What you Need To Know

Opinions expressed in my articles are my own, and opinions in the articles and comments section written by others are strictly those of the author or commenter and not me.

Please be civil, it adds nothing to the conversation to engage in name-calling.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's for Christmas from Bush and Co?

The Bush Administration has proffered it's Christmas gift to the world. So what is it?

The Human Rights Council Working Group of the United Nations has been working on some items to be included in Resolution form to be adopted.

Among these items are:

A right to food. The UN General Assembly adopted language that basically says it would 'consider it intolerable' that more than 6 million children worldwide will die each year from hunger and hunger-related illnesses before their fifth birthday. They also noted that the number of undernourished people has grown to about 923 million people worldwide. At the same time - it is estimated that the planet can produce enough food to feed 12 billion people - approximately double what the current population is.

Another part of this resolution addressed the inequalities in available food and other basics between girls and women and their male counterparts. The resolution calls on member states to take affirmative steps to address these issues of gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls by implementing measures to give equal access to land, water, and income so they can feed themselves and their families.

So...the vote on the right to food was 180 to 1. That's right - every country in the world voted for it except one. Any guesses who that is? Yep. The United States of America.

Apparently Bush and Company think it's perfectly okay for 6 million kids to starve to death every year. They are more interested in spending money on weapons and ridiculous wars. John Bolton told the assembly that

"the attainment of the right to adquate food was a goal that should be realized progressively. In his view, the draft contained inaccurate textual descroptions of underlying rights."

Oh yeah. That is really helpful.

The United States was also the only vote against a resolution for the rights of children.

This Committee also had a number of other interesting proposals, including the use of mercenaries, investigations of deaths under an occupation, international court items and others. The US voted against every single one. They were joined by other countries on most of these others, but the countries are ones like the Congo and Somalia. Good company we're keeping.

So - Bush has thumbed his nose at the world one more time. January 20 cannot come soon enough for me, for this country, and indeed for people everywhere.

To read the working document, go here Human Rights Council Working Group

Sunday, November 23, 2008

When Are We Going To Fix Our Voting Mess?

Watching the recount in Minnesota this past week has been very interesting to say the least. On the one hand, the optical-scan paper ballots make the recount open and accountable. Minnesota law is also good in that 'if the intent of the voter' can be determined, the ballot counts. On the other hand, there needs to be a limit to the challenges. In one example, the vote was challenged because the vote for the Presidential candidate was of the opposite party as the vote for the Senate candidate. The ballot was correct and clear. The challenge was stupid.

On the other hand - many of the challenged ballots present quite another face. While the Minnesota ballot is a simple 'fill in the circle' style that is very common among optical-scan systems, apparently we still need to do voter education on how to properly mark a ballot - and what to do if you mess up (ask the election official to give you a new one!)

People are always complaining about these voters - they are stupid and shouldn't be allowed to vote, etc. The fact is that almost twenty percent (yes you heard that right) of our adult population is functionally illiterate. These people are bright, intelligent and hard-working individuals who may have a learning disability, or who have left school early for one reason or another and did not learn (or were not taught properly) how to read. They have managed to hold down jobs, raise families, get a drivers license, and are productive members of our society. But they don't know how to read - and our society demeans and belittles people like this with the result that they go to great lengths to hide this fact from everyone - including even their families. As a result, yeah the directions are posted on the wall. So what? They do their best. But elections only come around once every two years - and in some states, there have been different methods of voting for every election since 2000 (Florida is a case in point) so they don't get the process down.

My personal feeling is that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed.

ONE: The federal election system needs to be overhauled and made consistent from one state to the next. This applies only to US House of Representatives, US Senate, and President/Vice President. Congress should mandate one and one only, system of ballots. The design and layout of these ballots should be decided by a NON-partisan election board. Further, the software in the optical scan machines should be open-source, easily verifiable by computer information systems technicians, and in no case, should 'computerized' results be provided to any private firm on election day. The systems should provide results and data breakdown by precinct in an easy-to-understand format that does not require the intervention of any corporate programmers or technicians. While Congress has no authority to mandate state and local elections, states would fall in line with this or face having to maintain two systems, or two separate ballots (that is done in many countries anyway).
Layout of ballots becomes an issue in a lot of instances. The layouts should include 3-6 options with the candidates names in different placements. A code box at the top would tell the scanner which version it was. The reason is that in races that are not publicized well, or where the candidate may not have a large campaign fund, they may remain relatively unknown.
In the most recent election primary in Montana for instance, one of the Democratic candidates announced that he planned on not campaigning, would not accept any campaign funds, and was just going to sit home and wait for the voters to elect him. Another one raised money, campaigned around the state and really made an effort to get his name out there. (This was a race against a very popular Republican Congressman). On all the ballots, the stay-at-home guy was the first name on the list (alphabetical order) and he won. Most election analysts say that is very common when people don't know (or care sometimes) who any of the candidates are they vote for the first one on the list. In this case, it was assumed that it really didn't matter because the Republican incumbent would win anyway. Rotating choices would eliminate this type of 'winning' since it would spread the votes around among all the candidates, and the one who really did have name recognition would then have a slight edge.
TWO: Since voting is supposedly a right, every voter on their eighteenth birthday, should receive a voting card. All males now get a Selective Service Registration card - all adults should get a voter card. If you have a voter card - and some proof of your address - you should be able to vote in the closest precinct to your home. This business of matching registrations, and voter challenges is a major impediment to some groups. Universal voting cards would solve that problem since everyone IS actually entitled to vote. This would clean up the different registration requirements and eliminate registration drives (saving millions) and all the attendant mess that goes along with that.

THREE: I worked as a poll-worker in Florida with the ESS touch-screen voting machines in 2006. Thank goodness they are gone now! But an election judge/poll-worker actually went with each voter to the booth and physically showed them how to use the machine. This should happen with the optical scan ballots. A demonstration ballot should be available at the check-in table with picto-graph instructions, or someone demonstrating how to mark the ballot properly. Each voter should be verbally advised that if they make a mistake or change their mind, to simply come get a new ballot.
Additionally, some states (California is one) provide a sample ballot with pre-election voting materials that looks just like the real one (except it has 'sample ballot' printed in large red letters across the face of it!). That way people can 'practice' and/or mark this sample to bring with them to the polls as an aid in quick voting. This practice is not only allowed, it is encouraged in California since their ballots are usually heavy with propositions, federal, state, county, city, and special district election choices.
A lot of states have already gone to optical-scan ballots. They already have the equipment. The software needs to be changed to meet the above mandates. States who are still using touch-screens must acquire the new equipment.

Those are just some ideas I have. Feel free to add more in the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What change?

It has been interesting to me in the (only!) two weeks since the election as Barack Obama begins the process of selecting his top staff and Cabinet members - all the howling and screaming from both sides of the aisle about his choices. And about his responses to the Lieberman thing, and John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. As one pundit complained the other day "There's too much nice going on here."

Too much nice? How can you have too much nice? People all over this country have been saying for years, decades actually, that they dislike the personal attacks, the mud-slinging, the rabid partisanship, and all the rest of the nastiness that has contributed greatly and finally over the past eight years to our complete and totally dysfunctional government. Given that, how would you change that other than start being nice?

So here we have it in a nutshell. Obama promised to change the way we do things in Washington DC. And he is. And this change has been accompanied by criticism, second-guessing, outrage, more criticism, and so on. The left-wing blogosphere is yelling that he has abandoned them. The Republicans can't figure out what is going on so they are going back to the campaign mud-slinging. Every appointment is met by criticism. And people are deciding that his administration is a complete and total failure as far as they are concerned, even though Obama has not even taken office yet!

We voted for change. Change we could believe in. He is delivering. But we're not believing in what he is doing. Maybe we should take a look at why that is. Could it be that we really LIKE screaming and mud-slinging? Or is the idea that change is so uncomfortable and so foreign that we'd really rather stick with the status quo?

Myself, I'd rather not. I think there still is NOT enough nice in Washington. We have a long way to go before that really comes to pass and it becomes standard operating practice. But I am very hopeful. It will continue to come in the form of Obama sitting down with John McCain, a man who by all accounts, actively dislikes Obama. He's entitled to his dislike. But Obama did not let that knowledge and that fact interfere with trying to find some common ground on a few issues they can work together on. And what that does is in some ways, force a grudging respect from McCain. He will probably still not like Obama. And that's okay. But at least he will probably actively work FOR something with Obama at times - instead of actively working against him always.

And I am also hopeful that as Obama sets the tone of reconciliation and 'niceness' in Washington, it will encourage all of us to try to emulate him in our daily lives. As someone once said - if you want world peace, you must first be a truly peaceful person yourself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


We did research things before we moved out here, and Grays Harbor has a Blue history. It really has been a very friendly town, until last night. Republithug signs seemed to dominate early on, especially on local businesses. We were, by our count the second Obama sign in the Twin Harbor back in June. Incumbent Dem Gov and House signs showed up late.

We've gotten favorable comments on our buttons and tee-shirts, and several Trick or Treaters complimented the Barack O'Lantern. And then, coming back from the grocery store we saw this. The sign had been flanked by the local Democratic contenders, and all were fine yesterday afternoon, but they were gone today and this was left alone. Perhaps the folks want to expose this ugliness. I'd get more worked up about the stupidity and ignorance if it hadn't been a day late and a dollar short.

And, this is the best you can do?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What's Next?

Now that the Election is almost over (sigh!) it is time to start thinking about what is next. I know, I know, everyone is exhausted. But we really don't have time to rest on our haunches because now the real heavy lifting begins in earnest.

For all of us who voted for Obama - whether he was our first choice or the lesser of two evils - we need to hold his feet to the fire, push him in a more progressive direction, and demand transparency in his administration. He has said that he needs us to help, and promised to be open and accountable - so let's make it happen.

For everyone who voted for McCain/Palin...sorry this was not your year. But we welcome you to join with us to help. We have so much work to do to get this country back on the right track and we need you too.

What we can do: Take a couple of days off to relax and do some thinking. Then pick one or possibly two progressive issues that you feel very strongly about. Find a group that is already working on that issue and join up. Get involved - as involved as you have been in the campaign. Donate, write letters, make phone calls, not just to your congresscritters but to your friends and neighbors too. Urge them to write and call as well. Most of the agenda will not be accomplished in the White House, but in the halls of Congress so this is the focus for the most part.

