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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bush's other shoe...

I have learned to cringe, whenever Bush makes an overture to a progressive organization. It is now a fact of life that if he champions a cause in public, he's killing it in private. When he agreed to speak in front of the NAACP (who gets a lot wrong, but got Bush precisely right) I had one thought: shit. Luckily, African Americans aren't in internment camps, but Kay did bring this tidbit to my attention:

Civil rights hiring shifted in Bush era

So, much for 'My party has not reached out to African Americans.' I guess a reasonable mind could see why. I especially like the part where the Justice Department has seen a dramatic drop in pursuing cases of discrimination against African Americans and sought discrimination against whites and Christians.

Yeah, those groups are under fire.

link | posted by Jae at 5:20 AM | 1 comments

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I have it!

I have sat in front of this monitor and agonized about what the future of progressive politics looks like. And, as Nietzsche said, "When you stare into the monitor, it stares back at you." Or, something like that. Anyhoo (as a friend of mine says), two things occurred to me. 1) Money is the problem with politics today and 2) Moderate Republicans and Progressive Dems have a common interest in seizing federal government away from its hijackers and getting back to substantive dialogues.

My suggestion for #1 is that I welcome any and all blogs that expand on this premise: How can we take money out of politics... more specifically, how can we neutralize its affect on the campaign trail? My first thoughts were to take the internet and have it offer something I call Absolute Politcal Transparency (I like acronyms that use the word "absolute"). An APT website would allow candidates to post any and all of its material into a secure site that would be monitored by the other side, so rejoinders could be added. The cost? Free. This means candidates can post speeches - text and videocast; brochures, pamphlets, position papers -- all of it. Free. The site would be overseen by either disinterested parties and/or opposition types. And -- this is important -- ALL of a candidate's material must be posted. After all, it's free, why wouldn't they want to post it all? The upshot is voters get to see the venality of some candidates, the inconsistencies of others, the habits and patterns of all of them.

My goal is HOW. How do we add to this framework to make it real? E.g. start in a medium-sized city to get the bugs out? Push the polticians for laws that make such APT sites taxfree? What are the technical difficulties... bandwidth, maintenance, security? I would love to create a fully-fleshed framework based on the input of hundreds, if not thousands of regular folks.

Post at will, people.

link | posted by Jae at 5:47 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Black people and Republicanism... just say 'no'

By Adam Nagourney, New York Times — Even for some Republicans, the notion was hard to take at face value: the Republican Party would make an explicit play for black votes, a strike at the Democratic base and a part of a larger White House plan to achieve long-term Republican dominance.

Starting after George W. Bush held onto the White House in 2004, the party chairman, Ken Mehlman, filled his schedule with appearances before black audiences. He apologized for what he described as the racially polarized politics of some Republicans over the past 25 years. And the White House, in pressing issues like same-sex marriage to appeal to social conservatives, was also hoping to gain support among churchgoing African-Americans.

There has been no end to speculation about what the party was up to. Was it simply a ploy to improve the party’s image with moderate white voters? Did the White House see an opportunity to make small though significant changes in the American political system by pulling even a relative few black voters into its corner in important states like Ohio? (Yes, and yes.)

But as Mr. Bush is tentatively scheduled to speak at the N.A.A.C.P. convention in Washington this week — after five years of declining to appear before an organization with which he has had tense relations — it seems fair to say that whatever the motivation, the effort has faltered.

Mr. Mehlman’s much-publicized apology to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People seems to have done little to address the resentment that built up over what civil rights leaders view as decades of racial politics practiced or countenanced by Republicans. One example they point to is the first Bush’s use of the escape of Willie Horton, a black convicted murderer, to portray his Democratic opponent in the 1988 election, Michael S. Dukakis, as soft on crime.

That perception of Republicans as insensitive to racial issues was fed again by the opposition mounted by some House conservatives to an extension of the Voting Rights Act. The House approved the extension last week.

“I have heard Ken Mehlman talk about the Republican Party as the party of Lincoln,” said Bruce S. Gordon, the president of the N.A.A.C.P. “I have not seen that evidence itself as much as Ken would suggest. If the party wishes to reflect the principles of Lincoln, it has a long way to go.”

