently were censured, exiled or murdered. As a result, issues went unvoiced and unresolved and loyalty was not based so much in pride but rather in self-preservation.

So when the United States and Russia began to sign treaties in the 1970s, the State Department understood that it was more important to make the Soviets feel equal by giving them the other big chair at the table than to flaunt the relative superiority of free, open and democratic societies.

The powers achieved consensus over the threat of destruction, and did not let the differences in their societies divert them from that goal.

Now we think of ourselves as the biggest kid on the block and it seems the world is a more dangerous place. We've taken Reagan's "evil empire" rhetoric out of its historical context, as if the Cuban Missile Crisis and the detente of the Seventies never happened. Ronald Reagan could not have voiced his harsh criticism without the backdrop of reasonable consensus that previous decades had achieved.

The best thing we can do is bring Iran to the table. Hopefully, North Korea will be next. Negotiate with them, but not with a bomb held behind our backs. A gun held to the head might go off, and then what would we do? We must, rather, bring out an open purse just when we are tempted to wheel around an M-16. For if the goal is to reach a consensus, then we should reward those who choose to join us at the table. We don't have to prove that we are the strongest, but that we are the strongest in our commitment to peace.

Likewise, despite the history of violence, I believe Israel should be talking to Hamas (something I think they may be doing already in secret). Yes, I know - Israelis aren't blowing up buses and Palestinians aren't bulldozing houses - but in the end, all anyone wants is to be heard, to have a seat at the same table. Sure Israel could keep up its program - they have the military advantage - but then it never ends. There will always be more Arabs than Jews.

We must stop looking for the perfect enemy and reach consensus for an imperfect peace.

-PBG

Bruce Kay Guest Column #3:

Don't Touch That Dial!
(If You Want to Live)

Report From Radio Free Baghdad
by Bruce Kay

Like everything here in Iraq , the start-up of the first Iraqi non-profit radio station, 'Nationalistic Public Radio' , has been , well, problematic.
First , the call letters, WIED - who came up with that?

Other issues? Well - starting the weekday programming with Mourning Edition, umm, it's a show that just doesn't lift the spirits.

Things do get a little better with the new call in game show. I think it's the prize - Carl Kasell making death threats on your enemy's answering machine - that makes it so popular. The show, Wait , Wait Don't Kill Me, is composed of an interrogator questioning a (Shiite) contestant who has to get every answer right or, well, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't heard it yet. Anyway it's a smash hit (with the the Sunnis.)

Another popular show is in English so it's big with the US leadership. All Things Considered-Targets, is a lighthearted look at how US forces blow off steam ( and blow up everything else) but done with whimsy.

There is a variation on Car Talk over here that really took off. It's a show that started out with a large audience of palm tree mechanics, but for some reason has lost a lot of its listeners. Regardless, C
ar Bomb Talk hosted by the Mohammadotti brothers, really strikes a cord over here .

Another feature, that travels well, is the hourly traffic/weather/shrapnel reports. Nothing gets you around traffic like knowing where each day's craters have sprung up.

And who says the women here can't be fashionable? The ladies have made Burka Today the fashionable show about, well, fashion. Hint: this spring, for eye holes, horizontal is all the rage!

Not surprising in this sectarian environment, the Kurds are setting up there own "KPR" station. Don't know much about it, but it's all alone, on the far end of the dial.

One final note, to counter what they see as the "liberal spin" of the Iraqi media, Fox News has announced their own radio station
start up. It is said to be dedicated to broadcasting only "positive" stories from the war. My gut feeling, It won't be on 24/7.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Calls to Step Down Increase


About one hundred protesters showed up outside the Georgia Convention Center, near the Atlanta airport, Thursday night to wave signs and chant against President Bush and his policies.

While sponsored mainly by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, there were people there from several different organizations, including a large contingent from a particularly outraged group, The World Can't Wait (until 2008). There were also members of
MoveOn.org.

As their name implies, The World Can't Wait is calling for the "Bush regime" to resign or be forced out of office before the next presidential election cycle. According to literature they distributed at Thursday's protest, they hold that the government, "your government," they insist, "is setting out to remake society...in a fascist way." And they go on to warn, "silence and paralysis are not acceptable.We must act now; the future is in the balance."

There were also anarchists and those who are generally disillusioned with this entire government, from the White House to Capitol Hill.

-PBG