All politics is local. Don't forget that this agenda needs to be pushed at the state and local level as well. If the group you support is working at the national level, find out if there are state affiliates as well and join them too. Find out if your city or county government policies resonate with you and if not, get involved at the local level. Attend city councils or county board meetings that pertain to your issue. Research what is going on nationally, and push those issues for your community.

Finally, everything is also personal. Whatever the issue, there is always personal responsibility too. If your issue is war and peace, remember that the best way for peace to break out all over is for each one of us to become truly peaceful persons. No matter what the issue, there is room for improvement in our own lives.

Financial stuff is going to be difficult in the months and possibly for a few years ahead. Learn to live with less. Find joy in simple living, thoughtful purchasing, back to self-sufficiency where ever we can. Paying off our debts and learn to live within our means will help reduce stress for everyone. Buy locally, learn to live with the seasons, get to know your neighbors, join a barter co-op, find new ways to share and cooperate with others.

Back when I lived in California and was going to college (again!) my biology teacher had us all do a paper to see if a large natural disaster happened and the highways were blocked, the electrical grid was down, and emergency services were unavailble, how would we live - and for how long could we sustain ourselves? It was a really good exercise and I suggest that we all look around our homes and see just what resources we already have available. Then take stock and see what you would need to round out the existing supplies and make a plan to add those necessary items to allow survival for more than a day or two.

We can get back to a place where we all look out for one another - another thing that made this country a great place to live, and something we have forgotten over the course of the past few years.

Here's to real communities of people who care!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vote Early, then Volunteer

This election seems to be more dogged by voter disenfranchisement activities by the Republican Party than in years past. Although Obama is now polling in double digits in a lot of so-called battleground states, those states are where huge voter purges and other unethical and sometimes outright illegal suppression activities are focused.

Robert F Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast have a new comic book out called 'Steal Back Your Vote' for tips on how to get around some of these activities.

You can download the comic book here: GregPalast.com

for a small donation or for free if you can't afford to give anything. If you can give even a dollar, it will help them distribute print copies to people who may not have access to computers etc. (like on Indian reservations where there isn't even actual electricity!)

Anyway, vote early if your state allows that. This will save time and money for the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) workers and campaign since they will not have to call you on Election Day.

Then volunteer to be a poll watcher, or to transport others to the polls on Election Day!
Every vote is important. Let's get as many as we can!

After the election, join one of these organizations to put pressure on the Obama Administration to do some real election reform by mandating a nationwide standardized voting system for federal elections. There will be pushback from the 'states rights' people that elections have always been under local control. That is fine for local elections - but it is about time that voting across this country should have a single set of rules for federal elections. (Hint: this will force states to fall in line because it will be a lot easier and cheaper to just go along with the federal stuff than have two elections or two sets of rules on the same day!)


or you can participate with your state's fair elections groups.

We need to figure out ways to stop the systemic voter disenfranchisement practiced by the Republican Party and remember that
Our Democracy can only succeed when voters are encouraged to vote, and obstacles are not being put in their way.

UPDATE: Michigan is reporting that 98% of it's eligible voters have actually been registered!
Wow! Incredible. Now all we need to do is get them ALL to the polls!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

sarah, Plain and Tall, in heels

Rev Paperboy showed me this picture, which is from someone else, credited there.

Got that?

and then there's this, from Mudflats. (they had to move, new link) Gawd I love them!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hobo Spider Invasion

It's Hobo Spider season.

For those of you who don't know - this nasty little critter is an import from Europe around the 1930s and first appeared in Seattle. (Sorry D & T!)

Their current range extends from Northern California to the Alaskan panhandle and from the West Coast inland as far as the Western mountainous regions of Montana and Wyoming.

Hobo Spiders are also called "aggressive house spiders". They are agressive because of two things: Their webs are not sticky so they must attack their prey if they want to eat; and they have poor eyesight. Many people in the Hobo spider's range who have been bitten by this spider are told or believe they were bitten by the brown recluse - another ground dwelling spider. However, the brown recluse does not occur in the same territory and the recluse has been attributed to far more bites than it warrants by this misinformation. Unfortunately, at this time, the poison control center does not have a category for Hobo Spiders so bites of this type are attributed to the recluse since it does cause a similar reaction and problems.

Hobo spiders generally like dark places close to the ground and thus are haunts of closets, basements, under houses and porches and the like. For some reason, usually from August to November, they come indoors. Hobo Spiders build a 'funnel' web, usually anchored to a bush or wall with the bottom at or very near the ground. The webs are not sticky and are only used for channeling prey to the waiting spider below.

Bites: Hobo Spiders inject a venom known as necrotizing venom. In other words, it kills the surrounding tissue where the bite occured. You may feel a brief sting that goes away after a few minutes. Over the next 24 hours a raised blister will appear surrounded by a very reddened area. The blister will burst, leaving an oozing, pus-filled sore that under the best circumstances could take up to weeks or months to heal. The sore may increase in size and a great deal of swelling is usually present as well. You may also develop a fever, severe headache, and joint pain. In worst circumstances, this spider bite has been linked to kidney failure, limb amputations, immune system collapse, and the CDC reports at least one death attributed to a Hobo Spider bite.

Treatment: If you have been bitten, try to capture or kill the spider and bring it with you to the doctor. Go to the doctor immediately if you have been bitten. Treatments may include very strong antibiotics, steroids, 'coring' out the bitten area (a surgical procedure to remove necrotized tissue). On your own, icing the area to reduce circulation seems to be helpful. Expressing the pus and other liquid, including removal of what appears to be a black 'stinger' in the center of the wound has reportedly assisted in healing. (It's not a stinger - it's just the necrotized tissue from the bite itself).

Controls: DO NOT SPRAY! Insecticides - even those specifically targetted at spiders do nothing to Hobo spiders. In fact - the spray may kill the only predator of Hobo spiders, the familiar 'daddy long-legs'. Your best defense is 'sticky-traps'. Place these traps along walls, in closets and closed off rooms, especially around doorways or windows with wells below ground. Place them under or behind furniture. Check and replace traps about every 3-4 weeks during Hobo season or as needed (if you catch a bunch!) Keep clothing and other items off the floor. Move beds away from the wall about 4 inches. Teach young children NOT to pick them up.

You may think this is a weird post for a political blog. When I grew up here in Montana, Hobo spiders were not here. I moved back here last year and am experiencing 'Hobo season' for the first time. There is no public outreach or warnings - especially in light of how aggressive these little numbers are, and even in the spider trap packaging, the 'effects of bite' are rather downplayed, both for the Hobo and the recluse. Hobo spiders have been colonizing and expanding their range over time. If you don't have the problem now, but live in a state with a new population or next door to a state that already has them, you will in the future. So best to be aware since they are very dangerous.

I was bitten by what I now know to be a Hobo spider when I lived in Northern California. I can attest to the consequences. Fortunately for me, I did see a doctor the next day (for another matter). He 'recognized' the bite (as a recluse bite) and immediately put me on antibiotics and it still took 3 months to heal.

So watch out for Hobo spiders! Tell your friends!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Do I Figure Out What To Talk About?

Given all the crap that has happened in the past few weeks - Sarah Palin, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Wall Street Meltdown, etc. - every day I think "I need to write something about this". And then something else happens and the first thing doesn't seem so important anymore. So then I start thinking about the new item and then something else happens. It's enough to make you just want to give up. So, here are a few scattered rants about stuff.

Sarah Palin:

I cannot believe for one minute that a) John McCain is the best candidate the Republicans could find. Surely in the ranks of the millions of R's there is someone better qualified (and younger!) who could be their candidate? and b) that Sarah Palin could be a (old, traumatized) heart beat away from being President of this country (of the world actually). What happened?

My theory is that someone somewhere decided that since 'we' liked that moron George W. Bush (a guy 'we' would like to have a beer with) that we needed an entire ticket that was even stupider than him! Of course, the last few days I think McCain is beginning to be sorry he ever heard of Sarah Palin. She slipped up (twice) and referred to the ticket as the 'Palin and McCain' administration. Ooops! And then there are now campaign signs that say simply "Sarah!" One Alaskan pundit dryly observed that if McCain thought he would be able to put her in some back office and forget about her, he was in for a big surprise. I'll quit now so my head doesn't explode.

The Hurricanes:
Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast not too far from where Katrina hit. Although the amount of physical damage that was done was great - the death toll was not high, thank goodness. People are still without power and ice, medical supplies and prescriptions, and are subsisting on MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) otherwise known as the lovely crap they feed our military personnel when they are away from the base (otherwise known as combat). For more info on this one, see the previous post.

Hurricane Ike made landfall over the top of Galveston County, Texas. The storm was over 700 miles across, and while the wind speed was a Category 2, the barometric pressure in the eye was that of a Category 4. The monster storm was moving at only about 4 miles per hour, so it seemed to take forever to move out of the area. Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula were inundated with a 20-foot or more storm surge. The Peninsula is gone, the land bridge washed away, and what remains is a barren island where several thousand people once lived.

Firefighters from Austin returned home today from working on Galveston Island. They report that absolutely nothing is left. One said he watched a pickup truck with a person inside being washed out to sea in the surge. There was nothing they could do to help.

The Galveston Island/Bolivar "Island" area is under a complete news blackout. A no-fly zone has been put up. No one is being allowed close to the area, and people are told they cannot take any pictures of the beaches even. There are reports of huge numbers of bodies up in trees, some said they were from the cemetery, but others said that could not be correct. In any case, thousands, possibly as many as 30,000 people are 'missing and presumed dead'. Anyone who chose to stay on Bolivar or Galveston is certainly dead. And most of the bodies have probably been washed out to sea and will never be found.

Of course, no one is talking about this now because of...

Wall Street Meltdown:
The neo-con agenda of completely unregulated free-market capitalism (otherwise known as unbridled greed and corruption) has run its natural course and ended in inevitable ruin. The taxpayers of this country have just taken on what could be up to $10 TRILLION in debt - all of it underwritten by bad mortgages and 'financial instruments' that are worth less than the paper they are written on. Thousands of employees of Lehman Brothers are out of work, and thousands more from Merrill Lynch and AIG are soon to follow. Ten central banks from other countries have put up $71 billion for a 'liquidity' fund - no one knows which banks, and no one knows what they are getting in return for this - screens were put up around the White House while all the negotiations were going on so no one could see who was coming and going. And it is not over yet. Washington Mutual and Goldman Sachs are looking like they will be next, Wachovia is in trouble, Citigroup is shaky, and who knows about the rest of them.