Coming as the immigration fight on Capitol Hill has undercut Republican efforts to appeal to Hispanic voters, the disappointing results of the outreach to black voters is bad news for a White House that once viewed the 2002 and 2004 elections as a platform to achieve a long-term shift in the balance of power between the two parties. Forcing Democrats to fight to hold on to black voters and Hispanic voters was a crucial part of that strategy.

“I take my hat off to Ken; what he has done is unprecedented in the time I’ve been a Republican,” said J. C. Watts Jr., a former congressman from Oklahoma, who is black. “However, I remain unconvinced that it is in the DNA of our party to get it done. There are just too many things out there that I think Americans of African descent have concerns about.”

Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, who attended Harvard Law School with Mr. Mehlman and who is black, said: “Ken was sincere in wanting to reach out to the African-American community, and it would be a healthy thing if both parties actively competed for the African-American vote. Unfortunately, the agenda of the Republican Party keeps getting in the way of that outreach.”

For all the emphasis that Mr. Mehlman has put on this drive, Mr. Bush — who is highly unpopular among black people — has not made this effort a public priority of his White House, though Mr. Mehlman said Bush shared his desire to expand the party’s appeal to black people.

In an interview, Mr. Mehlman played down the effect of the delay in approving the extension to the Voting Rights Act. He noted that the party had black candidates running in statewide races in four states this fall, and that he always viewed the effort as a long and steady climb.

“As I said from the day I started this,’’ Mr. Mehlman said, “there are going to be ups and there are going to be downs — this is going to be a difficult process. It took the Republican Party 40 years, since 1964, to get 8 percent of the vote.”
He argued that Republican advocacy of economic policies that would give more power to individuals rather than to government — like health saving accounts — would appeal to middle-class black voters as much as it would to whites.

“What we have today that we had less of 10 years ago is a strong and powerful message,’’ Mr. Mehlman said, “and we have candidates.”

Lynn Swann, an African-American Republican running for governor in Pennsylvania, argued that his own candidacy showed the extent to which the Republican Party was becoming more diverse and that the debate about the Voting Rights Act extension did not distract from that.

“I don’t think it undercuts it — people make mistakes,” Mr. Swann said. “I think of Senator Al Gore Sr., who is on record for one of the longest filibusters against the Civil Rights Act when it was first initiated. And he’s a Democrat.”

Whether the Republican effort ever had much of a chance is open to debate. Donna Brazile, a prominent black Democratic strategist, initially warned Democrats to take Mr. Mehlman’s efforts seriously, but Ms. Brazile said last week that any progress he and the White House had been making ended with the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina last year.

“He was on a roll, but Katrina stopped him in his tracks,” Ms. Brazile said of Mr. Mehlman. “They are eager to tap into the political support of the African-American community, but they don’t have any legs to stand on.”

The central problem for Republicans is that Mr. Mehlman’s very visible effort to reach out to African-Americans ran into the wall of historical trends that had pushed black people toward the Democratic Party and Republicans more to the right.

“You have someone stand up one day and say, ‘We’re going to make a major outreach to African-American voters,’ and the next day, you pull the Voting Rights Act from the floor,” said Representative Melvin Watt, Democrat of North Carolina and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

As evidence of what has become one of the hallmark initiatives of Mr. Mehlman’s chairmanship, his office said he had made 48 visits to African-American audiences since becoming chairman in January 2005. At the same time, Republican strategists have appealed to socially conservative black people by emphasizing social issues like same-sex marriage.

Mr. Watts, the former Republican congressman, called that a “lame strategy” and said the top concerns of African-American voters were racial and economic issues.

“It’s a little bit insulting to all those pastors out there and people who stand with the party on the social issues,’’ Mr. Watts said, when the party then does “nothing” to help black people on opportunity issues.

