Thursday, September 29, 2005

A republic, madam, if you can keep it

Question 1. What is the meaning of this list (besides serving as public admission that I read a lot of Stephen King and children's books)?

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
77. Carrie by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

They're books I managed to read even though they're on the American Library Association' s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. (Yes, friends, we're talking that grave threat to our republic in the form of Where's Waldo.)

Question 2. What is the meaning of the title to this post?

It was the answer given by Benjamin Franklin to a Philadelphia lady who inquired what he and the Constitutional Convention had just created.

Question 3. Are these two questions connected?

I guess we're in the process of finding out.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Heartless" trumps "spineless"; Bush still "Leader"

WaPo ran a Jennifer Moses column yesterday explaining why, despite hurricane, flood, overflowing homeless shelters, five years of Bush incompetence, and plummeting poll figures nationwide, Baton Rouge is still Bush country.

[T]he answer isn't that the folks in Baton Rouge are a bunch of racist ignoramuses. Rather, it lies in cultural and social identification, overlaid with a patina of Christianity and fueled by raw, largely social, fear.

It's a projection test. Referring to a woman known around the hood as "Saint Becky" because her heart is so big, Moses says:

But Becky also has eyes, and what she sees when she takes her kids to school or to the dentist is a whole neighborhood, just a few blocks from our own, where every third household exists on welfare, parents routinely abuse their kids, young men deal drugs, prostitutes ply their trade and rap music extolling the joys of gang rape and murder blasts out of every other car.

I suspect that when Becky, who isn't exactly rolling in dough herself, looks at the sorry spectacle of America's intransigent underclass, she simply wonders what happened to good-old-American, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ingenuity. What Becky sees when she sees George Bush is a man who may not be a genius but who at least talks the talk, drawing a clear line between right and wrong. She looks at his face and sees her own staring back..

And what has the Democratic Party offered to counter that image? "Nothing but a blur," says Moses.

Because if under George W. Bush the Republican Party has become heartless, the Democratic Party has become spineless.

It's easy to say conservatives as a group are selfish and lacking in empathy. I have, and I'm not retracting. But at the individual level, not all are driven by greed and callousness. Some very decent people might be pried from their Imaginary Leader by a Principled Leader... even if that leader were a Democrat. Which is good news because we've got lots of principled Democrats.

Except that none of them will stay on message because they're afraid of being called traitors, or partisans, or obstructionists, or liberals, or weak on defense, or losers, or swing-voter-alienators, or any damn thing at all.

Buzzflash noticed this a few weeks ago:

The white Democratic senatorial candidates (including Biden and Clinton) wallow in their timidity and fear of assuming the mantle of leadership. They mistake supporting Bush's manufactured image of national security leadership with supporting the actuality of protecting the American people, which Bush fails to do at every inept step he takes.

If a Democrat can't stand up for trying to really protect the American public from terrorist attacks and the after-effects of disasters than what do they offer that is different than the incompetence of Bush? If Joe Biden really believes that the Iraq war is a worthy cause, then he is selling the security interests of the United States short, as is Hillary Clinton.

The acquiescence of the Democratic leadership to the conventional wisdom that they have to appear to be "tough" on national security is terminally flawed. To be tough on national security and to truly protect Americans requires a lambasting of the failures of the Bush Administration's foreign policies -- including the nightmare of the Iraq War -- and a corrupt, incestuous, partisan, ineffective Department of Homeland Security. We aren't talking about politics as usual; we are talking about protecting the American people, really protecting them, and not just playing a political game.

So how about it, dem leaders? How about standing up and speaking the truth, fighting for what's right instead of what you think they think we think we want to hear, and protecting the American people for real? Take a risk. You might lose a lot of fights but you'll gain immeasurably in respect. Trust us. Help us.

A Swede strikes back

Sick of being dissed by "those jackasses at the Wall Street Journal editorial page," Joshua Holland explains that he is the very model of a modern Swedish centrist. He debunks, yet again, the "Europe is dying" canard in some detail. And, oh, by the way:

[Y]ou seemingly perfect Americans have your income distributed like Latin American banana republics in the 50s. We have a third of your poverty. One out of every six Americans lives on half the median income or less, but just one out of sixteen Swedes do! You go, Olaf!

Moral issues? Well, frankly, we don't mind boys kissing all that much. But we think children living in poverty is pretty immoral in a developed country. So we choose not to accept it--it's a moral choice. Our child poverty rate, at 2.6% is one ninth of your 22.4% Ouch to you guys!

What's more, a quarter of you have crappy, low-paying McJobs that suck the life and soul out of you in exchange for a few shiny bits of silver. Only one in twenty Swedes have low-paying gigs. You're wage-slave humps--I'm sorry to be so blunt, it's quite un-Swedish of me--but it's the truth.