The Republicans in this administration and Congress have been telling us that we don't have enough money to fix our failing infrastructure, to pay for VA care for our wounded vets, to provide healthcare for children and the like. We are fighting two wars. And Bush gave 2 trillion dollars in tax cuts to the top 5% of the richest people in the country. We are borrowing money from China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Bush has almost doubled the national debt (before this happened) and as of right now no one, and I mean no one, knows just how much this whole thing is going to cost.

I am not a financial expert, but I think that if the taxpayers are on the hook to bail out these companies, then they should just be nationalized. If there are ever again any profits to be made from the remnants of these crooked, greedy and corrupt institutions, it should all be put back into the public till. The shareholders should be told to take a hike. And none of the upper management should receive a dime of compensation and should have to give back any money they got over and above about $100,000. If that. If they have more than one house, that should be taken back as well.

But of course, I'm not in charge here.

So....how about some comic relief?

The Palin/McCain camp has been saying that Obama has never reached across the aisle to introduce any legislation that was important.

Palin said just today that when she gets to the White House she wants to put the national 'checkbook' on the internet so people can see where there money is going - just like she did in Alaska.

One small problem.

Back in 2006, a Republican Senator by the name of Coburn and a Democratic Senator whose last name starts with 'O' sponsored a bill, the FEDERAL FUNDING ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ACT, that put a good chunk of the national checkbook on the internet. It passed the Senate, and the House, and was signed into law by Bush. In 2007, the two of them re-authorized the bill and added even more departments and expenditures, including earmarks to the list of stuff now on the website. You can read Obama's speech to the Senate where he describes the contents of the bill here: http://ftp.fas.org/sgp/congress/2006/obama091106.html

Okay. So Obama is so uppity that he managed to leap forward in time, steal her idea, and then go back to 2006 and pass a law about it.

It must not be too important though, since according to her and McCain, Obama has never reached across the aisle to do "anything important".

Now it's kind of sad that she's so clueless. NOT.

DON'T ANYONE DARE VOTE FOR HER! Our country simply can not afford four more years.

By the way, Obama and a certain Republican Senator Lugar went to Russia, spoke with the leaders there, including actual Vladimir Putin, and then came home and wrote what many said was a landmark piece of legislation to help Russia gather up and protect a lot of 'loose nuclear material'. This bill also passed both houses and was signed into law.

But he has no foreign policy experience unlike Sarah Palin who can 'see Russia from an island in Alaska'. And he has never reached across the aisle to pass an important bill. Not one.

Yeah, I know. Lots of bad news and nothing any of us little people can do about it, right? Well, not the big stuff certainly. But remember the truism that 'all politics is local'. In this case, not politics, but survival - do what you can on a local level. I have listed some ideas below - you can think up more.

Investigate Simple Living at http://www.simpleliving.net/ for ideas on how to cut back on spending. Stop using credit cards - cut them all up. Keep your debit card - and live WITHIN your means! If you have a yard, plant a garden. Learn to preserve the stuff you grow there. If you live in a condo or an apartment, find or start a community garden. Either move closer to your job, or get a job that is closer to your home. Carpool. Ride the bus. Think before you buy stuff. Buy local. Form barter co-ops. Get to know your neighbors - you'll need them and they'll need you. Go to http://www.hivethrive.com/ and read the older posts there for ideas on community gardens and other cooperative and sustainability ideas for our communities and ourselves. Re-use as much as possible. Recycle as much as possible. Try not to buy products in tons of excess packaging (helps if you buy local - no packaging at all!) Turn off the lights. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Put air in your tires (!) Get a bike and ride it everywhere you can. Vacation close to home - explore your own town, have a picnic in every park, go to all the galleries, plays, and community concerts. Volunteer at a food bank - or donate to a food bank - or both. Give all the clothes you never wear to a homeless shelter. Form a committee to help do maintenance for your local public school. Make up your own ideas. Then go do them!

This economy is taking a crash dive into a deep pit right now and we cannot see the bottom. We all need to take a deep breath, remember that it is not the end of the world, but begin to develop a more sustainable lifestyle. This is not a suggestion, it is mandatory. Because if we don't do it now - and in our own way - sooner or later, and probably sooner - we will be forced into it whether we like it or not. No, it doesn't mean we all have to live in a cave and eat twigs and bark. It DOES mean that we need to be more conscious of what we buy and why, do we really NEED it or just want it.

Best wishes to all, we are going to need it in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meanwhile, while no one else is looking

Well, I heard from Annti, late tonight. Hot, Frustrated and Mad as Hell. Here's the list kids:

BUGS! there are Lovebugs, Flying Ants and Mosquitos! They bring West Nile and Encephalitis. The people in her building, with no air conditioning, really need mosquito netting. It can be had at Barre Army/Navy for 99 cents a yard and they need a lot! Go buy some and have them ship it to Hotel Du Fucktard. If you need the address, give me a holler.

Since there is no electricity in town, the one grocery is only open for limited hours, and they limit how many people can go in at a time. The convenience store isn't selling/pumping gas yet, so no one can get to anywhere else to get goods. There seems to be one communal BBQ, but it was shut down when annti wandered down hoping to cook on it.

The local gubmint tool, flew over and declared that the people were being delivered MRIs and ice, but the announced handout didn't happen at 2pm today, FEMA finally showed up about 8:30pm. Still, they didn't have much, and annti tells me folks need blue tarps and first aid. And prescriptions. Fred's has a generator truck, but the pharmacy isn't open. It was the end of the month and people hadn't had a chance to re-stock before the shit hit the fan. Diabetic supplies are in great need.

Since there is no refrigeration in town, basics such as eggs, milk, bacon/meat are non-existent. She's losing meat out of her freezer for lack of ice. I told her to put an ice cube on her head, and she didn't think she had one to spare from trying to save the food. There's still at least one day left before electricity returns, if not much longer.

Don't believe the media telling you "it's all OK!" and we dodged another Katrina. The people out in the boonies are being ignored. They really need us now.

Do whatever you can.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What Are We Going To Do About...

that new little thingy Bushco and friends are trying to get done before they leave office regarding a new AUMF for the GWOT?

It's a typical fear-mongering, national security baiting mess. The Dems are totally likely to cave into this as usual, and it provides complete and total cover for Bushco to cover up all their messes, to continue the disaster of Gitmo and the dog and pony show trials, and sets the stage for an invasion or at least a heavy bombing of Iran.

Somehow, it would be nice to figure out a way to convince the Dems that we the people, have their back and that no matter what Bushco says, WE GET IT! That they will NOT lose their seats if they vote this down, but that if they vote in favor - it could cost them.

It seems that letter writing and email sending and phone calls do no good. What does it take for our Congresscritters to understand they need to be responsive to their constitutents.

Of course the best message is to 'un-elect' some of them. Blue America has been doing some of that - witness Donna Edwards unseating Ed Wynn - a blue dog if there ever was one.

We have to be unafraid to un-elect even Dems if they don't to the job. Don't buy into the crap about seniority and how they are powerful so that's more important than just about anything else.

We need to hold these politicians accountable - including the likes of Pelosi, Reid, Hoyer, Rockefeller, and yes, Barack Obama. But just how to go about doing that - I'm at a total loss here.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Did Obama Pick Biden?

I was really sad at first when I heard that Biden was the VP pick. He's been in Washington too long. He really isn't "change". He attacked Obama pretty hard during the primaries (giving McSlime plenty of stuff to throw at him).

But then I thought - no - Obama needs an attack dog. And Biden is it. He has never pulled his punches (even when he would have been better served to have kept quiet). He says what he thinks. He doesn't waffle. And he enjoys going toe-to-toe with an opponent. Perfect!

He adds the foreign policy experience Obama supposedly lacks. And hewill also tell Obama what he needs to hear - whether he likes it or not.

I'm looking forward to seeing Biden on all the Sunday bobblehead shows and hearing him blast McSlime for all the idiotic crap, lies, smears and other smelly stuff coming out of that campaign as of late.

Go! Biden!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Is Up, Who is Down?

I’ve been listening to a bunch of people in the last week talk about polls and fretting about a daily tracking poll that shows Obama behind McCain here or there where he was ahead before and so on. I keep seeing that Obama is 'falling behind' in this swing state or other. The pundits keep crying that Obama isn't connecting with the voters, or he has a 'problem' with this demographic group or other - expecting the pandering as usual to rush and repair the damage.

So I decided to do a little more prospective and retrospective looking at polls and trend lines. Data used is from www.pollster.com No data was available for Washington DC so it is not included in the Electoral College totals. Data is long-term from the beginning of the primaries in 2007 when both candidates had lots of competition from others in their respective parties, and the trend lines started out usually reversed from the position they are now. Of course, Obama’s primary didn’t ‘end’ until June, while McCain was done in March. But the trends had already begun shifting before June, and after March when the comparisons started becoming about McCain only versus Obama most likely. If the Electoral College numbers are off – it’s my fault – brain dead doing this at 3 am but couldn’t sleep, so please forgive.

Trend lines are actually a better indication of what is going on than a single day or weeks worth of tracking polls. A daily or even a weekly poll is a snapshot in a very short period of time, and with the 24-hour news cycle and a bit of media ‘push’ can push a poll anywhere up to 10 points either in the up or down direction. A nasty attack ad can do the same thing - and then the response to it can either nullify or amplify that. And after a few days the same thing can happen in the opposite direction. Using a graph, you plot the poll numbers for both candidates over time, and after a while, you either can directly notice a trend up or down, or using some statistical calculations, can determine a mean over your determined time frame.

Nationally, McCain started ahead of Obama but Obama quickly gained ground and stayed ahead of McCain until around the end of December/beginning of January when their positions were essentially tied. McCain pulled ahead of Obama in March, but then Obama reclaimed the upper hand. The national trend line has quite a lot of ups and downs, but it is trending upward overall for Obama, and McCain keeps sliding. There are still 14% undecided and 5% voting for other candidates so there is still some room to move for both candidates.

Bob Barr was polling at about 5% in a couple of states at the beginning of his race, but support has dropped off steeply in the interim and he is currently at about 1% in both those states. Ralph Nader is holding at about 5% in Georgia, the only state where he has meaningful numbers currently.

