Monday, November 29, 2004

Raise A Glass, Fill A Pipe...

I'm not one who mourns much. Way I look at it, you're basically given a choice about how to live your life: you can enjoy it or you can let it grind you down. So, the way I figure, if someone does everything he or she can to enjoy life, then that's a life worth celebrating, not mourning. Sure, you mourn not having that person in your life, but don't let that sadness overwhelm why that person filled the hole he or she filled in your life in the first place. Life is a tapestry, dear hearts, and our friends, loved ones and the people we admire are merely patches in the grand quilt.

This concept goes double for musicians or writers or actors or other random famous people. Yeah, I was bummed out when Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, Douglas Adams and Bill Hicks died, but again, those are all cats that lived life by their terms and did what they felt was right. And, of course, I've always got what they left behind to remember them by.

Still, with that in mind, I feel a certain amount of sadness at the news of Larry Brown's passing. He was a short story writer based in Oxford, Mississippi, and a damn fine one. I'm not one generally given to fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed short-story collections like Big, Bad Love and Facing The Music. It's good stuff, definately check him out.

Now, what's funny to me is how I got turned on to Brown's stuff. Brent Best of Slobberbone, one of my favorite rock bands of the past fifteen years, introduced me to his books and my dear friend Jenn Bryant bought me some of his books for a birthday a few years back. Like I said, I don't generally read much fiction these days, but I dug the hell out of Brown's depictions of life, love and existence in a small town. Coming from the exact place he was writing about - life Faulkner - it really hit home. However, Brent -a helluva great guy - was aghast I'd never heard of Larry. It's not my fault. As I told him, for some reason, Mississippi doesn't care much for writers until after they're dead.

Go figure. Anyhow, love to Larry's family and friends, and to his fans, maybe it's time to re-read Joe.

I Really Shouldn't Be Shocked By This...

But what can I say, it offends my sense of logic. I don't know if y'all heard, but back Nov. 2, the state of Alabama had a vote on whether or to remove the language in the state's constitution that, more or less, segregated the school system. It failed, by a very close margin - just over 1,300 votes - and people are bent out of shape about it. Logically enough, I’d say. Now, granted, the state's law is trumped by the Civil Rights triumphs of the late '60s, so the whole vote was symbolic at best, but still. It boggles my mind that generally good people - and people in Alabama are generally good folks, just like folks everywhere - would vote to keep segregation on the books.

Of course, there are a couple reasons for the outcome. One is, apparently, people are uncomfortable with monkeying with a constitution. Okay, I can see that, but still, three other amendments were passed by the good people of Alabama Nov. 2.

Another reason is, of course, racism. The South is still very, very racist, even if it isn't as overt as it once was. My take on all that is rather simple. Now, I've never been one to defend certain indefensible aspects of the South's peculiarities, and especially with the limp "Well, the rest of the country does the same thing". But, well... it's true. This is a virulently racist country and it's so ingrained in our culture that most folks don't recognize it. Sure, the South is screwed up, but so's the rest of the country. Fixing just one part will, in the end, do no good.

And we come to the final reason. Taxes. Yep, taxes. The original language in the state constitution said the state of Alabama isn't required to publicly fund education, which gave them an out when it came to the whole "separate but equal" thing. Seems a group of yay-hoos headed up by Roy Moore - the dingbat who made headlines with a two-ton Ten Commandments statue last year - were all bent out of shape because they were afraid those darn liberal activist federal judges would use it as a backdoor to "force" the state to raise taxes to better fund education.

Let me write that again.

These yay-hoos spent money and fought to keep racist language in the law of the land so their taxes would go up in order to better educate their children. Once again, they were afraid they'd have to pay more taxes so as to fund better schools and smarter kids in a state, lest we forget, regularly scrapes the bottom of the barrels when it comes to school quality. As it stands right now, Alabama spends just over $5,400 per student, just above Arkansas and my own home state Mississippi.

Now, I can't remember where - and I'd certainly appreciate it if someone refreshed my memory - but I seem to remember reading somewhere that a 1993 federal court case prevented states from raising taxes solely to fund education. I guess it should also be noted that the group who led the fight against removing the language from what most historians considered the nation's most bloated state constitution - up to 745 amendments - was our old friends the Christian Coalition.

Well, of course they did. Like I said, none of this should give me, a near 30-year resident of dear ol' Dixie, one bit of pause. But it does. People can't figure out why schools are a wreck, yet they scream like banshees on blow if even the merest suggestion of the tiniest sacrifice is asked of them.

And we're surprised at the popularity of Survivor. Go figure.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Throwing My Hat On The Rack

Too occupied to go into great detail, so do check this out. Seems the hot news story on Drudge and Rush about a California teacher suspended for teaching the Declaration Of Independence because it mentions "God" is horseshit. Apparently, the dude was peddling the"America is a Christian Nation" balderdash and handing out pamphlets expressing such beliefs. Apparently, that was what the school objected to, not the teacher's religion or the mentioning of The Big Guy in the DOI.

So, anyhow. Interesting stuff and, as always, never, ever believe the hype.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Just More Flip-Flopping...

Now, this is interesting. According to this story from The Boston Herald a number of formerly very hawkish individuals - from retired generals to CIA bigwigs - are saying we need to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. Why? Well, it would reduce the number of targets for the "freedom-hating insurgents" who, for some reason, don't seem real appreciable of the big liberatin' we did over there. Long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, they say, is looking more and more like it'll be a serious threat to the overall goals of freedom, peace, democracy and free kittens to the Iraqi people. A money quote, if you will, from neoconservative "thinker" Max Boot:

"This is turning out to be a lot harder than anyone expected -- and harder than it needed to be"

Well, with all due respect, Mr. Boot, a goodly number of us - both here in America and around the world - knew from the get-go that the Little King's Big Iraqi Oedipal Complex wasn't exactly going to be a walk in the park. But, as we all learned, Bush doesn't listen to "focus groups", especially those exercising their First Amendment rights.
Hey, If Ya Can't Beat 'Em, Make Fun Of 'Em

This is amusing. Tacky, a bit childish and probably exploitive on some level, but funny all the same.

