Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In the wake of Deep Throat

The unveiling of Deep Throat has surfaced a lot of buried memories. DarkSyde, who has been doing some fantastic science writing over at Kos, has this plea for our neutered press corps:

The promise, appeal, and power, of Democracy [lies] not in capitalism, or in Divine Manifest Destiny, or in abstract ethics, as important as those issues are; the appeal of Democracy is firmly rooted in holding leaders accountable for the consequences of their actions on the electorate, and the capacity to remove them from power when they betray that trust. Democracy works because it represents a fundamental interest: Leaders work for the people, not the other way around.

But we the people can't make those decision based on stories about Runaway Brides or who Michael Jackson may have licked on the forehead. We need actual, tangible, investigative reporting. The kind that gets you blacklisted from White House Events and earns you a Pulitzer Prize Nomination. …

Bust the lid off, blow the cover, take chances, don't be neutered, get it done, report the truth, and do not ever, ever, stop. Reach inside, remember why you became what you are, and please, start working for the people, and not the other way around. You more than any of us have the power of the Written Word. Use it.

Maybe they'll remember, too, and start reporting again.

Don't give money to the bad guys

  • Don't give money to the evil credit card companies that brought us the Bankruptcy Bill - get a DemCard! It offers a fixed 7.9% interest rate and allows you to support the state Democratic Party of your choice with your credit card purchases, instead of through campaign contributions, which are budgetary extra expenditures. Maine is one of the states you can choose, but you could pick a swing state, too. Read here for more info.
  • Don't give your hard-earned money to companies that turn around and hand it to the GOP! Check out BuyBlue and learn how simple changes in your purchasing habits can start money flowing to Democrats.
  • If you have any alternative whatsoever, don't shop at Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart does untold evil to American communities, employees, unions, minorities, children, immigrants, taxpayers, and democracy. And their prices aren't all that low. Plus, they give to Republicans. Wal-Mart is evil, evil, evil and you don't want to go there. Really.

Give money to the good guys. Even small amounts make a big difference if everyone pitches in. These people are working hard on things we care about - let's help them out if we can.
  • Help take back the Senate. Give to Barbara Boxer’s PAC for Change, which is funding promising Democratic candidates for 2006.
  • Give money to the DNC. Dean is doing a fantastic job, and he needs small contributors to keep up the momentum so he can tell the fatcats it's not their private party any more. (Bankruptcy bill, anyone?)
  • Give it up for Amnesty International. They're taking a big risk to aggressively challenge this cabal on the issue of torture.
  • Contribute to the Sibel Edmonds defense fund. Edmonds began working for the FBI shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, translating top-secret documents pertaining to suspected terrorists. She was fired in the spring of 2002 after reporting her concerns about sabotage, intimidation, corruption and incompetence to superiors. Edmonds is a key witness in a pending class-action suit filed by 9/11 families against the government.
  • Join the ACLU for as little as $20 and help them fight the more egregious provisions of the USA Patriot Act.
  • Support the Maine Democratic Party so they can find, train, and run Democratic candidates all over the state - and win!

Sign a petition, send an e-message, or try another quick on-line action. It’s fun and you’ll feel better.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

Please consider scrolling through some of the names and photos of the 1,836 coalition soldiers who have lost their lives so far in Iraq. There are also at least 12,360 U.S. wounded and an uncounted number of dead and wounded civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Whatever our views on this latest war and how it is being waged, the vast majority of soldiers are trying to serve their countries with honor. It is not their decision how a military gets used; that responsibility rests with the politicians in power and, ultimately, with the people who put them there. If we hate the war they are fighting, if we are enraged at the lies behind it, if we despise the people using them as pawns, we simply must work harder for change.

We are in debt to the men and women who fought and died in all of our wars, whatever we think of the cause. They died for their country, and for us.

Best wishes to you and yours this Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Who explains, loses

There’s a great diary at Kos this evening called How to Lose an Argument. It opens with "Gussie's First Law of Argumentation: Who Explains, Loses."

[L]iberals explain. That's almost the definition of a liberal, we first seek to understand why, then (sometimes) deal with how. We want to know why crime is up, we don't simply say 'fry the bastards.' We want to know why we're supposed to believe gay civil rights undermines the 'institution of marriage,' why the terror alerts are timed as they are, and even why we went to war. 'Why' is very often our first question - this is our strength and our weakness (as when some of us asked, after 9/11, 'why were we attacked?').

Gussie says, stop doing this. Make them explain things to you. Ask a pointed question, make a simple declarative statement, or go on the offensive yourself. For example, on abortion, say:
“Abortions are up under Bush.”
Do we fine-tune the statement by saying, “Well, abortions are technically declining but the rate of decline has slowed dramatically since Clinton, and in fact they may actually have increased but this administration stopped publishing abortion numbers when they became inconveniently high”?