Some interesting trends showed up. Currently both candidates are leading in 25 states each. McCain’s trend line is downward in 18 of his states, flat in 3, and up in 4 (ND, NE, NV, UT) In AK Obama’s trend line is also upward while in LA and SC, Obama matches McCain’s downward trend line. In SD Obama is flat against McCain’s downward trend so if he just stays steady, McCain may eventually drop below. In TN, both candidates are flat. McCain’s list of states currently gives him 229 Electoral College votes.

NOTE: Flat usually means there was only one poll, or there were two or three, both taken in the same or nearly the same time-frame.

Obama’s trend line is upward in 17 states, flat in 3 and downward in 5 states (IA, IL, ME, OR, WA). Obama’s downward trending states are interesting because in IA, ME, OR, WA McCain’s trend is also in the downward direction so at present there seems to be no danger of Obama losing those states. In IL, Obama’s trend line is steeply downward, however McCain’s is flat, and Obama currently leads the state with 60+% . Obama’s Electoral College total is currently at 306.

FL, IN, MO, NC, and TX are all within the margin of error, and while McCain is on top currently, his trend line is down in all five states, and Obama’s is up. These data strongly suggest that Obama will be in the lead there within the next two-three weeks, adding 98 Electoral College votes to his total, and of course subtracting them from McCain.

So…..most of the so-called battleground states are already in the Obama column, and given the trend lines, will stay that way. A couple that aren’t yet are among the five ‘cross-over’ states where the race is within the margin of error and the trend lines are in Obama’s favor.

Obama needs to keep doing what he is doing – and if McCain keeps doing what he is doing – it will truly be a landslide.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

say you love me

A common wail I've been hearing from my fellow bloggers lately is the meme of "Why Don't You Ever F#@<[^6 Leave A Comment?"

Well, many reasons and you know what I'm talking about. But it's getting dis-heartening. So next time you read a post by someone you like, do post a comment! Even if it's "Wow, this is brilliant! I'll get right back to you!"

You might not mean it. I don't care. Just say something.

Cause times are getting hard and nasty, but that's no reason to be mean to each other. People who blog, actually choose and fine tune what they post. They really wanted to tell you this, but they didn't want to spam you. You are actually here looking at this, so we know you're a friend... say hi, okay?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Whether Obama Can Win Against the FCP (Fawning Corporate Media)

Lots of activist political types like me have come to the conclusion - and some of us earlier than later - that Obama is not running against John McCain, but rather against the FCP. While McCain appears to be the candidate - the press has been his real adversary.

The FCP seems to feel that being 'fair and balanced' in regard to Obama means that if they say one thing nice or at least not nasty, they must say something bad also. And if they can't find anything bad, they just make stuff up.

McCain is, at this point, giving us a gaffe a day. He never gets challenged on his 'misstatements' or subjected to the wrath of the right-wing pundits the way Obama has been. Just try to imagine the outcry if Obama or one of his staff had made the following statements:

"...the border between Iraq and Afghanistan" (which consists of the entire country of Iran)
"...like in Czechoslovakia..." (a country that ceased to exist over 15 years ago)

and these were on foreign policy, McCain's supposed area of expertise.

On the domestic front:
"...in a mental recession. The American people are a nation of whiners..." (Phil Gramm)

And of course this week, McCain has been throwing an absolute temper tantrum because the FCP has been with Obama on his trip and isn't paying enough attention to McCain. Their response has been to increase the attacks against Obama and start pandering to McCain so they won't be accused of being the 'librul press'.

Fortunately, for the Dems, the Obama campaign organization is light on their feet, able and does respond to the attacks and other useless baloney quickly but in a very dignified but forthright way. Yay!

What a way to run a campaign to be the next president - run against the whacko idiots who call themselves journalists - but who are giving the biggest illegal campaign contribution ever to John McCain.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Will there ever be an accounting?

From the JustPeaceNow blog, a slide show of Iraqi children mostly wounded and killed in this insane war. EmmyLou Harris sings "I am Lost Unto This World" along with the presentation. At the end is a dedication to the photographers to took the heartwrenching photos, including some who died in the effort to do so.


When will we stop the insanity? The neo-cons claim they are pro-life? What about these lives? Don't they count? Aren't they worthwhile? The little ballerinas, the doctors, lawyers, scientists or whatever these children could have been - all gone and gone for filthy money for some greedy filthy and corrupt people here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

About the FCP (Fawning Corporate Media)

This past week has been absolutely and blatantly shocking in its bias for John McCain and against Barack Obama.

John McCain, at a town hall meeting, called on a Vietnam veteran for his first question. The Vet wanted an answer to the question of why McCain had voted against increasing funding for the VA in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. McCain took offense and started whining about his awards from Veterans service organizations claiming he had awards from them all. (He does from the VFW, DAV and AL - but they are all from years ago) The veteran replied that he had received his information on McCain's votes from the VFW and IAVA. McCain got visibly angry and all but accused the veteran of dissing his (McCain's service), and then claimed credit for helping pass Jim Webb's new GI Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. He never did answer the question. (Fact check: While McCain did vote against bills containing additional monies for the VA, later on in the same sessions he voted in favor of different bills containing additional monies - but those amounts were always much less than in the original legislation. You know - I was against it before I was for it.....)

While McCain was inside slamming the Vietnam veteran, his campaign staff had a woman holding a sign that said 'McCain = Bush' cited for trespassing and removed from a semi-public space. The 61-year-old librarian was unceremoniously escorted off the property by three policemen at least a foot taller than she. When asked who had complained, the McCain people lied and said it was the Secret Service. However, it has since come to light that it was the McCain campaign. The librarian's question remains unanswered "Why would a bunch of Republicans, who elected Bush twice and McCain is their candidate now, take offense at this sign?" Final response from the FCM? *crickets*

McCain lied about naming the players of one football team (Pittsburgh Steelers) instead of the one he really named (Green Bay Packers). For one thing, the players he mentioned weren't even famous until after he got out of the Hanoi Hilton. For the other, he has stated that the Packers were the group in his written memoir, as well as in the movie and in every other time he has told this anecdote. Response by the FCM? *crickets*

McCain's chief financial advisor, Phil Gramm, announced that the American People are in a 'mental recession' and are all a bunch of whiners on the subject of the economy. McCain himself has noted on several occasions that a recession is a psychological problem rather than a real one; that his gas tax holiday, and also drilling off the Gulf Coast were purely psychological. Response by the FCM? *while noting that we probably are in the beginnings of a recession - defending Phil Gramm*

McCain, who has flipped, and flopped, and flipped so many times I can't keep track on the subject of privatization of Social Security, announced that 'the way Social Security is funded by having the taxes paid by current workers used to fund retirees is a total disaster and must be fixed'. McCain is apparently unclear on the idea that the Social Security system has been funded that way since day one - about 75 years - and it has been working just fine. Response by the FCM? *crickets again*

McCain, who is rabidly pro-life (the one issue he really has not flip-flopped on apparently) was asked a pointed question about a statement Carla Fiorina, his chief of staff made regarding the unfairness of health insurance companies paying for Viagra, but refusing to pay for birth control. The reporter posed this question directly to McCain who first 'didn't want to discuss the issue' and then, to use Rachel Maddow's words - tried to squirm his way out of his own body. He stated that he couldn't remember ever voting on anything like that (he has, several times, and always against the mandatory payment for contraception if paying for ED drugs), and then claimed that he really hadn't thought enough about it to make a comment and would try to get back to her. Response by the FCM? *other than KO/Rachel on Countdown laughing themselves silly over the incident, crickets again*

And finally, responding to a story that the amount of trade we are doing with Iran has increased exponentially, in spite of increasingly harsh trade sanctions, especially in the area of cigarettes, McCain made one of his rather lame so-called jokes (while his wife Cindy elbowed him in the back to make him shut up!) that we should send even more since that would kill a lot more of them off. Response by the FCM? *Well, that's just McCain being McCain. No harm, No foul*

And so, by the end of the week when these events all happened (and probably more that we don't know about), the FCM reported that on balance, McCain had a pretty good week, or that he 'won' the week.

How did he 'win'?

Well the big story for the Obama campaign was some comments by Rev Jesse Jackson on an open mike at (where else?) Faux Noise. Jackson apparently believed the mikes were off and said that he felt that Obama had been talking down to black people (regarding Obama's Fathers Day speech calling for more responsibility on the part of fathers) and that he (Jackson) wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.

For three days we were treated to bleeped out re-runs of the tape, followed by multitudes of mea culpas from Jackson at every venue on the planet. Jackson's own son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. denounced his father. The Obama camp was pretty quiet on the subject and accepted Jackson's apology. But the FCM would not let it go.

The Obama campaign, nor any of Obama's surrogates, representatives, family members or anyone else even slightly associated with his Senate office, he himself or anyone else did or said anything. Jesse Jackson was speaking for himself. He says he didn't mean any harm to Obama or his campaign, but my opinion is that you hear a person's true feelings more often when they think no one is listening or paying attention than when opportunities are staged and obviously then self-censored. I believe Jackson when he said he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off. He is jealous, resentful, and angry. Obama is achieving what he could not. But that's a discussion for another day.

So, just imagine this. Insert Obama's name wherever John McCain's name appears in any one of these stories and then try to just imagine the result. It would be Jeremiah Wright amplified 100 times, and for ten times longer and 50 times louder! The truth is that Obama is not running against John McCain - he is running against the entire Fawning Corporate (right-wing) Press Corpse. And that same press corpse (misspelling intentional) is worrying that Obama not taking public financing (and the restrictions imposed therein) as somehow unfair to poor John McCain. Cry me a river!

Robert Parry at Consortium News has been doing a series of reports over the years about the development of the right-wing media. It has been a conscious effort - and in his words, the biggest illegal political campaign contribution there ever was. The FCM (his appellation) is a 24/7/365 campaign commercial for the right and whatever its issues are. If they can't find something, they just make stuff up. And it works. And it works well.

The left has spent its money working on campaign finance reform. And that does not work. Especially since the issue of this right-wing political media-machine has never been addressed.

Maybe we need to do something about that!

To read more on how the right-wing media machine came into being: http://consortiumnews.com/2008/062908.html Iran-Contra's Lost Chapter by Robert Parry from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Inner French-Canadian Woman has something to say:

A humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions has been playing out in Burma for more than 20 years. Thousands have been killed and many thousands more arrested, forced into slave labour or displaced from their villages by the ruling military regime. Burma’s women have endured rape and other forms of systematic sexual violence employed by the military to enforce its control over the country’s ethnic minorities. On May 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis brought new and terrible suffering to the people of Burma, suffering made only worse by the military regime’s refusal to promptly accept the international community’s ensuing offers of humanitarian assistance. What began as a natural disaster was soon supplanted by a catastrophe rooted in the pride, paranoia and corruption of Burma’s military rulers.