That's just a sampling; there's lots more. Go read.

Talk about your framing!

Bill Maher calls W. a "Category 5 president."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Meet the Water Carrier

To: Meet the Press
From: Yours truly
Re: Russert/Broussard interview, 9-25-05 (transcript, video)


Tim Russert's interview this morning with (Jefferson Parish president) Aaron Broussard was a low point in TV journalism. First he sandbagged his guest with a surprise replay of an earlier, painful breakdown - truly an unbearable moment. Then he badgered him on details and tried to force Mr. Broussard to absolve the federal government of blame.

In the first action, Mr. Russert showed a breathtaking lack of human decency. He could have asked his questions without airing that painful clip. It was sheer exploitation and obviously deeply upsetting to Mr. Broussard.

In the second, Mr. Russert veered dangerously close to carrying water for Karl Rove. Since when does Meet the Press stoop to the cowardly "some people say" formulation? Precisely whom is Mr. Russert referring to when he says "a number of bloggers have questioned the validity of Broussard's story"? Which bloggers, please? What is their agenda? And what was the purpose of this line of inquiry, focusing on the details of one painful anecdote out of a long series of powerful statements - turning back water, refusing access to fuel, cutting emergency communications - in Mr. Broussard's earlier interview?

Instead of browbeating a hardworking and heroic civil servant who is up to his neck in tragedy, why doesn't Meet the Press spend a few reporting dollars exploring how and why not just Michael Brown, but five out of eight top FEMA officials got appointed with virtually zero disaster experience? Or why FEMA sent 100 buses in response to a Louisiana National Guard request (before the storm hit) for 700 buses? Or how Halliburton got itself another no-bid contract for cleanup? Or aren't the "right" blogs asking those questions?


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The protest

One hundred thousand people showed up. No wait, it was 600,000. The event was poorly organized with endless radical, off-topic speeches that diluted the central message. No, it was an awesome, community-building event with people from every walk of life representing the heart of America. Bush wasn't there and the media will ignore it. No, it was a turning point. Amtrak trains from NY to DC were mysteriously held up for 3 hours. Yes, but everyone got there eventually.

UPDATE: This just in from Cindy Sheehan:

Last weekend, Karl Rove said that I was a clown and the antiwar movement was "non-existent." I wonder if the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up today to protest this war and George's failed policies know that they don't exist. It is also so incredible to me that Karl thinks that he can wish us away by saying we aren't real. Well, Karl and Co., we are real, we do exist and we are not going away until this illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq is over and you are sent back to the depths of whatever slimy, dark, and loathsome place you came from. I may be a clown Karl, but you are about to be indicted. You also preside over one of the biggest three ring, malevolent circuses of all time: the Bush administration.
The rally today was overwhelming and powerful. The reports that I was arrested today were obviously false. The peace rally was mostly very peaceful. Washington, DC was filled with energetic and proud Americans who came from all over to raise their voices in unison against the criminals who run our government and their disastrous policies that our making our nation more vulnerable to all kinds of attacks (natural and "Bush" made disasters).
With the Reverends, we stopped in front of the White House and said a prayer. After the prayer, I said that we are light and they are darkness. Darkness can NEVER overcome the light, ever. As long as there is one spark, the darkness has lost. We will prevail, we will be victorious. The darkness has lost because our beacons of peace and truth are shining for the entire world to see. And it is a very pretty sight. Take that Karl.

Fun with Georgie

Is Bush on the bottle again, as National Enquirer speculates? Don't wait to find out. Go to Planetdan and have fun tossing around his comatose little body right now!

Friday, September 23, 2005

And while we're on the topic of craven media...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Presstitutes! (Presstitute: N. A member of the press who uses his or her media presence to support the Bush Administration.)

Here's a small sample courtesy of AP:

Appealing to God for help with "the difficult work that lies ahead," President Bush on Saturday painted a picture of a hopeful and vibrant future for the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast and the people there who lost family, jobs, communities and everything they own in the storm.
He often speaks easily of the strength that his faith provides him and talks humbly of his place before God. When big moments require big rhetoric, the famously plainspoken Bush seems the most comfortable with soaring language that is tinged with religious overtones.

That's it; they're going on the blogroll.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

News that didn't make the news

It's that time of year again: time to be appalled by Project Censored's annual list of the top 25 stories underreported or missed altogether by the mainstream media. Government secrecy, civilian deaths in Iraq, vote fraud, environmental pillage, citizen surveillance, medical experiments on child wards of the state... dug up and resurrected for your reading pleasure by the venerable media watchdog group at Sonoma State University.

To my eyes, this year's crop falls short on the surprise factor. Like, are we really shocked to learn that "Rich Countries Fail to Live up to Global Pledges" or that "Corporations Win Big on Tort Reform"?