Do we say, “The Democratic position is that we’d like abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. It’s not that we like abortion – I in fact feel [state personal position here] about it but I support the right for a woman to make her own decision, treating it as a medical matter if that’s how she feels about it or as a personal matter between herself, her partner, and her God”?


Do we say, “There is disagreement as to when a fetus develops the neurological capacity to feel pain beyond the reflex level, and has developed anything like the capacity for human feeling, but we might be willing to entertain a position of zero abortions past some point of agreed-upon cognitive function”?

No. We say, “Abortions are up under Bush.” Let them explain why they disagree.

This is not intellectually dishonest. There’s nothing shameful about speaking in soundbites - it takes real understanding to reduce an idea to its essence. We can have our explanation in the wings if it’s called for. And we’re always free to use the full arsenal of reason, nuance, and complexity on those rare occasions when we meet up with an open-minded conservative. The rest of the time, follow this advice:

When I'm talking with a winger, I make firm, blunt statements about what I believe. They will often flinch physically, because THEY AREN'T USED TO A LIBERAL SPEAKING THAT WAY. Never explain what I mean, but I offer facts as weapons. This is true, that is true ... I make THEM prove me wrong.

It's not that hard.
  • Work is more important than wealth.
  • A woman's body is her own.
  • Healthcare is a human right.
  • Public education is a primary function of government.
  • Bush is a lying child of privilege.
We have to stop begging to be understood. No more bended knee before the right. Stand firm, state your case firmly.

Here are some other simple statements to try.
  • We're creating enemies faster than we can kill them.
  • Our best and bravest are being used as pawns.
  • Torture is wrong. No exceptions.
  • Patricia Owens let a guy die because she sat for two years on a decision.
  • Janice Rogers Brown wants to bring back child labor.
  • Ralph Reed double-crossed Native Americans for tens of millions.
  • Religious right judges want to ban birth control.
  • George Bush wants to kill Social Security.
  • Tom DeLay used federal agents to hunt down legislators from his own state.
Many, many readers had trouble with the premise of this diary, but this exchange expressed our liberal misgivings the best:

Just because a dumbass won the Presidency doesn't mean that you have to reduce complex legit issues to one sentence dumbassery from now on. I completely disagree with this approach and your premise. People who voted for Bush (and Kerry) didn't vote because of soundbites but because of their point-of views relating to the topic.

To which Gussie replied:

Yes you do. You're wrong. Yes, they did.

See how easy? I win. ;)

More on this topic soon.

Support our troops: plan an exit

Even talking about the need for an exit strategy, evidently, is unpatriotic. From David Sirota:

[T]his week, almost 70 percent of lawmakers (including, pathetically, top members of the Democratic leadership) in the House of Representatives voted against a bipartisan, non-binding resolution asking the President to submit a plan to Congress explaining an exit strategy from Iraq.

Possibly more insulting than the vote was the fact that Republicans actually equated asking for an exit strategy to abandoning America's troops.

Allen and Michaud were among the 122 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and Sanders voting in favor of the Woolsey Amendment. Nancy Pelosi, incredibly, voted nay. In total, 79 Democrats joined the GOP for a final tally of 300 to 128.

The amendment is worded in such a way that it can be interpreted as asking for an exit ASAP, not an exit plan ASAP. The two are qualitatively different, and I think the Democrats would have been wiser to go for clear-cut, neutral language demanding a plan and an explanation of what victory will look like.

Still, the fact that we got a majority of dems and five Republicans - four of them southerners - to demand an account is a good sign. The subject is guaranteed to keep coming up. Another good omen: Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), one of the most conservative members of Congress and the man who insisted on renaming our national vegetable as "freedom fries," has changed his mind on the legality of the war and was the only GOP member to speak in support of the amendment.
UPDATE: The US Army War College has just published an assessment of Bush's post-9/11 strategy, calling it ill-defined and saying that "fundamental choices can no longer be deferred."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Let's grit our teeth and thank them

This is the part I hate - sucking it up and thanking Snowe and Collins for doing what any decent person wouldn't have to think twice about. I'm talking about not following Dobson & Frist down the nuclear path. As the Princeton fillibuster students commented,

[I]t is a strange sort of victory, isn't it? If you believe that Senator Frist's nuclear option would have been illegal and unprecedented - as we do, along with many constitutional scholars and political analysts - then the Republican leadership should not have considered it in the first place. Is it a victory when the world is returned to what it should be? Do we celebrate normalcy?

And there are so many, many reasons to be furious that they're sitting in those seats. We have them to thank for Owens. And Rice. And Gonzales. And Gale Norton. And the bankruptcy bill, and the Bush energy policy. And for putting Frist in a leadership position in the first place. Read yesterday's Washington Post piece (free registration required) on how power has tilted to the right, and then this Alterman masterpiece on how to lose a country in 7 easy steps, and reflect how Snowe and Collins are enabling the right-wing junta.