The Panties for Peace Campaign

The Panties for Peace campaign was launched by the women’s organization Lanna Action for Burma (LAB) on Oct. 16, 2007, in the hopes of bringing an end to the military regime’s rampant abuse of Burma’s population – and the abuse of Burma’s women in particular. Founded in the wake of the military’s brutal response to monk-led pro-democracy uprisings in Burma last fall, the Panties for Peace campaign has been given new and pressing importance by the regime’s self-interested and inhumane response to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis. The campaign has been already launched around the world, in Australia, the Philippines, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, the USA and in Brazil.

More here

Thanks Roisin!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Books For Soldiers

Our Second Life friend, StormBear was going to be interviewed today on Fox News for his Netroots efforts running his 503 charity, Books For Soldiers. 45 minutes before he was to be picked up by the SF station, they called to cancel. "Something came up."

And what was the burning news item he was bumped for? A Florida man was bitten by a snake in the garden center of a Walmart.

If you are able to donate either books or money to Books For Soldiers, please do. Corporate funding has dried up this year and StormBear needs help to continue his good work.

Also see: Daily KOs

Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama and FISA

I have been planning for a week or so to write an article about 'real' family values, the kind that Obama's family represents.

But I am so angry right now I could just spit.

Barack Obama's statement on the FISA bill is that it is a good thing, a GOOD THING for the government to be able to spy on all of its citizens with no accountability. He, the constitutional scholar, has apparently forgotten what the 4th Amendment to the Constitution says. I realize he doesn't have a magic wand and he cannot control all the players in the House. He's also the most junior Senator in the Senate - and actually doesn't even have the nomination locked up yet (remember superdelegates anyone?). So his power to really affect the outcome there is also limited.

But he could have made a stronger statement. Given his eloquence - he could have done it and done it in such a way that he would let everyone on the ground know that he gets it - without alienating the powers that be who still control his future.

Oh man. I'm sick. Someone on Digby today said "Mark your calendar - today is the day our Country died."

Big Black Box around today's date.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

On Sexism

A 'lot of people' are decrying the sexism exhibited by the MSM and some in the Obama campaign and a lot on the various threads of commenters against Clinton. It is said that until Obama either puts Clinton on the ticket as VP or at least apologizes for everything that has been said, the 'feminists' will not be satisfied and they are going to vote for McCain.

I'm sorry, but sexism is very much with us. I acknowledge that there are a lot of really sexist people out there. But voting for McSlime is not going to change anything - in fact it will make things much worse. Sure, Obama is not the perfect candidate - who is? But in a race between someone who is pro-choice, pro-real-family values, and pro-equal opportunity vs pro-life (the one issue he has NOT flip-flopped on), anti anything that supports families, children, women and even veterans, my vote is definitely for the former.

Obama is not my first choice. Or my second. But he's what we have - and I'm on board for the rest of the trip. Some Hillary supporters claim that she 'said what she had to say' in her speech on Saturday when she called for party unity and for everyone to support Obama and beat McSlime. I watched the speech. I believe she meant it.

Here's why: Hillary has, by all accounts, worked hard for children and families during her life. Why would she risk all that by sending out 'coded messages' for her supporters to vote for someone who is the antithesis of everything she stands for? Do you really believe Hillary wants Roe overturned? That she thinks the Ledbetter decision is okay? That she believes the Violence Against Women Act doesn't matter?

I don't believe that. But if McSlime is elected - we can expect that to happen. McSlime has promised to appoint more judges like Alito and Roberts - not just to SCOTUS but all levels of the federal judiciary. He will wield his veto pen on bills that support insurance for children, benefits for veterans, health care for everyone, good education (not just endless testing) for children, and on and on.

I keep seeing "McCain '08, Hillary '12' comments. Well, there is nothing to stop her from running in 2012 if Obama doesn't deliver. And I would far rather take a chance on Obama than go with the devil - John McCain. I would think you would too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary...

With her remarks alluding to the RFK assassination 40 years ago next month, Hillary seems to have brought her campaign to an ignoble end. No matter how she tries to distance herself from her remarks, the fact that she has said this before cannot be denied. And it is just the latest in a pattern of sly innuendo, coded race-baiting, off-hand-seeming remarks designed to inflame, and apologies that are not really apologies. This time it was just too much.

This is really quite sad. There were such high hopes for having (finally) someone who represented over 50% of the population who have not had someone in this position of power (at least not officially anyway). That having a woman would mean things would be different - no more of the macho-cowboy crap brought to us by the Current Occupant. That we would finally see our country turn to the things that are important to women - health care, child care, real family values, equal pay for equal work, codifying the principals of Roe v. Wade into law, and removal of the glass ceilings faced everywhere by women of any color or creed.

But no. What we have instead is a woman trying to out-man the men with her votes for the war in Iraq, and her vote for declaring the Iranian Army a terrorist organization. Someone who thinks the way to win is by belting back shots in a bar, playing at being a 'gunman'. Someone who, having been the target of all the right-wing hitmen in the 1990s, should have taken the high road and showed us what 'class' is really all about. Someone who, having been the target of much misogynistic screeching in the MSM, should have given us a 'gender' speech. Someone who, having been supported with her husband, by people of color everywhere has taken the low road of coded racist messages about her 'white' base.

So no, it is not going to be this woman, or this time. And Hillary - it's not because you are a woman. It is because you have abandoned all the things that women are good at. The knack most women have for settling disputes without violence. The different way most women have of looking at issues and seeing what is truly important. The bully pulpit you have enjoyed being the First Lady - but then not used, and finally, have abused. The lies, the triangulation, the race-baiting, the gender-baiting, and the faux victimization every time things didn't go your way.

You said you'd be ready on Day One. Well, you haven't been ready. You haven't shown us any leadership on women's issues - while at the same time crying that any woman who doesn't vote for you isn't a feminist. You haven't shown us any leadership on children's issues - even as you enjoyed a status in the Senate that even Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd do not enjoy. You haven't shown us any leadership on health care - even though you claim to have learned from your experiences with that issue when your husband was President. You haven't shown any leadership on gender issues, even as you have used that over and over in this campaign to batter your detractors and your competitors.

You keep saying you 'misspoke' because you are tired. Well, you are the one who made the 3 am commercial - you wouldn't be tired then? Are you going to misspeak when a true crisis comes along?

You claim you'd be ready for anything. Well, how about ready for this campaign? Didn't think the caucus states would be important - so guess what - someone else won. Didn't think the campaign would go on after Super Tuesday - so no backup plan for either organization or fund-raising and spending. Didn't think that it was important to fully vet your staff - so they have to be fired for what seem obvious conflicts of interest between your stated positions and what they are actually doing.

So, no. Not this woman, and not this time. I'm disappointed for women everywhere, because in the grand scheme of things, this will damage the chances of any good woman in the near future who fancies herself 'ready' to take this test, to lay it all on the line, to run for the highest office in the land. She will be told that America isn't ready to elect a woman, after all look what happened to Hillary. All the sexist people wouldn't vote for her. That is the myth you are building, that is the lie you are promoting. You are being helped by the MSM and the right-wing talk-radio-heads to be sure. But it wouldn't happen without your explicit and implicit cooperation and encouragement.

So, no. Not this woman, and not this time. I hope someday we can find that woman, the one who will take the high road, the one who will tell the truth, the one who will strive to encourage the best in people, the one who will excite our imaginations and show us a vision of a better America, one where women and children have value, one where education about these divisive issues is forefront, and one who really and truly can be elected. Because SHE will.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Too Confrontational

A story last week reported that a proposed statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a memorial in his honor has been rejected by the arts panel that commissioned it because "King looks too confrontational" in the artist's model.

Too Confrontational?????? That is what Dr. King was all about - confrontation. His entire public career was about confrontation - confrontation of the establishment, of the status quo, of racism, of economic injustice, of the war in Vietnam, I could go on and on. Too confrontational - give me a break.

And while we're at it - the mainstream media and the mainstream history pundits would have us believe that MLK was a sort of nice guy in the "I Have A Dream" speech. The last two-three years of King's crusade was more about economic justice than civil rights, and his speeches became more 'inflammatory' and more confrontational than before. We never get to hear those speeches - it is like they have disappeared from the history books.

Here is an excerpt from MLK's speech to the striking sanitation workers on March 18, 1968, about 3 weeks before his assassination:

And I come by here to say that America too is going to Hell, if we don't use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God's children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell. I will hear America through her historians years and years to come saying, "We built gigantic buildings to kiss the sky. We build gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our spaceships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our airplanes we were able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths."
But it seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, "even though you've done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security, and you didn't provide for them. So you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness." This may well be the indictment on America that says in Memphis to the mayor, to the power structure, "If you do it unto the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me."…

Shades of Jeremiah Wright anyone? (emphasis mine)

You can read the entire speech here: http://www.aft.org/topics/civil-rights/mlk/memphis-speech.htm I haven't been able to find audio of this, if anyone else knows where, please let me know.

So, was MLK confrontational? You bet! Does the statue do him justice? You bet! I also firmly believe that he would be spinning in his grave over the idea that a statue of him was being proposed, but even more so at the idea that it was "too confrontational". He would be laughing himself silly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Time Out for Mother's Day

In all our angst and anger and worry and whining, we sometimes forget that as a truly human, we must all pause for a bit fo soul refreshment. Mother's Day, while it has morphed into yet another commercial piece of garbage intended to sell sell sell more and yet more junk that we don't need, can be such an opportunity.

I am a new grandma, and reliving the joy of my own child and the delight in her new one kind of helps keep it in perspective for me. I know, over-population, food riots, global climate change, politics and all that yada yada yada.

So anyway, I just wanted to give us all something to refresh the spirit. Click the start button, and then close your eyes and just ENJOY!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jeremiah Wright vs Barack Obama

I have been terribly disturbed by the vilification of Jeremiah Wright, and even more disturbed by the things Barack Obama has had to do, say, and answer for because of it.