Still, the collection as a whole is a damning indictment of the way our news gets made. If you want to learn more, go to the San Francisco Bay Guardian for an excellent writeup of the ten biggest missed stories. Or go here and buy the book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Elections have consequences

Let's make sure this image is seen widely. For starters, Working Assets and the League of Independent Voters are posting it on a mobile billboard outside Grover Norquist's weekly Wednesday AM meeting of Americans for Tax Reform, at L & 20th Streets. Right now.


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Still in Nova Scotia; just sat out tropical storm Ophelia which fortunately broke up just before hitting shore.

For today's political humor diet, read this. It's hilarious, truly.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Believe in Maine

We're off to Nova Scotia again for a bit. Meanwhile, please consider spending some time over here at Maine's newest experiment in online democracy.

You can also go here for a list of 10 great ways to help Katrina victims. And thanks.

We can stop worrying now

BREAKING: country organized from the bottom up

The White House has completed its investigation of the federal response to the Katrina disaster.

The investigation, headed by President Bush himself, has attributed the failure to Mildred Washington, a Winn-Dixie cashier from New Orleans.

"We the people, schmee the people," said Mr. Bush. "Mildred just plain fucked up."

by Hermes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Time to catapult the propaganda

Though you might not know it from reading your local paper or listening to NPR, the White House press corps is not swallowing its daily ration of spin:

Q Are you saying the President is -- are you saying that the President is confident that his administration is prepared to adequately, confidently secure the American people in the event of a terrorist attack of a level that we have not seen? And based on what does he have that confidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and that's what he made clear earlier today, that obviously we want to look and learn lessons from a major catastrophe of this nature.

Q Yes, but you're telling us today there will be time for that somewhere down the road. Well, what if it happens tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can engage in this blame-gaming going on and I think that's what you're getting --

Q No, no. That's a talking point, Scott, and I think most people who are watching this --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact. I mean, some are wanting to engage in that, and we're going to remain focused --

Q I'm asking a direct question. Is he confident --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to remain focused on the people.

Q -- that he can secure the American people in the event of a major terrorist attack?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are securing the American people by staying on the offensive abroad and working to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Q That's a talking point. That's a talking point.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact.

Go ahead.

Q No, it's not.

This is new. This gives me hope.

Babs in Houston

Here's the audio.
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this - this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
The segment aired on NPR's Marketplace last night.

No excuses

Ever hear of the National Response Plan? Me either, but I hope we'll be hearing a lot more about it soon. Because Georgia10 just finished reading it and has this to say:

Passing the buck to the Mayor and the Governor is unacceptable. Laying all the blame at Brown's and FEMA's feet is unacceptable. Because the plan, that security blanket given to every state in this Nation, says the PRESIDENT will lead in Incidents of National Significance. It says THE PRESIDENT will order the Secretary of Defense to deploy troops, without a request from the local officials. It says THE PRESIDENT directs the Secretary of Homeland Security and leads him in responding "effectively" to disasters.

Katrina became an Incident of National Significance on August 26, 2005, when Bush himself declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, then Mississippi. Bush went back on vacation. The hurricane hit three days later.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Those people

While ignoring Rehnquist's death last night, I came across another piece of writing on the closing of the conservative heart. It's a great companion piece to the "selfish conservative" manifesto below. Kingubu's thesis about the GOP pandering to our worst natures rings true, but it doesn't cover everyone. We all know people - friends, loved ones, family members - whom we can see firsthand to be good, caring, thoughtful... and yet there they are voting for Bush and listening to Rush. And thinking like this:

People who didn't leave New Orleans "were asking for it" (what, like rape victims?). People taking survival essentials are lumped together with looters. Real people have the foresight and resources to escape; anyone who doesn't is a lazy fool. There are the worthy and the saved, and then there are "those people."

The author has an epiphany:

The common denominator here is that some Americans become lesser human beings, making it okay for some conservatives not to be compassionate at this time of terrible need.

And that's how, he says,

[T]his trend gets to conservatives who are good people, too, because the basic tenets - plan, work hard, provide for your family - are so in tune with the Protestant work ethic. Those who believe in these things, or at least have their trappings, have full personhood. Those who don't, don't. They're "those people." Political identification gets bound up with ideas of personhood, even though a Republican's personal beliefs may be at odds with the policies that Republicans pursue. The conservative movement acts like a club that grants personhood. . . .

It's not just about race. It's not just about class. It's about how conservative thinking is undermining the great American sentiment that all men are created equal.

Believe it or not, I know it's not my place to judge who is a good person and who isn't. We're all trying, we're all failing, in our own ways. Every now and then, I can even squeeze out a tiny drop of compassion for W. (NOT RIGHT NOW, HOWEVER!) So I'll just say this about our conservative friends: I think they're making a giant omission.