Then pick up the phone and thank them (grumble) for doing something right last week. They're going to be under enormous pressure to backpedal on that compromise.
Olympia Snowe....622-8292
Susan Collins......622-8414
Thank you. (Grumble.)
UPDATE: Oh, yeah, I almost forgot - and what do we get in exchange for renting our senate seats to Republicans? Base closings!
UPDATE II: The folks at Wampum are far more gracious than I. Also, they provide a helpful link to what Maine conservatives are saying about the deal.

Local voices

Mike of Maine Politics appeared on WABI-TV (channel 5, Bangor) yesterday with a pitch-perfect sound bite on Social Security:

Social Security is not an investment program, it's a safety net and it needs to be strong. Any cut in benefits, any compromise that weakens the system undermines this program and breaks the promise that has been made to my generation.

The event was a press conference for Social Security Works, a project of the Maine People's Alliance. Check it out.

Hate your neighbor

In case you missed the news, there were three cross burnings Wednesday night in Durham, NC, with Klan literature left at one scene:

The first burning was reported at 9:19 p.m. outside St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The next came at 9:54 p.m. atop a large pile of dirt near an apartment complex construction site; the third was at 10:28 p.m. at a downtown intersection. ... "I cannot think of any reason that any insider or anyone outside would be angry with us," said Bill Gutknecht, senior warden at St. Luke's. "I don't know what kind of point they're trying to make. ... I certainly hope and pray it had nothing to do directly with our church."

Gutknecht noted that on May 9, members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., picketed outside St. Luke's, among other churches, as part of a protest against the performance of "The Laramie Project" at Durham School of the Arts. The play is about the murder of a gay man, and the Westboro protesters carried anti-gay signs with slogans including "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for 9/11."

"That's the only thing of any kind of conflict, and it wasn't really a conflict," Gutknecht said, explaining that church members ignored the protesters.

There hasn't been a cross burning in Durham since 1968.

I've been working up a piece on radical right hate speech but can't seem to keep up with events. I already have two full pages of links on the increase in anti-gay incidents, crimes against Muslims, violence and threats directed at judges, the hostile climate and demonization of gays that's happening all over, institutionalized anti-gay actions by the Bush Administration, the hate speech spewing out of talk radio, religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, and the truly chilling Dominionist hatred....

Every nationalist movement needs a good scapegoat or two.
UPDATE: In southern Maine, tune in Monday at 7:30pm to Portland's public access TV to hear Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League debate State Senator Ethan Strimling (D-District 8) on gay rights.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The jackal pack

Rush Limbaugh is whipping up a frenzy over Bill Moyers’ recent speech at the National Conference for Media Reform, informing his 20 million listeners that the veteran PBS broadcaster is “unhinged” and “literally insane.”

Moyers defended public broadcasting against recent partisan attacks and called on journalists to revive serious inquiry, question egregious public behavior, and tell the truth when they see it. He didn’t mention Limbaugh by name, but he did say, “The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party gets. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth.”

William Hare has written a thoughtful piece at Political Strategy about the jackal pack – which now has PBS in the crosshairs - and their patented technique of substituting epithets and insults for serious commentary. He compares Bill O’Reilly’s “childishly vitriolic pseudo interviews” and temper tirades to the kind of reasoned, courteous inquiry Moyers used to conduct with people of all political stripe. Then he turns to Limbaugh:

…O’Reilly at least engages in discussions. Chicken hawk Rush Limbaugh, who opted out of Vietnam service due to an anal cyst while his father had served in World War Two with one, and who saluted Ronald Reagan as the premier political figure of his generation but somehow never found the time to vote for him, does not engage in one on one discussion with guests. With the Federal Communications Commission under firm control of the corporate right Limbaugh engages in vitriolic character assaults that no more embody serious political commentary than Ku Klux Klan cross burnings exemplify sober religious discussion. …

Rush Limbaugh is far from a Bill Moyers. He lacks the intellectual courage to invite Moyers on his program to state his case, with Limbaugh questioning and seeking to rebut views he opposed. Limbaugh’s style is that of the immature schoolyard bully who fears to engage in a full discussion of the facts and instead fills the air with vacuous insults ….

In place of engaging Moyers on his ideas the bombastic talk show host alleged that the liberal commentator had come “unhinged” and that “The things coming out of his mouth today are totally insane.” Such an emotional charge necessitates corroboration. To Limbaugh corroboration to his audience known as dittoheads is equated with repetition. In short, if Limbaugh calls Moyers “insane” enough times then his faithful minions of dittoheads will accept the unsupported charge without any discussion or explanation being necessary.

Less bombastic, perhaps, but equally reliant on repetition and bereft of intellectual courage, we have “fair and balanced” Fox News endlessly repeating Bush position papers on WMD and Iraq. Or Bush telling us freedom is on the march in Iraq. Or Bush telling us how tax cuts will fix everything. Or Bush telling us we have a crisis in Social Security.