First: There are hundreds of preachers out there, both black and white, saying things just this incendiary - in fact, John Hagee (McLame's current BBF) just thundered from his pulpit that poor people should just "Starve!. He doesn't give a damn! If they don't work they should just STARVE!" And this represents Christianity how? But he gets a pass. Along with Rev Parsley, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, et al ad nauseum. All the white guys can say whatever they want. But the black one(s) can't. They are the ones with the history of slavery, whips and chains, lynchings, Jim Crow, rampant discrimination, medical experimentation, and all sorts of other innumerable horrors in their collective and actual backgrounds. But they are not allowed to say anything. So...it really is all about RACE. That and nothing else.

Second: I can't help but be disappointed a bit in Obama's response. I feel he should have done more to explain, more to educate the rest of us, more to lay a foundation that we can use to bridge the gap between the Jeremiah Wrights of this world and the fearful white people for whom Wright has become the latest embodiment of the Willie Horton boogeyman.

In the discussion below, Fred Newman lays out some of the stuff I wish the Obama team and he would have said in answer to the Wright comments. Obama's speech on race was a good start - but oh, we have so far to go - and backtracking away from the starting line will not get him (or us) across the finish line.

The '60s HappenedSunday, May 4, 2008
Every Sunday CUIP's president Jacqueline Salit and strategist and philosopher Fred Newman watch the political talk shows and discuss them. Here are excerpts from their dialogue on Sunday, May 4, 2008 after watching "The Chris Matthews Show" and "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," and "Meet the Press."
Salit: Barack Obama was Tim Russert's guest for the full hour on Meet the Press. They discussed the Rev. Wright controversy and the process that Obama went through in handling the events of the last week. Russert asked Obama to account for why he hadn't more fully distanced himself from Rev. Wright until this week. Obama said that in his Philadelphia speech he'd denounced "the words," not "the man." But this week he felt that Rev. Wright "doubled down" on his previous remarks and that made it necessary for him to distance himself more definitively than he had. And Russert said to him: 'Could you have done this better. In retrospect, given how things played out, what have you learned from this? Could you have done this better?' Obama replied 'Well, in politics they say it's good to pull the Band Aid off quickly.' I guess he was saying, Maybe I didn't do that in this situation, but now I've learned. Let me ask you that same question. Could Obama have handled this better?
Newman: I think he could have handled it much better. And I think the way to do that was not to talk pop psychology and try to have that do the work for you. Pop psychology is nonsense. He needs to talk history. And he hasn't talked history. And I think that's very disappointing. By talking history, he could have said: You know there was something called the 1960s. It was a very important time. It was the beginning of a very significant and divisive period in American history which continues to this day. Things were said by all kinds of people – on the left and on the right. Some were of value. Some were ridiculous and absurd. But all that actually happened. That's part of American history. And people who want to paint away that period of American history are simply blinding themselves to the progress we've made and to the fact that we have to continue with that progress. Rev. Wright is a relic of that period. He's a 60-year-old man whose views were deeply shaped by the events of that era. And there are a lot of people who still hold to those views because people don't give up their views very easily. I am not a product of that period. I have a whole different set of views. And so do millions upon millions of Americans. But that history is our history. And we have to accept it and grow from it and heal with it, not turn it into something which can add to the divisiveness which persists in the country. He could have discussed the history of the last 40 years in a sensible kind of way. But he chose not to. And I'm disappointed in that, yes.
Salit: Obama's narrative has been we have to move beyond those divisions. 'I have moved beyond that,' he says. 'America is moving beyond that.' He would agree with the description of Rev. Wright as a relic of the 60s.
Newman: You just took "relic of the 60s" out of context of what I said. You can't go beyond where you were unless you engage where you were. You can't do things that way. You have to accept where you've been, the conflictedness of where you've been, the bitterness of that period, and how that still continues on today and will into the future. History doesn't stop running because you're running for president. The world doesn't stop turning because Barack Obama's on the scene. I think he's a wonderful candidate. But I think he has to accept that there was this very volatile part of American history. He doesn't have to accept the views of that period, but he has to accept the history of that period…because that's American history. I think he's worked overtime to disassociate himself from the 60s, which is a critical period in the very debate which he's talking about resolving.
Salit: That's accurate.
Newman: Give me a break. You can't do that. You have to include that period and it's only if you include that period as part of a balanced and serious consideration of this whole period that you can really make any kind of sense of, or help people to make sense of, Rev. Wright. Because that's who he is. To try to handle it psychologically is a potentially disastrous mistake for Obama.
Salit: When you say "handle it psychologically," what are you referring to?
Newman: 'Well, we disagree this much, but not quite this much. Before I did this with the words. Now I'm doing it to the man.' What sense can be made of that? What depth sense can be made of that? It's just not an analysis with any weight. An analysis with weight has to say: The last 40 years of history in this country took place. It actually happened. Do you want me to discuss my relationship to black radicalism, to the Black Panther Party for example, by asking me to take a position on their view on this or their view on that? I can't do that. Number one, I wasn't there. And, number two, that's not the issue. People don't know what they would have done "if." They know there was a piece of history which produced all kinds of things, including the Black Panther Party, including the Far Right, including Martin Luther King, including Stokely Carmichael, including the Moral Majority – all that history. He has to give some evidence that he knows the history, which he hardly ever does because he wants to make it sound as if everything is beginning again with Barack Obama.
Salit: But it isn't.
Newman: No. And people won't believe that, ultimately. And they shouldn't believe that because it's obviously nonsense. He has to say: This movement for change that's taking place now, it didn't start with me. There were things going on before I was born and before you were born and before most Americans were born. That history is an important part of where we are now. In fact, it's because of that history that I am where I am now. That doesn't mean that I agree with all that history. It's not a question of agreement or disagreement. History is history whether someone agrees or not. It's not been well presented, in my opinion. It's not been well considered. I think the Obama people were so pre-occupied with "the world begins with Barack Obama-ism" that they didn't want to discuss this history. But this history is a very important part of where we are and what's happening in this country. So, Obama leaves the door open for Rev. Wright to be the historian. Well, I don't want Rev. Wright doing my history. I think Obama has a responsibility to give a more serious and accurate history.
Salit: What you're talking about here goes right to the heart of the major thematics of the Obama campaign. What I'm referring to is the idea that this is the campaign, this is the candidacy, this is the moment in American history when we're going to stop fighting the fights of the 60s. This is a narrative or a framing that has been very central to Obama's persona. His message is those fights, those identity politics battles and the battle between left and right that defined the culture wars, has put America in a place where it can't move forward politically. And so Obama says, 'I'm the right man for this moment in American history because I'm not over-determined by those fights and those positions.' What I hear you saying is that the fact that he's not over-determined by those fights means that he could and should be able to explicate that history in a way that sheds some light on where we are and various things that are going on, including the controversy over Rev. Wright.
Newman: Obama and his people have to make up their mind. Is the problem of America those fights? Or is America's problem the corruption in Washington, DC?
Salit: OK.
Newman: You can't equivocate on that. Those fights couldn't be "the problem" in America because those fights produced Barack Obama. So if he's the solution, it's those fights that produced him. What he has to go up against now is the corruption in Washington. So, there's confusion in his presentation that he has to take responsibility for. Wright comes on the scene and says, 'Do you think you're going to forget the 60s? Ha, ha. I'm going to remind you of the 60s.' And Obama's vulnerable to that because he wants to sweep the 60s and everything that followed from that under the rug. He projects himself, and from the beginning projected himself, as "I'm the solution to all of that." But that's equivocal. Why? Because that's not been the problem. He's already a product of that whole period and presumably he thinks that's a plus. The problem that he needs to take on is the corruption in Washington. And Hillary Clinton is a part of that corruption. That's got to be his focus. His failure to actually say: The 60s, the 70s, all those battles – that's been a good thing. It's produced things which took us to the point of my being a candidate for the presidency of the United States. Were stupid things said and done during that period? Yes. Were extremist things said and done during that period? Yes. Would I have associated with those? I hope not, but maybe in some ways, I even have. But that's not the point. The point is that all that happened. That's part of history. However, that is not the issue in this campaign. The issue is the corruption in Washington and Hillary Clinton is a part of that corruption and we all know that. That's the speech.
Salit: You're saying that the Obama campaign hasn't made up its mind on that issue. But, they are going after the corruption issue. That's the theme of the commercials that he's got running now in North Carolina and Indiana.
Newman: He may be running commercials, but he's been taken off course by having to engage the Wright controversy. And the reason that he finds himself in the position where he has to engage these other issues is because he and his people were trying to whitewash the history of the last 40 years. Why do that? Why whitewash that? Why not say: I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the American people who engaged in that. I'm proud of that people's movement that did something about that war in Vietnam – it was a dreadful war – just as I'm proud of that people's movement which is saying something about the war in Iraq. I'm proud of all that. I would think that Hillary would be, too. She was a part of the 60s, too. Now, were there extreme statements that were made on all sides, ridiculous statements? Are some of those still in the hearts and minds of some people, like Rev. Wright? Yes, they are. Do they have an appeal to a lot of people all over the place, but surely in the black community? Yes, they do. I can't deny them and don't wish to deny them…because, in some respects, I'm a product of them. And because the world doesn't start with Barack Obama.
Salit: Some people would say, not exactly in the terms that you're talking about, that the speech he gave in Philadelphia had some elements of that in it, but he was forced to move off of that position. I don't know whether you would agree.
Newman: What's the "that" of that position?
Salit: Wherein he identified Rev. Wright's voice and Rev. Wright's views as views that come out of a particular experience and a particular way of seeing the world in the black community. But he certainly didn't talk about the 60s.
Newman: I know he didn't. That's the very point I'm making. That's exactly what he painted over in his speech on race. He talked about the black community and the black experience. But there were other people involved in the 60s besides the black community. There was a war that had to be stopped and protested. And Americans from many different walks of life came together to do that.
Salit: Yes.
Newman: I think that if an objective history is to be written about why he lost this campaign, if he loses, it's going to be because of his blindness to the 1960s. It was not a black phenomenon. It was an American phenomenon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I Been Healed and so can you!

We were out beating back teh Islamofascist Blackberry bushes and Virulent Yuccas that encroach our front sidewalk. We suffered many pricks, and were vexedly sore by the end of the day. Upon applying Healin' Hollers ™©® Miracle Salves, our symptoms were instantly relieved!

I thank Sister Alice for her amazing potions. I urge all of you to purchase said salves and ointments from Miz Alice!

