October 05, 2005

On the road

I'll be out of town for the next few days, embracing that ol' pioneer spirit and journeying westward to help celebrate my Mother's 80th birthday. While I'm a bit uneasy about traveling so deep into the NASCAR Nation, eighty is such an incredible milestone that it pretty much demands my attendance.

Besides - it's MOM! And she'd beat me senseless if I didn't show up...

Meanwhile, keep reading and stay informed. Write a letter to your Congressman, drop a line to the Mayor, or start a debate using the comment thread below. As frustrating as things sometimes seem, the future is still ours to shape. So be a player, and raise your voice.
¡Hasta la próxima!

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What's in your wallet?

Here's another story that's been kept pretty quiet, probably because it involves, once again, the successful efforts of a powerful corporate lobby to essentially write its own legislation in Washington, aided (of course) by the Borg Collective formerly known as the Republican Party.

Naturally, I'm talking about the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (S.256), which shifts into full gear in less than two weeks. In case you missed it, this new law will protect our poor, starving credit-card companies from... well, from us, by making it much harder for persons with legitimate financial troubles to meet the arbitrary standards now required for filing.

Can't have VISA and American Express going hungry now, can we?

In addition to providing one more example of just what money can buy in the hallowed halls of our government, this bill stands as a further assault on the already reeling middle class from what is the most transparently feudal Administration in recent memory. Early this year, 104 professors of bankruptcy and commercial law petitioned the Senate to examine the dangers inherent in this bill, stating,
This bill is deeply flawed, and will harm small businesses, the elderly, and families with children. (The) overwhelming majority of people in bankruptcy are in financial distress as a result of job loss, medical expense, divorce, or a combination of those causes...

Our concern is with the provisions (of the bill) addressing "bankruptcy abuse". These provisions are so wrongheaded and flawed that they make the bill as a whole unsupportable.
Guess the Senate didn't care all that much about "small businesses, the elderly, and families with children," with all those abused credit-card lobbyists to fend for.

The most interesting aspect of the timing of this legislation is how it will potentially affect a significant number of Katrina victims, something foreseen by an observant few in the days immediately following the storm. The Washington Post report says,
A coalition of bankruptcy lawyers and consumer advocates has pressed Congress to delay the law's implementation date for Hurricane Katrina victims, especially since many had no plans to file until the storm damaged their homes and cut into their pocketbooks.

The U.S. Trustee Program, which oversees the nation's bankruptcy courts, yesterday announced it would temporarily waive the credit-counseling requirement for Katrina victims.
Whew! Good to know that those without homes, cars, roads, or telephone service won't have to find and join credit-abuse support groups before rushing to file! And I thought the government didn't have a heart.

So keep your fingers crossed, kids. Pray that your jobs and health stay rosy. October 17th is just around the corner, and we know where we rank on the Administration's priority list. And as for all that money that our credit-card lenders will be able to hoard and pump back into the pockets of a cooperative Congress, only one thought comes to mind...


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I don't know why...

...but I feel better every time this guy's on the case. Still acting more Presidential after five years out of office than the White House's current occupant, Bubba mingles with the masses on the Gulf Coast.

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October 04, 2005

Tall tales

Yesterday, echoing the ridiculous contentions made by the President just a few weeks before, Dick Cheney told a captive audience of Marines who'd just gotten back from Iraq that... uhhhhhh... well, basically... it's all Clinton's fault. Aren't we wise to this Tinker to Evers to Chance medicine show yet, this twisted rationale of Democratic Weakness = 9/11 Attacks = Iraqi Invasion? I think if we have to listen to this same disingenuous line of reasoning for three more years, I'll go stark raving mad.

President Clinton's stance against global terror is well documented, and he strove throughout his tenure to appoint qualified and knowledgeable people to address the task. His response to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was to hunt down, prosecute, and punish the individuals responsible. In fact, one of the other "weaknesses" cited by Mr. Cheney, retaliatory missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, was applauded by Republican idol Newt Gingrich as "the right thing to do."