As Bush himself remarked yesterday at a Bamboozlepalooza™ Social Security event in Greece, NY, "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Did we invade those countries?"

In today's press gaggle at the White House, Helen Thomas asks Scott McClellan to explain the meaning of the word "invitation." (Thanks to freepress4all for the catch.)

Q The other day - in fact, this week, you said that we, the United States, is in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history –

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we are - that's where we currently –

Q - in view of your credibility is already mired? How can you say that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically-elected governments in Iraq and –

Q Were we invited into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are two democratically-elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, and we are there today –

Q You mean if they had asked us out, that we would have left?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments –

Q I'm talking about today, too.

MR. McCLELLAN: - and we are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide for their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.

Q Did we invade those countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.
For extra enjoyment, go take the Lou Dobbs QuickVote poll at CNN, which asks, "Do you think the Bush White House is trying to manipulate the media?" At this writing, 96% have answered "yes." Sounds like a mandate to me.

Just asking

Why, when explaining his position against legal representation for detainees at Guantanamo, was it okay for Bill O'Reilly to say this last week about the Los Angeles Times editorial board?

They'll never get it until they grab [editorial page editor] Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off. And maybe when the blade sinks in, he'll go, "Perhaps O'Reilly was right."

Just asking. And while I'm on the subject, why was it also okay for him to advocate "whacking" and "slapping" the ABC reporter who challenged Scott McClellan on the Newsweek story? I didn't hear a lot of complaints and he still seems to be on Fox News, so I guess it was okay.

How about that radio host who advocated killing filmmaker Michael Moore? His name is Glenn Beck, he's a Clear Channel syndicated host with an audience of 6 million listeners, and on May 17 he said this:

I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out - is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus - band - Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, "Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore," and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, "Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death." And you know, well, I'm not sure.

What do you think? Is that okay? Or how about the entire oeuvre of Ann Coulter? You know, blowing up the New York Times building, assassinating Clinton, threatening liberals with baseball bats, and so on. Is that okay? Beck still has his show and Time did a friendly cover story on Coulter recently, so I guess they're in the clear.

Let's try another. Michael Savage had this to say to a caller on his cable talk show in July 2003:

Oh, you're one of the sodomites… You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it.

MSNBC fired him for that. Guess it wasn't entirely okay. But he still has a job, a syndicated radio show, and an audience. And that's not okay.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More thoughts on the deal

Reid puts it in the best frame:

"Abuse of power will not be tolerated, will not be tolerated by Democrats or Republicans," the minority leader stated. "And your attempt, I say to the vice president and to the president, to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control is over."

Howard Dean thinks it's less of a win for us than a loss for Bush:

"The potential is that we loosened the death grip the right wing had on the Republican Party," Dean said. "It was clearly a loss for the president because he was getting accustomed to ramming things through the House and the Senate without any confrontation."

Writers in this diary think the Gang of 14 executed a coup, with McCain in charge - and that from now till the 2006 elections, Bush will have to consult with them to get anything done.

Kos worries that with their newfound power, the Gang will turn around and negotiate themselves a deal on Social Security. Why is that bad? Because our current position (no privatization, no crisis, minor adjustments needed, much bigger problems elsewhere, like Medicare) is a winning one. Don't throw Bush a partial-victory life preserver; throw the son of a bitch an anvil! Bet you Lieberman will lead the sellout on this one.

We're all certain that Dobson will send his horde like the wrath of Mordor to punish the RINO 7. Mainers, get set for some more of those great Press Herald inserts!

And looks like Frist will try to ignore the whole deal.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Looks like a winner

Here's a PDF of the agreement with signatures.

Much puzzlement at first, then gnashing of teeth, then a growing sense of triumph as we try to make sense of what just happened. We’ll know more in the next few days as details come out and we see how the votes on nominations actually play out. But the take right now is, this is a winner for dems.
  • Frist has 55 votes to our 45 and yet he couldn’t deliver. Dobson & friends are not into compromise; they hate moderation more than they hate Democrats. They are going to be apoplectic. Read some initial reactions from the far right here.
  • Frist was forced to accept essentially the same deal Reid offered him 10 days ago. He now looks weak.
  • In defiance of Bush, Rove, Frist, & Dobson, 7 moderate Republicans - enough to break Frist's majority - forged a deal with moderate Democrats. They all stood together on national television smiling and congratulating each other on their loyalty to the republic, to the senate, to tradition, to the American people. Note: not their loyalty to Bush.
  • We're not sure, but it looks as if part of the deal may be to vote down some of the nominees when they come to the full senate. If so, then this was a great deal.
  • Reid looks happy; Frist looks whipped.
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the White House should show a little more deference to the senate in future nominations.
  • The filibuster remains on the table if we need it - but then so does the nuclear option.
We didn't get a lot out of this deal, but we had an enormous amount to lose, and not a very good hand. Reid did well. The new buzz in DC can be about bipartisanship - the real kind, not Bush's "my way or the highway" kind. Let Frist stand around wondering where all his followers went.