In the latest, second 100 year storm last month in Arkansas, Miz Alice was STRUCK by lightning, so you know her shit is sanctified! This is her front room and you know insurance didn't cover all of that!

More on How We Got Where We are Now...

Here is another post on the subject of how we got here by Phil Rockstroh (it's a little old but not out of date) on how we got where we are, along with his comments about what happens next.


Phil does an excellent job of breaking down the links between the fundamentalist right/evangelical religious right and the cronyism and greed in the government and adds the corporate and military/industrial complex to the list of bottom feeders contributing to this problem.

The deviousness and outright hate-mongering by the right to get its own way is so despicable it is even carried into the abortion debate. Pro-choice has nothing to do with babies - it has everything to do with the right not getting its way when it was on the road to destroying all the 'left-wing' ideas coming out of the New Deal, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, and all the other good-for-society-and-its-members programs. The Roe v Wade decision was the last gasp of the left, and the right-wingnuts have been trying to roll it back ever since. Not because of the babies - because it was a victory for the left. That's why they don't care about kids once they get here, and why they cut kids health insurance, WIC, Headstart, AFDC, anything that might help actually raise and care for these children once they are actually born. It IS about power and having your own way. Values be damned.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Criminal Frame as the Underpinning of Right-Wing Propaganda

I am posting here a series of commentary from a blogger known as 'jamestx' from the former Rockridge Nation blog. His comments are occasionally interspersed with other commenters from that same blog for clarity. As more comments come in, I will try to post updates on this conversation from time to time. The google group is a mess wading through right now and the new website is not up and running yet so this is the best I can do for now. If you want, you can go to the google group and subscribe to the newsletter at http://groups.google.com/group/rockridge-annex-temporary?hl=en

I have posted additional commentary on this at http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/ I have also provided links to Sara Robinson's two excellent pieces on the 'Us versus Them' memes used by the right-wing to divide and control all the rest of us. http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/two-kinds-americans-us-versus-them-part-i


Sorry this is so long - but I really think it is worth reading and THINKING about.

POST #1 The point here is that criminality and the way people respond to criminal behavior is a sort of root metaphor in social interaction. In my ranting above, I have tried to show how those fundamental ideas about criminality have worked their way into the highest levels of policy and caused us to crash as a society. I've added this note to provide the afterthought that I am not talking about material policy here. I don't see the criminal justice frame as being one flawed issue policy among many. I see it as a fundamental metaphor that has been mapped on to policy at all levels and provides the basic assumptions for conservative government. If love is a journey, Bush is a cop, and he is a cop that doesn't like courts and doesn't like his decisions reviewed. He thinks there are two types of people in the world and his job is to kill one of those types. He assumes he doesn't need any helpdetermining who they are. The rights of those people play no role in his decisions, and he thinks that is moral.One peculiar interest of mine is what conservatives have accomplished in popular reasoning about criminal justice. I think it serves as a good example of what needs to be done. For those who are newer converts to liberal thinking - usually those who were socialized and educated after Reagan - current reasoning about criminal justice is just not very high on the progressive to-do list. I think it should be, because I think it serves as an important part of conservative cognitive infrastructure. It is very unfortunate that these flawed ways of reasoning have been repeated until they are simply accepted as "common sense". The cognitive infrastructure built on the conservative view of criminality is made up of the same metaphors later used to reason about rogue states, terrorists, combatants, unitary executive power, etc. The frames representing police officers were latertransformed into the notion of the unitary executive, which is viewed as the "police officer" who needs absolute authority to administers summary justice. Due process and reflective debate were devalued and described as useless activities that serve only to "support criminal rights" and interfere with the administration of "true justice" by the executive. The point here is that the reason our population so easily swallowed the Bush worldview on executive power was because they had been "softened up" to it by accepting earlier lies on how to reasonabout criminality. They already had a working frame for what Bush wanted to be, and they wanted to have a beer with him and talk it over.
Conservative frames on criminal justice are the oldest. They were constructed in the years from about 1978 through 1984. They are like the "old fat" that is hardest to lose. The conservative campaign to change reasoning about criminal justice, and their reframing of the concept, was highly successful. It was successful to the extent that it is a good example of the kind of thing that Lakoff talks about being repeated until it is simply accepted as common sense. Widespread conservative beliefs about criminal justice are now simply accepted as common sense, although the premises are entirely false and the reasoning is glaringly flawed. These very assumptions that are accepted without question today were viewed as archaic and barbaric only a few decades ago. Current ideas are simply not common sense. They are very unrealistic and skewed representations of reality, and they were designed by the conservative movement as a sort of trash dump for the people who opposed views.Our most popular beliefs about criminal justice are based in a frame that cuts the world into categories that are more irrevocable and absolute than most any social category we use, save perhaps gender. Only a few years ago, crime was seen as a behavior. It is now viewed as an almost genetic part of the makeup of a person. The frame cuts the world neatly into two categories of criminal and non-criminal. The difference between the two is viewed as being every bit as fundamental and immutable as gender. There are two types of people in the world.Just like there are men and women, there are good guys and bad guys. Criminals are considered to be bad guys. They are also curiously assumed to have always been bad, as if it is part of their genetic constitution. Even if they are not convicted until some later time in their lives, they are seen as having "beat the system" up to that point by simply not being discovered. They are considered bad from birth to death, almost in the same way that most people remain male or female form birth to death. The overriding goal is to maximize the suffering of criminals at any cost, and to forever keep them as far from civilized society as possible. The concepts of justice related to ideas that a criminal can be rehabilitated, or even be able to pay their debt to society (such as a contract metaphor), has been entirely abolished. The only goal of the criminal justice system under the conservative reasoning is to classify people irrevocably as good or bad, and to destroy the bad ones by any means and at any cost.The fundamental flavor of this concept is really unusual. I don't think we should gloss over the extremism inherent in the current view. We don't even see gender as an absolute and immutable construct anymore. No other classification category in our society is so powerful, or for that matter more arbitrary. This is very curious, and very difficult to understand. I propose that it is also very important to progressives, because it represents the first really overwhelmingly successful framing project that conservatives carried out, and it is an entirely and demonstrably false belief system. It is also the basic frames that are used for reasoning about deviance of the type that got us into the current military quagmire with its associated disregard for human rights. Flawed reasoning about criminality is the prototype for most of the conservative nightmare we are living.The point here is that I see the Bush war fiasco as being fundamentally related to the twisted view of criminal justice which conservatives successfully promoted early in their movement. It amounts to a cognitive infrastructure of the type progressives should be trying to change, or should at least be trying to analyze. I amconfused that the concept receives so littlee attention from progressives, when I see it as being at the very root of our problems.

I appreciate the reference to (Sara) Robinson's paper. I have heard about the idea, and have read other places about it. The us versus them idea is one level of abstraction above my thoughts on the issue, and it allsort of points to an object relations interpretation. The reason I see the criminal justice attitude as being primary in this context is that it was an actual purposeful framing mission carried out by conservatives with the purpose of altering our fundamental ways of thinking about society. It was then generalized to other domains afterthe initial success.Anyone cognizant during those times knows that attitudes about criminality were at the forefront of all political campaigns. It was the most important social issue on the cusp of the conservative revolution. There was actually something to argue about back then. After the attitudes were changed, there is no longer anything to argueabout. It is as if the strict father view has just been accepted as fact by both conservatives and progressives, and the issue is no longer even discussed. If it is discussed, the problems recognized are that criminal justice processes are unfair for some specific group, as in the crack cocaine problem. There is never any discussion of the fact that there may be something wrong with the whole underlying system of ideas. All such disparities are settled by raising the level of harshness afforded everyone to the level experienced by the mistreated group. No other solution is ever considered. If one person is wrongly convicted, the solution is to wrongly convict everybody so that treatment is equal.My belief that it is fundamental and deeply seated metaphorically is really due to its timing, though. I could surely be accused of being victim of the post hoc fallacy. But I think there is something they knew and planned about this. It was the first big drive in the conservative movement. It succeeded, and then everything else sort offell like dominoes. Why did they choose to do that first? Perhaps they chose to do it first because everything else they wanted to do would depend on it in some fundamental way. It seems nowadays every form ofsocial organization has to have some form of a penal system built in, as if it is a necessary part of all human interaction. Perhaps if people could stomach a constantly escalating obsession with crime and punishment, it would be easier to stomach things like Guantanamo. It would be easier to degrade due process and the ideas of deliberative reflection by organized representatives as a prerequisite for violating human rights. It would be easier to smear those parts of the Constitution which protect rights by making them appear quaint. It would be easier to promote summary decision making by a single person vested with authority. I think they may have been right, because it apparently worked!If we are going to roll back what they have done to us as a whole, it might be best to look at what they did first as a reference for what we want to roll back to. In the intervening years, nothing has much happened that conservatives didn't author and tightly control, so it is hard to pick up our reference at any point after Reagan. What did progressive cognitive infrastructure look like before it was driven out of the picture by force? The driving out started with the criminal justice thing. Everything after that was easy.

POST #3 (This one explains a bit of why understanding framing is important)
Understanding framing as it is applied to the current political problem is something that I want for a personal, not political, purpose. I think it is important that all progressives understand the theory, and that is why I think training is very important.I guess I don't see the theory, from what I know now, as being something that is "done" or applied to others, as if framing experts would go out and change the way others think. Americans aren't very amenable to cognitive interventions designed to change their opinions. They are stubborn that way. I think what the theory means to me, on the other hand, is also what it could mean to many other people if they understood it better. It helps me articulate what has happened to us at the hands of the conservative movement leaders, and it gives mea powerful set of tools to resist them. Without those tools, I would still be trying to negate their frames, which only strengthens them.As I watched the conservative movement develop in the late seventies and early eighties, I knew something organized and powerful was happening. I knew it had something to do with language, and I knew it was bad and that its premises were false. Nonetheless, I had trouble constructing any successful arguments against it. The reason I couldn't argue against it is because I didn't understand that resistance on the conservatives' terms was futile. It only strengthened their position, because they were activating frames that were powerful and couldn't be fought by negation. The frames themselves had to be invalidated and replaced. My explanation of what they were doing at the time was that their messages contained presuppositions. That is, I thought they were using trick statements of the sort "when did you stop beating your wife?" As it turns out, that was really an oversimplification. Because I didn't understand what was being done to us in the way Lakoff has explained it, I just had to sit passively by like everyone else and let it happen. My only option was to withdraw further and further into my personal world, only to find my social support circles shrinking daily. The conservative movement continuously expanded and pressed harder at the boundaries of that world every day, as it was designed to drive people who thought like me out of society.So, I guess my opinion is that framing theory is much more valuable as a tool for helping progressives understand themselves and understand what the conservatives are doing them. It also can provide them with away of keeping their sanity and keeping their thoughts organized. It might be much more valuable as a sort of self-help tool than a political intervention tool.