It is true, however, that Mr. Clinton, despite his public stance and good intentions, didn't always get it right either, though I would still contend that his very lack of belligerence was a smarter long-term road to follow than the abrasive "course" of nation building. He apparently wasted four distinct opportunities to eliminate bin Laden, deciding instead that operational intelligence was uncertain, and that civilians might be killed in the proposed strikes. In other words, he decided to "err on the side of life." Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said correctly to the 9/11 Commission,
"We certainly recognized the threat posed by the terrorist groups. (But) things looked very different before 9/11. We were mostly accused of overreacting, not underreacting."
That statement would seem to be borne out by several of the things said at the time by Conservative leaders about Mr. Clinton's intervention in Bosnia, a far more justifiable military response to an immediate crisis than was George's Baghdad Adventure:
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." --Governor George W. Bush

"You can support the troops but not the President." --Rep. Tom DeLay

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" --Sean Hannity

"(The) President... is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home" --Sen. Rick Santorum

(research by Lyn Davis Lear, 08.15.05)
Yeah, guys. Sounds real macho to me.

The other thing that really annoys me about the Veep's stirring little message is the implication that this Administration is doing so much better by comparison, when evidence abounds that the polar opposite is true. Six months ago, the State Department concluded that there has been an appalling increase in global terrorism since Georgie took the reins, a fact which the Administration officially decided not to make public. And for a thorough (if admittedly left-leaning) comparison of the Clinton and Bush Administrations' attitudes and actions concerning global terrorism, check out this site which I stumbled on one afternoon. Some of the older links, sadly, no longer work, but the conclusions are crystal clear.

The most insidious aspect of the canned talking points regurgitated by Mr. Cheney is his blatant repetition of "THE BIG LIE" that Iraq and the war on terror have anything to do with one another. In spite of considerable evidence and public exposure that refutes this fairy tale, the Bush Administration is still allowed to spout its drivel unchallenged by the mainstream media. It's not enough to just report anymore, boys. If Americans proved anything during the last election, it is that they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the truth or they'll overlook it completely. And it's past time for our Fourth Estate to point out the factual errors routinely quoted by the Bushies on a much more regular, and vigorous, basis.

I guarantee you that if things were going well in Iraq we'd never hear Bill Clinton's name invoked at all. OK, maybe in conjunction with Katrina relief. But there surely wouldn't be this orchestrated message of "we inherited a real mess and none of this ever would've happened if our predecessor had been strong and Saddam and 9/11 and remember the Alamo" nonsense, which is intended solely to divert attention from, and avoid accountability for, one annoying little fact:

You guys f#%ked up big time! All by yourselves.

We're fighting a war of aggression in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, and things are only getting worse. It's time to let Messrs. Cheney and Bush know once and for all that we just don't buy the snake-oil they're peddlin' - and it's time to get serious about ending our involvement in Iraq, instead of spinning more tall tales of why we should stay.

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October 03, 2005

Tip'o'the iceberg

In the event you haven't read it yet (and with this detestable new "Times Select" thievery in place, chances are you haven't), the New York Times' Frank Rich launched this salvo Sunday, targeting not only The Hammer himself, but also the "vast Boschian canvas of depravity" our government as a whole has become.

Mr. DeLay's arrogant, irresponsible style of "governance" was just the most visible tip of a cancerous iceberg known as modern-day Washington. Mr. Rich writes,
It's a government that has spent more of the taxpayers' money than any since L.B.J.'s... even as it rewards its benefactors with tax breaks and corporate pork. It's a government so used to lying that Mr. DeLay could say with a straight face that the cost of Katrina relief could not be offset by budget cuts because there was no governmental fat left to cut. It's the government that fostered the wholesale loss of American lives in both Iraq and on the Gulf Coast by putting cronyism above patriotism.
With today's second DeLay indictment on charges of money laundering, there is some genuine hope that Tommy's race is finally run. But with the wake of political corruption he'll leave behind him, we all have to temper our joy and continue to ask ourselves...

What then?

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I couldn't have...

...said it better myself. Skeptical commentary on Harriet Miers and her (potentially) spiffy new job, compliments of Snips of Reality.

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Too much sun?

Did I miss the news that the Sunshine State had seceded from the U.S.? Or is it that Florida is actually a preview of the Conservative vision for America? Two more reasons today to avoid that trip to the Magic Kingdom.

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Pounding the Hammer

A scathing article by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.

Makes me take a second look at Scott McClellan's official statement that DeLay is "a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people" and a "good ally" of President Bush.

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A bully on the playground

I know I sound like a broken record concerning developments with Iran, just an endless rerun of a tedious show that's not getting much network promotion, what with Katrina and FEMA and Roberts and DeLay hogging all the best time-slots. Hell, even Iraq isn't scoring the numbers right now, and may be moved to a different hour in the line-up.