The rules they're going to break

Were you thinking it would be a simple vote, a majority overturning merely one long-standing rule? That was my impression. But here’s Senator Kennedy on the rules and precedents that Frist will have to break in order to force through his new rubberstamp rule on judicial nominations. This list has been entered into the Congressional Record, May 18, 2005, Page S5410.
  • First, they will have to see that the Vice President himself is presiding over the Senate so that no real Senator needs to endure the embarrassment of publicly violating Senate rules and precedent and overriding the Senate Parliamentarian the way our Presiding Officer will have to do.
  • Next, they will have to break paragraph 1 of rule V, which requires 1 day's specific written notice if a Senator intends to try to suspend or change any rule.
  • Then they will have to break paragraph 2 of rule V, which provides that the Senate rules remain in force from Congress to Congress, unless they are changed in accordance with the existing rules.
  • Then they will have to break paragraph 2 of rule XXII, which requires a motion, signed by 16 Senators, a 2-day wait, and a three-fifths vote to close debate on the nomination itself.
  • They will also have to break rule XXII's requirement of a petition, a wait, and a two-thirds vote to stop debate on a rules change.
  • Then, since they pretend to be proceeding on a constitutional basis, they will have to break the invariable rule of practice that constitutional issues must not be decided by the Presiding Officer, but must be referred by the Presiding Officer to the entire Senate for full debate and decision.
  • Throughout the process, they will have to ignore or intentionally give incorrect answers to proper parliamentary inquiries which, if answered in good faith and in accordance with the expert advice of the Parliamentarian, would make clear that they are breaking the rules.
  • Eventually, when their repeated rule-breaking is called into question, they will blatantly, and in dire violation of the norms and mutuality of the Senate, try to ignore the minority leader and other Senators who are seeking recognition to make lawful motions or pose legitimate inquiries or make proper objections.
  • By this time, all pretense of comity, all sense of mutual respect and fairness, all of the normal courtesies that allow the Senate to proceed expeditiously on any business at all will have been destroyed by the preemptive Republican nuclear strike on the floor.
  • To accomplish their goal by using a bare majority vote to escape the rule requiring 60 votes to cut off debate, those participating in this charade will, even before the vote, already have terminated the normal functioning of the Senate. They will have broken the Senate compact of comity and will have launched a preemptive nuclear war. The battle begins when the perpetrators openly, intentionally, and repeatedly break clear rules and precedents of the Senate, refuse to follow the advice of the Parliamentarian, and commit the unpardonable sin of refusing to recognize the minority leader.
I fail to see how anyone could walk through this process and say with a straight face that they were doing right by the United States of America.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A declaration of conscience

Here, in full, is the declaration of Margaret Chase Smith on June 1, 1950. The times and the issues were different, but the substance of her remarks - essentially, a paean to principle over power - bears revisiting today.
Mr. President:

I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity. It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American – and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us – yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we dish out to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul searching – for ­­us to weigh our consciences – on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America – on the the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered; that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation. Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism

The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn't? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as "Communists" or "Fascists" by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations. As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln's day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation – in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "know nothing, suspect everything" attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself – and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances – that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.
Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could – simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory.

I don't want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.

As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate – and I use the word 'debate' advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don't like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate. As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of "confuse, divide and conquer." As an American, I don't want a Democratic Administration "white wash" or "cover up" any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt. As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Democrat "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a "Declaration of Conscience." I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.
Are you listening, Senator Collins?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Citizen filibusters

It started at Princeton. Now Bowdoin College Democrats are joining Bates, Colby, USM, and U Maine Orono in staging local filibusters Monday, May 23, beginning at 10AM. Read more about it here, and consider lending them your support. At least drive by the Joshua Chamberlain statue and honk!
Then, starting Tuesday noon, MoveOn is staging 24-hour citizen filibusters all over the country. The nearest one to date is Portsmouth, NH - but check MoveOn's signup page to see if closer ones have sprung up or to host one yourself.

Paging Susan Collins!

You know the drill. The filibuster showdown is scheduled for Tuesday and Collins has (as usual) not weighed in yet. Maine residents, please call and ask her to stand against extremism, uphold Senate rules, and oppose the nuclear option.
Augusta office........622-8414
D.C. office.....(202) 224-2523
Thank you.
UPDATE: As of Sunday (5/21) 2pm, the Washington message box was full. Good! So try the Augusta office first, or try DC again on Monday morning.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Opposition: A rude letter to Democrats

Okay, folks, I have here a rant of the rude variety. People with delicate sensibilities will perhaps not want to read further. I don't usually post stuff in full because it's not good copyright etiquette, but I simply could not excerpt any of this - it's too good - nor could I read it and pass by. What follows is an open letter to Democrats by Stan Goff at Counterpunch, and it follows on George Galloway's remarks at that Senate hearing on May 17.