David A. Bositis, senior political analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan Washington group that studies black issues, said of the Republican effort: “They haven’t had any success. But I thought all along it was never going to be realistic.”

link | posted by Jae at 6:33 AM | 3 comments

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Logical conclusions

Time won't let us keep our viewpoints. Just as it takes away our beauty, our vigor, our tumescence, our pain, every day it takes our viewpoints and replaces them with slightly altered versions of the ones before. Don't believe me? David Horowitz was a liberal. The Taliban were students. The CIA (at least its precursor, the OSS) didn't believe in assassination or torture. Ann Coulter was a Democrat. Michael Jackson was cool. Politically, neo-cons were once liberals and being a liberal was considered an upstanding viewpoint.

Visions of Kristallnacht now dance in my head because we are so bread and circused up that we couldn't stop what's coming with a hall pass from God. What's coming is an increasingly skittish conservative minority who believe five things fervently:
1. Rich people should make the rules for everybody
2. Everybody hates us (rich people, white people, conservatives, etc)
3. The world is going to hell
4. Compassion is weakness
5. The ends justify the means

That's it. Five things. It's my universal field theory of conservative thought. Notice there is no mention of God, family, gayness or patriotism. In the dystopia of their choosing, why fix a broken world? Get that last quart of gas before it dries up. In a world where everybody hates us, isn't our right to torture those damn foreigners? And, if we have the technology to spy on every fucking soul on the planet, then by all means...

But, the CIA hasn't discovered a way to torture time; there is no conservative bill that allows for clocks to stand still. And, the untouchable nature of time kind of frightens me. How will it affect my attitude? Like the old men in armchairs who can't wait for young men to march to war and die, I am so disgusted by what I see day in and day out from these political usurpers that I am almost willing to let the best part of me march into oblivion.

I am almost willing to let die my belief -- my intense, lifelong belief -- in the good of humanity. I am ashamed and appalled by Muslims who torture and kill in the name Allah just as I am ashamed and appalled by soldiers who rape and kill in the name of a thrill.

Time after time I soak in atrocities, absurdities, lies, profanities, idiocies... and I become closer to what George W. Bush wants me to be: a revenge machine. He doesn't care if I hate him and his cronies, so long as I hate. My viewpoint is shifting, almost imperceptibly, to reflect the right's intolerance in a left-leaning mirror. I want action; I want them gone.

I. am. angry.

Anger is a hard horse to hold onto, especially when you see almost nothing else. Bush - angry. Rice - angry. Rove - angry. Rumsfeld - angry. Snow - greedy. Cheney - rabid.

I am fighting a fight that most all of us are losing because we think in terms of appropriate response -- that is, the Sean Connery line in 'The Untouchables,' (which defines 21st century America): 'You don't bring a knife to a gunfight.'

Here, we thought Bush had some kind of conservative utopia in mind, where abortions were illegal, we were feared by the world (kind of like Russia used to be), gays kept their mouths shut, our betters made the decisions for all of us and we were too shellshocked to notice how Aryan the phrase Homeland Security is.

We thought he was trying to carry on the American tradition of fairplay and respect for our shared past -- so we debated him; filibustered him; appealed to his sense of honor.

Nah. Didn't work. Bush and his posse are conservative like Log Cabin Republicans are straight.

I've called that crew brilliantly evil before, but they've outdone themselves with this one. The devil's biggest trick is getting everyone to believe he doesn't exist. This devil's trick has been to convert the opposition into demons without them knowing it.

My example? That motley crew of black men who were going to "bomb the Sears Tower."

The media reports the group's only "expert" at terrorism was an FBI plant who basically organized them. The government terrorist laid out the plans and when these low-income, dead-end Americans seized on, they were arrested and charged with terrorism.

While the government pats itself on the back and calls the nation secure, my take is they were shooting fish in a barrel. Guess what? MOST of us are pissed off. MOST of us want some relief from this unrelenting pressure. I'm pretty sure that group of black guys had been kicked in the ass about 100,000 times more by George W. Bush than Osama bin Laden. I'm even willing to consider the Jerry Springer factor... they were willing to act a fool just so they could be important, even if for the wrong reasons, even if for a moment.