First of all, let me be sure to mention that I want to avoid liberal stereotypes here. Some of the phrases that were most successful during the conservative campaign were clearly frames, and being on the wrongside of those frames is what I mean by the liberal stereotype. That would include phrases like "slap on the wrist", "revolving door", "criminals' rights are more important than victims' rights", "they'll just do it again", "coddling of criminals", "defending criminals", "not backing the police" and all those things that purportedly represented the national mood and framed the liberal approach to criminal justice as ludicrously naïve and horribly unjust for victims. We were depicted as wanting to let crime run rampant and wanting to treat murderers like teenagers who had skipped school. This was supposedly because of our "knee jerk, bleeding hearts" that simplycouldn't stomach the dirty work that has to sometimes be done to serve justice. That is not my position, and it is a ruthless caricature of the real liberal position.If I were king, my ideas would look much different than either the conservative position or the liberal stereotype. I think these kinds of ideas were alive during the conservative revolution, but they just couldn't fight the forces against them and were never given a hearing. I do think victims have rights, but I don't think those rights areabsolute and infinite. The laws drafted by the conservatives have made them so, to the point that some victims who don't deserve consideration are now glorified. There is a context to most crimes, and understanding that context is important. Our current system seems to aim toward reducing it to a simple black and white.The biggest problem, though, I think is the language and the simplistic categories we use to reason about the system. One big problem is using the murderer as the prototype for reasoning about all criminal justice. The overwhelming majority of people caught up for life in the criminal justice quagmire are not murderers or anywhere near it. In fact, for many of them, it is an exercise in imagination to even locate a victim. So, one important thing to do when we absolutely have to use a single term to classify all the effected people is to choose a term that more accurately describes the average "criminal". In fact, my position is that the term "criminal" is a real problem in itself, as it doesn't tell us anything about the person denoted. The term literally includes everyone from George W. Bush (driving under the influence, and many believe possession of cocaine),to Cindy Sheehan (public disorder or something), to John Lennon (possession of marijuana), to Charles Manson (who never actually killed anybody!), to the person who broke into my house, to Rosa Parks, to Ted Bundy, to the man down the street who drove to the store after having three beers, to the local teenager who shoplifted a candy bar. If a term can't narrow referents any better than that, we are flirting with disaster when using it to discuss policy as if it referred to a well defined class. The term, though, is used ubiquitously in conservative discourse on criminal justice, as if it were a precisely defined class.The air is all gone out of the "tuff" sentence balloon. Conservative approaches to criminal justice have culminated primarily in a two-decade long campaign to increase the harshness of sentences given to"criminals". We are now to the point where sentencing makes no sense, and it is an everyday occurrence to see someone sentenced to hundreds of years in prison. Given, the conservative view is not for it to makesense. I understand the idea is that they just never want to see the person again. They would execute them if they could. The point is that the sentencing system is not designed in any rational way for any purpose, and as a result we are simply seeing a population explosion in the prisons which are designed to have no path out.There is definitely a need to address what happens after conviction, and that process needs a lot more oversight. In fact, there should be an independent judiciary which oversees what happens after conviction.For the most part, conviction signals the end of the road for public policy, and everything after that is turned over to the anonymous administrative authority of the prison administration. I see this as being important for us to understand and control the ultimate outcomes of our decisions. This would help avert the most distressing outcomes. Among those outcomes is the shoplifting teenager who is inducted into the culture of organized crime and ultimately becomes a much bigger nightmare than he was when he entered the system. In that case, we aretaking a person with potential and using them as the raw material to manufacture a real "criminal". It should be illegal to discriminate in employment after a person has served a sentence. If we provide no viable means for those convicted to re-enter the society, then exactly what is it that we are expecting? Clearly, what conservatives are expecting is that the person will return to prison. They will be permanently classified as"them", and they will be kept away from "us". I think it may be time to start looking at alternatives to that outcome. In fact, the progressive position should emphasize analyzing the aftermath of conviction. For conservatives, the story is over after conviction. Clearly, there is a decision to be made about people convicted of crimes. That decision inevitably involves the complexities of whether or not we ever intend for them to return to society. The underlying assumption of the conservative view is that they really never do intend for a person to come back. Once the person has been classified into their catch-all "criminal" category, then they really intend for that person to be incarcerated forever, however menial the actual crime. Their rhetoric is full of ideas about how to assist law enforcement in "recapturing" the "criminal" who has been released. Is that what we really want? It may be, and I may be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

From: "Leftymathprof (Eric Schechter)" James, don't ever use the phrase "If I were king." Of course, I guess what you really mean by that phrase is that, if you could instantly make certain changes in society without going through a lot of intermediate steps, then here is what you would do. But we all have to stop thinking in that way. We all have to think about the intermediate steps, which ultimately are more important than the end result anyway.But you really have convinced me of the importance of this prison framing thing. I can see why the conservatives made it a high priority when they were taking over, and for similar reasons we need to make ita high priority when recapturing culture.On an issues level, there are plenty of issues to work on. We need to talk about the fact that the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world -- probably by a wide margin; that certain corporations make lots of money by running prison systems; that some companies also make money from prison labor, so it's effectively a new kind of slavery; that the sentences for poor people's crimes are much higher than the sentences for analogous rich people's crimes (e.g., different kinds of cocaine get different sentences -- I don't know the details of that one); etc. That the rationale behind the "war on drugs" doesn't make any sense, and its real purpose is to fill prisons. etc.
But ultimately we need go to a higher level than just issues; we need to counteract the us-versus-them mentality. I don't know how to do that, but I see that that is crucial to the whole progressive versusconservative struggle.

POST #5 I'll stay away from that king thing! I wouldn't make a very good king, anyway.I guess I see the criminality concept as being very close to the fundamental conservative social metaphor (strict father). It is a reflection of the basic way we treat and classify people in close proximity. The conservative view is that we solve problems by banishing people. It didn't work for the ancients, and it still doesn't work. A good way to recognize progressives and conservatives is how they behave when they enter a group, or especially when they are part of an evolving group. Conservatives try to establish who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are, and then they go to work trying to get rid of the "bad guys".Real progressives don't operate that way at all. They are genuinely different. Their solutions are inclusive, empathic, and fair minded. They don't classify people into those irrevocable value categories on short notice, but try to understand and work within the natural dynamics of the group in other ways. They recognize and accept people who are different from them. While they are fair minded and respect laws and rules, they also respond differently to misbehavior. Frequently they try to understand misbehavior by trying to empathize and understand how they might behave under different circumstances, or even just how they might feel or be tempted to behave. This is not the same thing as condoning crime, although that is what conservatives say it is. It is just a different approach to crime that involves trying to understand why it happens without invoking oversimplified ideas about the dispositional character of people. Conservatives will protest as loud as anyone else when you try to explain their behavior as dispositional, but they are quick to invoke that explanation for others.Changing attitudes about criminal justice is going to be a hard nut to crack. I think nothing much will happen in terms of real social change unless we do that first, just as the conservatives did it first. It is somehow closer to our everyday experience than more abstract issues. Do we really care about the kid that broke our car window, and do we understand why it is important to the community that we do? Do we understand why it is important to care about the teenager who sold drugs to our children? Do we understand that we can get rid of that one parson, but another will take his place if we don't understand why it happened to begin with? The conservative cognitive infrastructure provides a lot of press to simply insist the only solution is to banish the person, but I think we are getting close to a breaking point on that. Banished people aren't really banished. They find each other, and they organize. When they do, you have a formidable enemy on your hands.What percentage of the United States population is on the wrong side of the criminal justice system? If we continue to grow that group, how long will it be before we have a significant proportion of our population who have less than human status, know who their enemies are, and are organized? Might it be in our best interest to consider a little more rational approach to deviance?

From: "janine kovac" The other problem with the prison thing is that criminals evoke fear . . .norepinephine, the neurotransmitter of the Strict Father model! Criminals are also in the one category for which the nurturant parent (might) not haveempathy, if it threatens the family. And whether it is a legitimate fear or legitimate threat or not, is a different discussion. . . actually, I guess that's the whole point of this discussion - that the prototype of the criminal as murderer vs. x or y or z is used to generate fear.

POST #6 I think those are good thoughts, Janine! Your point may support my idea that this is somehow primary and universally important. You note that the frame can even be activated in people who would otherwise think differently. Perhaps that is why it was so successful. Perhaps that is why they did it first. It was the trade off that they figured even liberals were willing to make: Look the other way about how we actually administer justice, and we will keep you safe! Then it was easier to do the same thing with economics, and then national security, and so on.

POST #7 The left has lacked organization and it has hurt us. In fact, I have repeated that for years. I think the lack of organization was fed a lot by apathy, though, as people simply withdrew into their personal worlds when politics and public life went sour and the conservative movement gained momentum. There will be a higher level of organization that grows out of the progressive movement, but it awaits things like funding and widespread support. We can fund our ideas, and the successful netroots political campaigns have shown that $20contributions can produce a viable candidate. It isn't unreasonable to think that the same can fund a cognitive infrastucture.The problem is that the political left in this country has been decimated. We have had our whole approach to public life wiped out, and it has been long enough since that happened that few people even remember a worldview other than conservatism as being realistic, respectable or viable. All of the values that were part of the last progressive infrastucture have been systematically ridiculed and destroyed by conservative propaganda. Young people have been taught to laugh at us. We have been painted as a completely "failed" endeavor.Our most central defining values, as they are often stated, are still viewed by most (even most progressives) as something childish, naïve and unrealistic. A lot can be done in three decades with billions of dollars dedicated to it.
I see the movement just now trying to find its way out of that. People have to learn to start saying things that their school teachers taught them were errors. The older people have to start saying things again that they have been ridiculed and punished for saying in the past. At this time, it almost has to be an organic creative kind of process. The problem we are dealing with is not simple. It is not a task of overcoming one idea or even a small set of ideas that have to be countered. It is an entire culture with a strong and resilient infrastructure.