Do visit Counterpunch and see the rest of their work. A good place to start is Those Patriotic Magnets by Richard Joseph.

Here's the Goff letter (emphasis added, and edited slightly for space).

Dear Democratic Elected Officials of the United States (with damn few exceptions):

...George Galloway did that for which you have proven incapable; he spoke as an opposition. Since there seems to be a great dark space in the middle of your heads where the notion of opposition should be - a void filled by parliamentary molasses and the pusillanimous inability to tell simple truths - ­I suggest you all review the recordings of Galloway's confrontation with Republican Senator Norm "Twit" Coleman to see exactly how effortless it is to stand up to these cheap political bullies (watch the video). While you are at it, you can watch your colleague Carl Levin demonstrate exactly what I mean about most of you and your party, as he alternately hurls petulant cream-puff insults at Galloway and kisses Coleman's stunned, clueless ass to give that toothy dipshit some comfort in the wake of Galloway's verbal drubbing.

Galloway didn't have to walk up to the docket and slap the cowboy shit out of Coleman,­ though I admit I still struggle with my own secret urges to do just that with most of the air-brushed, combed-over, Stepford meat-puppets who now people the United States Congress. No, all Galloway had to do was tell the unvarnished truth, and it had exactly the same effect. If Democrats had half the spine that Galloway does if you would stop chasing your creepy little careers through the caviar and chicken-salad circuits of duck-and-cover American political double-speak, then not only would people like me not be calling for all to abandon the Democratic Party and take their fight to the streets like good Bolivians - not only that, but you'd have won the last election.

The reason Galloway was able to break from your mirror party in the UK - ­ Blair's sell-out Labor Party - ­ and still get elected, is that Galloway fights for his convictions and the real needs of his constituents, and doesn't run for cover every time the bully-boys of the capitalist establishment attempt to take him down.

Here's a hint.

People follow those who speak plainly and fight. Aside from Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney (not surprisingly black women who know where it goes if you let rich white men get away with giving you a bunch of shit) and a precious few others, the Democratic Party is not only just another party controlled by big capitalists; it is not even a good capitalist opposition party (much less a real opposition).

You don't deserve anyone's support, not even as a tactical matter any longer, because you end up doing ritual verbal combat then give the "cornpone Nazis" of the Republican Party any goddamn thing they want. That's why Galloway rhetorically spanking that soap-opera-looking shitbird was the most satisfying thing many of us have seen in months.

That's exactly why some of us are saying go Bolivian on their asses. Tell the Democratic Leadership Council to eat shit and die. Stop working, stop obeying, block the streets and highways, shut down the capital, and watch them choke on their own sewage. If Americans weren't so bewildered by television, so addled and soft from junk food and cars and electronic appliances, and so addicted to their own cultural superficiality, they might begin organizing general strikes: women's strikes, workers strikes (without union bureaucrats to calm them down), Black people strikes, Brown people strikes, info-tech strikes, eco-strikes, all working our way up to One Big Strike.

It's a ways off, but it's coming. Of course, there won't be any Democrats there. They'll be wringing their hands about their defunct careers, and conducting focus groups to see how they can shift further to the right in the next election.

And the reason this doesn't happen is that people still hang their thin hopes on you, on electing Democrats who stab them in the back the first chance they get. But Galloway's appearance before the U.S. Senate moved us an inch closer to the Big Strike, and an inch further away from your worthless asses.

Because Galloway didn't, as some are saying, expose the Republicans. Someone with a full frontal lobotomy could expose a Republican politician. He exposed the spinelessness of the Democrats.

Yours very truly,
Stan Goff

To Goff's list of plainspoken fighters I would add John Conyers, Louise Slaughter, and Barbara Boxer, but I can't think of many others. Dean, but he's been muted. What's interesting about Dean is that while his positions were square in the center of the Democratic party, he was mistaken for a raving leftist simply because he did fight. No one was familiar, it seemed, with the concept of a fighting moderate.

Which is exactly what I hope to be.


I've been purposely not thinking about base closings at the same time as I think about the nuclear showdown, but here it is, in a Bangor Daily News op-ed called "How to Pressure a Senator."

The Pentagon's recommendation that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard be closed and the Brunswick Naval Air Station be cut back offer Mr. Bush a bargaining opportunity reminiscent of the Lyndon Johnson era. Though the closure decision is supposed to be apolitical, nothing in Washington is apolitical.