As time passes, we drown a little bit more in this pool of hate. As we lose hours, days, weeks, months and years to this, we are being programmed: a little less understanding, a little more intolerant; a lot more angry.

Isn't it about time we perfected an antidote for Bush's bullshit?

link | posted by Jae at 11:12 AM | 6 comments

Monday, July 03, 2006

The great unraveling?

As I was saying to a friend recently…

I fear that it’s not just our democracy that is breaking down but our very civilization.

We have entered an alternate reality where our laws are nothing more than cheap trading cards, swapped for money and power; truth is mutable, having nothing to do with observable evidence; having ethics is considered a liberal character-flaw; and morality is a marketing tool.

Ron Suskind says it a little more succinctly in the preface of his book, The One Percent Doctrine: “… an age when assertion tends to overwhelm evidence, when claim so easily trumps fact.”

My friend (OK, Jae) seemed unmoved by my epiphany (or maybe he was only trying to quell his own panic by taking the cosmic view) and alluded to entropy, the “inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.”

About 20 years ago I read the Welsh Mabinogion (the text of British Celtic lore) and I remember eight words of wisdom uttered by the deity, Math. An epic battle had been fought and, looking over the bloody battlefield from the depths of despair, he said, ‘It’s all part of the great going forward.’

Around that same time, I listened to an interview with a philosopher -- I think it was Jacob Needleman. Responding to the assertion that man is at war with nature he said that ‘man [and all that man does] is natural. No less so than tigers, toads or tubers. It wasn’t a value judgment (nor license to destroy), just a statement of fact.

Those two notions combined to form, what is to this day, my spiritual foundation (hey, what can I say… I was 25). We are not above nature, we are nature and we are always evolving. Even the process of devolution (intellectual, moral, cultural) is, part of the evolution of man.

I’d always taken comfort in that notion. I like that we (every living organism) are all in this together and that all that happens within the microcosm, Earth, is a result of our interconnectedness and not celestial whim.

But that was before global warming showed up on the radar. Throughout human history, the great going forward has taken place within the reliable system of seasonal change: the bounty of summer before the harvest of autumn; followed by the fallow period of winter and the rebirth of early spring. Even when nature throws a curve ball, giving us a year of draught or flooding or whatever, the big timepiece in the heavens is still ticking. We could count on more seasonable weather the next year… or the next. All part of this intricate dance we do.

But we’ve fucked all that up. We can no longer find the downbeat in earth’s natural cycles.

This is definitely not part of the great going forward… at least not unless we expand our consciousness to include the whole Universe. Raise the cosmic debt ceiling?

+ + +

We here a lot about ‘tipping points’ these days. The population, the planet, the war are all, either approaching or have arrived at the moment of critical mass, the threshold that leads to a new and irreversible development.

The complete annihilation of our species notwithstanding, my other fear (shit, now I sound like a Republican all terrified and stuff) is that there is no way to reverse the damage that has been done to those systems -- government, science and media… (ok, and religion) -- that most define who we are as Americans. Have we reached an ethical tipping point? Just as every Iraqi child to witness the murder of a family member must necessarily evolve into an ‘insurgent,’ must every American child to come of age during the Bush regime evolve into a superstitious, fearful, reactionary with no moral compass? And will these traits multiply exponentially until we have de-evolved into a society jerked along from one manufactured or real crisis to the next, living in chaos, no one agreeing on basic definitions?

I said to Jae, for all the scofflaws on the road, our traffic system works pretty well. We all more or less agree to (or, at the very least understand) the rules and the reality of the road. Despite rogue drivers cutting off other drivers, mis-signaling their intentions, slamming into bumpers, the system works surprisingly well. Imagine if you could never be sure of the meaning of a red light, whether one way’ applied to some, but not all or a left turn-signal had shades of meaning. It would be complete chaos. For those who did arrive at their destination, they’d me much worse the wear for their effort.

Anyhoo, these are some of my thoughts on this beautiful 4th of July weekend.

Be afraid.

Posted by Kay

link | posted by Jae at 12:15 PM | 5 comments

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