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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Behind the Curtain

Pay No Attention to the Politician Behind the Curtain

There is a shadow play going on behind the shroud, and like the characters in an old cartoon, the shaded shapes creep in apparent self awareness, while we cheer and jeer the performances of those who cast them. The hidden machinations of the players bear little resemblance to what they choose to show us.

It works something like this. In any political goings-on, there are three kinds of curtains that drape the stage where our politicians play: opaque, translucent and transparent. Then there's the performance upstage, in front - the one they play out to dazzle, distract or otherwise numb us into obeisance. Occasionally, the sharp observer can discern a movement not quite right in the narrow, transparent panels, that belies the otherwise unrevealing obfuscators.

For example, let's say Bush is standing in front of a crowd of foreign war veterans, comparing the chaos under which Saigon fell with the potentially worsening dissolution of order when we leave Baghdad, and saying that it would have been different had we stayed in Vietnam and "finished the job."

He wants us to see brave men and women fighting to victory, but instead in the transparent panel directly behind him we easily see a drunken, AWOL flier from the Texas Air National Guard, circa 1970. He wants us to see the genocide of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, but behind the wider translucent panel we can discern the shadowy images of bullets and bombs felling American soldier after American soldier, the piling bodies and flag draped coffins and weeping Gold Star mothers. He wants us to see an America responsible for squashing terrorism like a foot crushes a cockroach, yet we know that somewhere behind the very wide, opaque curtain America is enabling the torture and rendition of perceived enemies while it supports the governments of those who harbor our real enemies.

Meanwhile every shout is greeted with applause, every wag of the finger greeted with cheers.

Status Quo or Quid Pro Quo

Some of those cheers are our own, fellow lefties. Karl Rove leaving? Sure, shout for joy. Hooray! But now that he is no longer in government (officially anyway), will there be as hard an effort to expose his malfeasance? He is not leaving because any threat of exposure that we know of, so it looks like this is his own decision, status quo for the waning months of a lame duck administration. But what don't we know? Is it possible that this is part of a deal? The weak Congress seems unwilling to pursue any sort of retribution against an administration that continues to abuse its power. This could be more quid pro quo than status quo.

I really don't know. I'm just saying that things are not always what they seem, especially in First World politics, so we have to be willing to look past what is presented as truth and find the real truth. We can't rely on just the Washington Post or the New York Times. We have to make our congress-people be accountable to holding the Executive accountable. That, sadly, is the one thing they seem unwilling to do.

So for those of you who give money specifically to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), I'm asking you to stop. They are not working for us. They want to continue to do business as usual. I'm asking that you give money directly to the campaign coffers of the legislators who actually seem to stand against the status quo.

Send money to Russ Feingold's re-election campaign, or any of the 28 other senators or 183 members of the House who stuck to their convictions and voted against the Wiretapping bill that was passed just before the August recess. Why did the Democratic led Congress end up passing this bill? Well, CNET has an interesting and uncomplicated answer: it was political.

See, the Democrats want to appear strong in the "War on Terror." But just behind them you can see them through the transparent curtain shaking in political fear. Behind the translucent curtain, their shadows are stomping on the Bill of Rights while they hold out their hands to the "military industrial complex," who hide just out of sight, behind the opaque curtain.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Russ Feingold's Presidential Homesick Blues

If you cannot play the video from here, click here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Baaaaad Leadership

This is the ACLU's ad deriding the Democrats in congress for their meakness:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Nightmare of Naivete: The Lulling of a Nation

Sleep-walking Through the President's Daily Briefing

Sometimes you wake up dead. Sometimes you wake up and wish you were. That's how it must have been for the Germans morning after gray morning, decade after decade, following the long, filthy, deadly nightmare of World War Two. A national narcosis swam behind their eyeballs, dissociative episodes brought on by feelings of guilt, and the trauma of worthless denials and feigned naivete. No one heeded the few who warned that while one hand of the Fatherland was cradling its swastika'd lemmings warmly, the other hand was waging an icy, unfeeling war on social outcasts and the most easily vilified. Those who questioned became outcasts and enemies themselves .

The German campaign against decency began in 1933 and lasted twelve years. We are only six years into our own national nightmare, lulled to sleep by lullaby lies that spin cotton candy dreams of conspicuous consumption. Some say that September 11, 2001 was our wake-up call, but it was just another opportunity to hit the snooze button. Just roll over and go shopping and everything will all be alright.