Another thing about those base closings... a helpful number-cruncher tallied up the job losses state by state and noted this interesting fact:
Red states gain 14,710 jobs.
Blue states lose 28,200 jobs.
Isn't that interesting? Then take a look at this list, which tallies net job losses in states where senators are up for re-election in 2006:
CT: Lieberman (D) -6,496
ME: Snowe (R) -6,938 (many actually in NH)
MO: Talent (R) -3,679
MS: Lott (R) -1,678
ND: Conrad (D) -2,645
NM: Bingaman (D) -2,849
PA: Santorum (R) -1,878
VA: Allen (R) -1,574
Note that Snowe loses the most, followed by Lieberman, my least favorite Democrat. And we still haven't heard anything from Collins. I will spend the rest of my weekend trying not to think about this even more.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Maine bloggers

Hard as it is to tear our eyes away from the train wreck of national politics (where there's AN EMERGENCY EVERY DAY!!!), it's important to try. Local and state races are around the corner in 2006 and that's where all the action will be. So I'm making the effort.

There are some great sources for info already in place. A fun place to start is with fellow members of the pajamadeen:
  • Cheers & Jeers by BillinPortlandMaine (hosted at DKos) is a hilarious M-F compendium of political outrage and snark. Much is national but he covers us, too.
  • Cynical Groovitude examines politics, technology, and hockey.
  • Maine Democrats (not affiliated with the Democratic Party) provides a "wicked handy" archive of Maine politics and legislation. Helpful and current.
  • Maine Politics covers Maine politics from the Piscataqua to the St. John. Great in-depth analysis of Maine news.
  • Progressive Reason is a place for public activist Mainers to discuss political issues and also serves as a portal to many progressive Maine organizations.
  • Pudentilla's Perspective brings us the thoughts of a citizen in a small town in central Maine about American politics and culture. (Her Unitarian Jihad name is Sister Hand Grenade of the Courteous Debate.)
  • Wampum covers progressive politics, Indian issues, and autism advocacy. It has a significant national following and also hosts the online Koufax Awards for the best of left blogtopia.
I'll update the links over there on the right soon. Check these folks out.

Fox News in freefall?

Good news from the News Hounds (the people who watch Fox so that you don't have to): Fox News is losing key viewers. Prime time ratings have dropped six straight months since the election among coveted "demo viewers," people in the 25-54 age demographic. Have a look:
Oct 04...1,074,000
Nov 04.....891,000
Dec 04.....568,000
Jan 05.....564,000
Feb 05.....520,000
Mar 05.....498,000
Apr 05.....445,000
Other cable news ratings also dipped since the election but appear to have stabilized. My personal theory - based on anecdote, completely unverified - is that we're seeing continued fallout from the Schiavo circus. Scales-falling fallout. Digby noted at the time:

[T]he Republican professional class, the libertarians and some common sense types saw FOX News and talk radio as being full of shit for the first time.… For instance, a conservative doctor of my acquaintance was stunned by the Schiavo matter. This man watches nothing but Fox news and could not believe the anti-intellectual religiosity of their coverage. This is a matter that he knows intimately and he could see clearly that the coverage wasn't "fair and balanced." Indeed, it wasn't true. It's as if a veil fell from his eyes.

My conservative Rush loving neighbor was heard complaining that his hero didn't know what he was talking about on the Schiavo case. That is a first. This guy is a true believer – who also has a very sick wife.

My nurse sister-in-law (also a born again Christian and avid FOX watcher) insisted that all the news be turned off in the house because she couldn't stand the exploitation of the patient or the sideshow outside that hospice. She's very depressed about all this. … [O]nce people have been shocked like this they don't fully trust again.

I don't know what Fox and the shrieking midgets of AM radio are doing right now with the filibuster issue, but since polls show Americans disapproving of the GOP's stance by a 2:1 margin, we may have another teachable moment on our hands.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why I am a Democrat

While we're having our very own Reichstag moment over on the Senate floor, I thought today would be a good day to reaffirm my commitment to the ideals of democracy - you know, freedom, justice, liberty for all, and stuff like that. And as I pondered those ideals, I saw that they dovetailed neatly with another list that I've been compiling for some time. Here it is.

I am a Democrat because...
  • I love my country. I cherish the Constitution and the freedoms enshrined within it.
  • I care about jobs and the economy as a whole, not just the people at the top.
  • I know that freedom isn’t free. I am willing to pay my fair share of taxes.
  • I support a strong national defense.
  • I support the troops. I stand in awe and gratitude that people put their lives on the line for my country. I want to equip them properly, send the right numbers to do the job, bring them home on time, take care of the wounded, their families, our veterans - and never send them into harm's way unless it is necessary.
  • I know that commerce and capitalism are the engine of American prosperity. I support small business, fair trade, and adequate oversight to protect workers and consumers from the abuses of power.
  • I believe in free enterprise, not corporate welfare.
  • I believe in the essential decency of all people. I know that if I want to be free to live my life to its fullest, I must want and expect that same freedom for every other person.
  • I know that no one man or group is good enough to hold uncontrolled power over all the rest of us.
  • I support science over ideology and personal faith over public religion.
  • I support investment in our common wealth, like local fire and police departments, libraries, public education, public health, public spaces and national parks.
  • I know that the more we invest in schools, the more we'll save on prisons.
  • I want my country to be a land of opportunity.
  • I believe in enterprise and merit, not entitlement and privilege.
  • I believe in investing in the next generation, not piling debt upon them.
  • I believe that laws should be drafted in the interests of all citizens, not just for corporations willing to pay the most money.
  • I believe that nothing justifies torture.
  • I believe that when a government goes to war, it should tell the truth about it to its citizens.
  • I believe that power without principle is not worth having.
I'll keep this list around, tinkering and adding as I see fit. Why are you a Democrat?
UPDATE: Frameshop has a relevant piece called How Are the Democrats Different?