By failing to see The Other in the same category as themselves - that is, as people worthy of understanding and empathy, as people they might be called on to forgive, as people they might learn from - they're closing their hearts and minds to most of the human race.

God have mercy on us all.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Having it both ways

Now here's an interesting poser, from Luke in Australia:

  1. Bush, through the director of FEMA, FOX News, and other surrogates, is pushing the spin that the people of New Orleans brought this disaster on themselves by NOT evacuating the city.
  2. But Bush is also pushing the spin that no one could have known the disaster would be THIS BIG, so it's unfair to blame Bush for not preparing adequately for the disaster.
  3. But if no one could have known the disaster would be this big, then why should we have expected people to evacuate the city?

Hat tip to Aravosis.

On the job

Just so you know, an angry God sent the hurricane to warsh away the sins of New Orleans, and what the trapped citizens of that city need right now is bibles. They certainly don't need any food or clothing from the Red Cross. In fact, what they and the nation need now - and I mean right now! - is a repeal of the estate tax. A generous nation will give that to them even though they don't deserve it.

Stupid poor people! Didn't they know that everything they had was worthless anyway so there was no point in staying? Those people in New Orleans are unusally bad, not like the people in other hurricanes, because they loot and are not self-sufficient like white people.

Thank heavens Mr. Bush is back on the job inspiring people, which is worth a lot more to the citizens of New Orleans right now than any stupid ol' helicopters, relief flights, or lunch.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Death to conservative greed

Kingubu writes that the GOP has succeeded all these years not by making brilliant policies, but by making "a slim majority of voting America feel good about the worst aspects of their natures." And guess what? It hasn't been all that difficult:

How hard is it really to convince people that being selfish is the way to go? Where is the higher calling in predatory greed? What invention is required to pander to the lust for revenge? Where is the challenge in stoking people's fears about personal safety, or in feeding the flames of prejudice?

It’s not hard to aim for the lowest common denominator and that is exactly what the GOP has been doing. Rather than hatching a plan to make America a better place then convincing the public to support it, they have instead made a science of putting lipstick on a pig. They package greed and avarice and sell it as "sound market policy." They bind up cruelty and fear and slap on a label marked "national security." They take bigotry and hatred and push it out the door in a glossy package marked "traditional family values." There are no new ideas; only our darkest human frailties made bland with a double scoop of political weasel-words and sexed up with Madison Avenue sizzle.

Except that now, following the growing dismay over Iraq and the shock of New Orleans, people are again remembering such concepts as "empathy," "fair play," and "the common good." They're wondering if maybe they don't amount to liberal treason after all. And they're starting to notice something about their conservative heroes:

The litany of short-sighted GOP-authored legislation over the last several years - the gutting of public works, tax cuts in the face of mounting debt, the single-minded redistribution of wealth to those with plenty, the blatant cronyism - reveal the truth: the Republican Party has no plan and no vision for governing this nation. All they have is a strategy for getting elected - and then redirecting public funds to campaign donors to get re-elected....

This piece is one of the best articulations you'll ever see of what's gone wrong and how the Democrats lost their way. And it concludes with what ought to become our manifesto:

For some 30 years the Republican party has packaged humanity's darkest and most craven weaknesses and pawned them off as its greatest virtues. Well, the reckoning is here and the conservatives are found wanting. When the chips are down we are a nation that cares for our citizens and we expect our government to be strong enough, capable enough, and compassionate enough to do the same.

This piece deserves wide distribution and, from this point forward, no Democrat should even run for dog catcher without committing its salient points to memory.

Please, friends

Please, friends, after you've given to the Red Cross, won't you please read this diary and consider the ways we can help some of the other victims of this catastrophe?

Thank you.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

God I hate that rat bastard

My family (the non-Republican ones with whom I share opinions, anyway) have said for months that I was off the deep end over W. I couldn't credit it - I mean, the man is so vile, it's just simple logic to hate him every waking moment. Nothing pathological there.

But now what they say is true. My hatred for Bush, his ethos, and the whole cabal of tax-cut-swilling chicken hawks around him has entered a new dimension. Now I can't even breathe properly when I think about him or hear his voice or see that smirk. I may need professional help to get through the rest of this (heh) administration. Now when I'm not praying for the deliverance of the citizens of New Orleans, I'm praying that there is such a thing as reincarnation and that Chimpy McFlightsuit, after an eon or so in hell, falls through a wrinkle in time to come back as a poor brown American. During the Bush years.

A few items you may want to know about:
And, finally, a must-read piece by Hunter - judged by some to be the best diary every posted on Kos. Really, go read.