The alarm actually went off on August 6, with the now infamous "Bin Laden Determined to Attack" Presidential Daily Briefing. Yes, I know there were other warning signs over a period of years, but none were dismissed as easily as the Bush administration choosing to ignore the threat from al-Qaeda. (There was no angle there for them to play. Iraq has an angle or two: revenge and oil come to mind.)

Before I go any farther, I have to say that I'm not comparing the Bush/Cheney administration to the Nazis, though many of my compatriots do not share my hesitation to do so. My comparison is with our apparent complacency while the integrity of the United States' stand on civil rights and justice are damaged by allowing rendition, condoning torture, suspending habeas corpus, and collecting data on any of us without a warrant. The problem is them, but as long as we don't say something about it, it is also us. Just like a cobbler in Munich may have ignored the winds of death from Dachau, it seems that not enough of us are willing to come out of this deep sleep where our government wants to keep us.

Eventually, this will all end, and when it does, the great respect and position into which America was vaulted after WWII will be gone. Someone else will stand in our place. I am sad to say I think it is inevitable. In the next year, if we don't close down Guantanamo Bay and stop renditions and at least begin to leave Iraq, someone will come in and make us, and they won't be alone. By the time it's all over, in six years or so, we will be sleepwalking through our own dawn of denial, remembering this foreign policy disaster as the kind of bad dream that won't fade away until long after the sun creeps under our eyelids.

The nostalgia for an America that the world respects and wants to be a part of is just that - a fond and faded memory. To that end, we must begin rebuilding a country we can live in first. We can do that by holding our incumbents responsible for their votes. Who are they trying to impress by giving Bush his warrantless wiretapping and data mining program? Does the party leadership really think this will help them next year? Congress has become the dark forest in which the administration monster hides, and from which he can attack with impunity. If we are to walk into tomorrow's daylight aware, then we must not let this forest stand. There will be plenty of time for sleep later.


Friday, August 03, 2007

The Best Defense: Protecting the Constitution

Come Down From the Battlements

I am not inclined to follow my leaders blindly. To those who say, "Yes. But there's a war on. We have to support the president," I say, only God deserves that kind of attention from me. But even God gives us permission to ask questions, and He/She's been locking horns with Evil for millenia!

Questioning God is a tradition for my people. Abraham questions God at Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses questions God at the burning bush; even Jesus questions God as he is dying on the cross. They required no credential to ask. They sought no permit. They asked because as human beings we have the gift of giving voice to reason, and a hungry mind yearning for understanding.

As surely as America's Founding Fathers questioned the will of King George, I am allowed to ask for redress from my government.

"We the People" are the heart of the Constitution. We breathe life into it at the ballot box; we bleed life into it on the battlefield. Yet the old document's heart has been pierced by the arrows of an army of elitists. They have mounted an assault on progressive nationalism and individual liberty.

The Fight as It Is

Those who stand in our defense, stand atop a tall, broad and deep stone wall emblazoned with the Constitution. From their battlements, they fire down on to the megalomaniacal marauders' merciless attack. Somewhere on the battlefield, Cheney eats grapes and shouts orders from his litter, as his mind plots how to make the Constitution a classified document (along with the Declaration of Independence).

Though we stage our fight from high on the wall, we remain behind the great document. But this is not a position from which our defense will succeed. By keeping the Constitution between us and them, we are allowing them to take pot shots at it, daring them, really, to destroy it. We treat it like a talisman, like a cross to a vampire, but they don't shrink away. They won't stop until they have turned our Constitution into an instrument of control.

I Will Not Be Controlled

I will not be controlled by this administration. The president tells Congress he wants this. The president tells Congress he wants that. He is not in charge of me, and despite what his first six years in office may have been like, he is not in charge of Congress. He cannot tell the Congress what to do; he can only ask. He is only the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces - not the people.

The Way Forward

The way to protect the Constitution is to come out from behind it, for it is a poor shield against those who hunger for power and wealth. We must come down from the battlements, because the only way we can defend our constitutional guarantees is by standing between Bush-Cheney's sleepwalking minions and the codified liberties we strive to protect. That is where we must draw the line.

That is why we elected the Congress we did last year. They were supposed to take that ground for us, but now they buzz about in parliamentary disarray, and serve neither people nor party. So it is up to us. The only recourse we have left, the only government forum in which we can at least get our arguments a fair hearing, is in the courts.

The courts are all there is between the Constitution and those who violate her, so this is where we must choose to fight. We fight with words and with reason - the principals of our Founding Fathers. We fight because those on whom we counted, those who vowed to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," have broken their promise.

So open your mouth, people of reason. Ask some questions, people who seek understanding, and maybe, just maybe, God really will bless America.