    Frist forgets his lines

    From ThinkProgress, we learn of this morning's interesting exchange between Senator Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Bill Frist on the floor of the Senate.

    SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?

    SEN. FRIST: The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we’ll come back and discuss this further. … Actually I’d like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.

    They're probably fitting him for his earpiece as we speak.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    Smackdown! British pol mops up floor with Norm Coleman

    In Britain, where they still have a working press and MPs rough up the prime minister with questions every single day, politicians learn how to spar. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), the empty suit who took Paul Wellstone's seat, found this out today to his chagrin after charging George Galloway, an MP from Bethnal Green, of taking bribes in the UN Oil for Food Smokescreen Scandal.

    Galloway preparing to eviscerate Coleman in Senate committee hearing
    Photo from Times Online
    After sitting through one and a half hours of testimony against him, the British politician went on the attack. He delivered a blistering indictment of Coleman, Senate Republicans, the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld, neocon websites, Halliburton, and the rest of the Bush Administration. In the words of the BBC, he displayed none of "the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed."

    He said "lie" and "pack of lies," repeatedly. He said "steal." He said "puppet regime" and "war crimes." He said, "Now, I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice." Sentence after beautiful sentence rolled off his tongue in a beautiful Scottish burr. His closing statement:

    Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

    If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today.

    Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

    Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer. Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

    Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government.

    Read the transcript here or watch the video. Democratic candidates and elected officials, please pay close attention; it is possible to speak the truth in Washington.
    UPDATE: The Guardian reports that just before the hearing, Galloway had a few words for pro-war writer Christopher Hitchens, whom he called a "drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay."

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    Water on stone, water on stone

    Lots of media comments today, and some of them are even encouraging!

    One. The second Annual Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis this weekend was a smash success. Sold out, with 2,200 people in attendance and a barnburning keynote address by Bill Moyers, the conference has now officially morphed into a movement to restore the voice of democracy. Maine's Chellie Pingree called it "a fight about everything we care about... a fight we cannot afford to lose, and we are not going to." Read a great analysis of the event here, and check below for things to do.

    Two. Editor & Publisher thinks the Downing Street Memo is gaining traction in the US press, and it's true we've made a start. The LA Times and Washington Post finally published lengthy analyses this week, and my hero
    (forever!) Paul Krugman weighed in Sunday. The first American print publication to publish the memo in full will be the New York Review of Books in their June 9 edition. In part we can thank Media Matters, FAIR, and the DailyKos readers who rained thousands of letters and emails in a sustained three-day attack on the Post to get them to acknowledge the story. Now in the crosshairs: the New York Times.

    Three. Sydney Schanberg at the Village Voice thinks he sees the first stirrings of life in the Washington press corps - welcome news indeed. And you must, simply must, must must read the gaggle's hilarious grilling of Scotty "The Protocols We Had In Place Were Followed" McClellan on the President's Excellent Bike Ride the other day while 30,000 people were being evacuated from the Capitol and somehow nobody thought to tell the Commander in Chief. Please, if you do nothing else today, read this post. I am begging you.

    Four. Get your Gannon/Guckert update from ePluribus Media, the people's source for investigative journalism. Evidently, recent statements coming out of the White House and the Secret Service on the movements of our mysterious "Talon News" reporter/gay porn hustler in and out of the White House don't quite match up. Did he have security clearance attached to those day passes, for which he applied 43 days in a row?
    Yes! No! We don't know! (But then, what about all those times he didn't check out, or check in, or wandered around when there were no press conferences.... Was he doing sleepovers? If so, with whom? And shouldn't he have security clearance for that?)

    Five. Here are a few things we can do about the media right now:
    1. Write the New York Times and ask them to cover the Downing Street Memo at least as well as the Washington Post did and PDQ, too. You'll find all the info you need here.
    2. Sign the petition asking the Bush Administration to account for the discrepancies between their account of the war and that contained in the Downing Street Memo.
    3. If you belong to an activist organization, join in the effort to promote the Media Bill of Rights.
    4. Sign the Free Press petition to save PBS from partisan operatives.
    We have to keep after them day after day. With our relentless, steady pressure, we are making a difference. Like water on stone, water on stone.
    UPDATE: we are really making a difference on that memo!