So I understand that you're bored. It is a really scary drama, but it's set in a recognizable location and familiar genre, and we're not all that tempted to TiVo each episode and watch regularly.

Nevertheless, here's our story thus far:
The Bush Administration turns some of its attention to an Oil-Rich Nation in the Middle East, one of those conveniently enrolled in a unique club called The Axis of Evil. Uncle Sam uses words like "nuclear weapons" and "military programs" and "threat to world stability".

Americans, conditioned by the relentless White House PR machine to see danger lurking around every corner, find it easy to distrust this Oil-Rich Nation, having tussled with it in the recent past.

The Oil-Rich Nation denies evil intentions, and has the backing of several global heavy-hitters to boot. World stability decreases.

IAEA inspections fail to provide any real evidence that secret military nuclear programs are underway or planned for the future.

Even if such plans were underway and had somehow escaped detection, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, states that said Oil-Rich Nation is at least "five to 10 years away from a weapons capability."

U.S. employs irrefutable "Liar, liar, pants on fire" rebuttal, and, along with old buddy England, strong-arms a scant majority of the nations on the IAEA Board into rushing this Oil-Rich Nation toward referral to the Security Council for sanctions.

Oil-Rich Nation, beginning to feel more and more like a cornered fox, responds with increasingly belligerent language, acting in its own national interest and self defense.

U.S. employs irrefutable "See, I told ya so" gambit, faxes talking points to Hannity/Limbaugh/Coulter triumvirate, and swaggers off to a fund-raiser.
There is a familiar ring to this plotline. And industry wags say that viewer ratings are in the cellar. Only this time we can't change the channel. In this reality show, we're all unwitting contestants.

I know it's "been there, done that", but that's precisely what makes it so frightening. And we have to do something to motivate all our elected officials in Washington to switch on their sets and pay careful attention. What better diversionary tactic to throw at the American public than a return to those good ol' "War President" days, when flags (and poll numbers) flew so much higher 'gainst a bright blue American sky...

Stay tuned. There's a bully on the playground. And he's trying to pick a deadly fight.

- - - - -

(I'm too perturbed by this scenario to be clever with the links, but read these news items from around the globe. I find the Indian and Arab perspectives to be particularly interesting.)

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October 02, 2005

Not quite good enough

I'm trying real hard to feel happy about Connecticut's legalization yesterday of "civil unions" for same-sex couples. After all, it is a baby step forward for committed gay and lesbian partners, and does acknowledge and protect certain rights that should be afforded any two people in love.

But that annoying, rational voice in my head keeps muttering things like "half-assed compromise" and "separate but equal" and "colored only", phrases connected with a mindset that avoids actually setting things right, and instead tries only to placate both sides of the issue without pleasing either. It's the language of Jim Crow. It's an attitude that doesn't fully address the "equal" part of the cliché, but sure reinforces the "separate". It's a patchwork solution that allows for the continued marginalization of a significant percentage of our population as unacceptably different, out-of-the-ordinary, second-class.

And that's not quite good enough.

This same line of thinking simmers right under the surface in Governor Schwarzenegger's decision Saturday to veto a bill approved by the Sate Senate (which "recast the state's legal definition of marriage as a union between two people"), while simultaneously claiming he would "support current domestic partnership rights and... continue to vigorously defend and enforce these rights." Sorry, Ahnuld, but to paraphrase a line from T3, this simply demonstrates that your CPU is not programmed to understand the complexities of human pair-bonding.

Until this nation decides to follow the recent example of Massachusetts and join the 21st Century, half-measures such as "civil unions" will do nothing more than telegraph a message to the world community that America, despite our claims to the contrary, is not really about justice and equality for all. Instead, the institutionalized homophobia that masquerades as "family values" in this nation is much more about rights for the select few. Privileges for the government-approved. "Us" versus "them". It's an abhorrent and antiquated view that's focused only on the mechanics of sexual congress (see Peeping Tom, n.), while ignoring the inherent fairness of supporting stable, loving relationships regardless of how the puzzle pieces fit.

So I'm trying to be happy. Really, really hard. But when I see that a 19-year-old B.U. Spanish major understands this issue better than our supposedly wise elected leaders, I can't quite bring myself to celebrate. America has to do better in its policies toward the gay community. And "separate but equal" is not a policy that should make any of us proud.

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