Much love to my compadre, the great Emerson Dameron, currently holding down the fort in the Windy City.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I Must've Missed That Part Of The Gospel...

Well, I swunny. A principal at Matanuska Christian School in Wasilla, Alaska, near Anchorage, was fired after ordering a teacher to paddle him in front of two students he caught kissing girls in the locker room for the second time in a week. And, apparently, they used Unfreid’s belt instead of a paddle.

Read that again.

Apparently, this guy, Steve Unfreid, figured the best way to teach the two teenagers - 17 and 18 - a lesson was to use reverse psychology. You know, the whole "this hurts me more than it hurts you" thing, but actually doing something that hurts you. Unfreid said the same technique cured his toddler son of chronic lying.

Okay, this gets better, but I gotta break in with something. Who in the hell paddles 18-year-old boys? Seriously. That in and of itself is screwed up. I've got mixed feelings about paddling and other forms of such discipline, but who in their right minds doesn't stop paddling kids older than 12 or so? Child abusers, that's who. But I digress...

Anyhow, the whole kissing incident went down in late October, and Unfreid apparently experienced some stress over the situation. So, he did the logical thing. He prayed. Seriously. Apparently, Jesus and/or God were able to take time out of his/their busy schedule of running the Whole Sort Of General Mish-Mash and told this dingaling the best way of dealing with these rapscallions was to take one for the team. As I said, I swunny.

(Note for non-stump jumpers: "I swunny" is short, somehow or another, for "I cannot logically accept that piece of information." Don't ask me how.)

Now, for me, that isn't even the funniest part. Personally, people doing goofy things in the name of The Swingin' Nazz or Big Daddy Cool is nothing new, as we all know. No, to me, the very funniest part is the school in question where the principal worked has a ban on corporal punishment of any kind. Well, apparently Jesus' opinion on things doesn't wash with he school board.

A huge dollop of manly love to the good Gen. J.C. Christian, a great American and true patriot.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Those Darn Liberal Activist Judges Are At It Again

Here's a nice piece of news. Monday, The United States Supreme Court overturned a Texas death sentence for LaRoyce L. Smith, a Dallas man convicted of the 1991 murdering of a co-worker at Taco Bell. What's unique about unique about Smith is, at the time, he was 19 and had an I.Q. of 78, below the level one would consider "retarded". During the sentencing phase of his trial, Smith was sentenced to death under a procedure that the Texas Legislature was in the process of amending to conform to Supreme Court rulings. In other words, the jury was gettin' him ready for Freddy in such a way that was no longer constitutional. So he shouldn't have been sentenced. But he was.

What's also unique about the case is that the Texas appeals court ignored problems that the Supreme Court had identified; in other words, completely ignoring the highest court in the land so's they could ace another dude. The USSC also delivered a nice-smack down on the way Texas handles the death penalty system, which is sorta like how McDonald's handles the drive-thru windows. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, there have been 943 executions in the United States. Texas has carried out 335, more than the next six states combined.

Tellingly, only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the opinion. They didn't offer an opinion why, though we can all probably guess.

Personally, I'm against the death penalty. For one, it does absolutely nothing to address the cause of murder, and therefore, isn't a deterrent no more than stomping on a cockroach is a deterrent to other bugs from entering your apartment. Sure, there are some who'll say, well, at least were shed of one cockroach, but that's bugs. This is people. Also, I don't know if you've ever lost a loved one, but nothing will ever fill that hole in your life. Killing their killer might bring a measure of vengeance, but it won't ease the pain. And being of a non-eschatological frame of mind, I for one see "death" as a fairly easy way out of punishment. Prison is no fun at all, dear hearts.

However, being the creature of compromise that I am, I could live with a death penalty if - and this is a big "if" - the American justice system wasn't so screwed up. In Texas especially, there's example after example of jurors not hearing mitigating circumstances, court-appointed lawyers who barely pay attention during the trial (including one who fell asleep) and a system that's more interested in numbers than actually serving society.

I'm not arguing that Smith is innocent or even that he should go free. He shouldn't. However, we shouldn't allow ourselves to fall so low that we'll kill someone, anyone, because we're too lazy as a society to play by the rules. Vengeance ain't justice, beloved.
This Is... Distressing

According to this piece from The New York Times, more than 2,000 former soldiers have been ordered back to military work in Afghanistan and Iraq. They call these soldiers "Individual Ready Reserve;" a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up. There's about 110,000 of them in the country.

What it boils down to is when one signs up for the Army, one signs on to an eight-year hitch. However, some opt to leave sooner for various reasons such as health or family issues. Some join the National Guard to complete their commitment, while others finish up their time in the IRR. Unlike the Guard, however, soldiers that are IRR do not get paid nor do they get regular training. In a sense, the IRR is the last resort, something to be tapped in case the country is in dire straits and its military reserves are spent.

And as bad as Iraq is, I can't think we're in that much danger from insurgents. A lot of the IRR cats have been out of the service for years, leading civilian lives and have no business being dropped into war zones with nothing more than "refresher training". Some numbers to consider:

Of the 4,000 former soldiers informed they must return to active duty, more than 1,800 have already requested exemptions or delays.

Of the 2,500 who were due to arrive on military bases for refresher training, 7,733 have not shown up.

The military hasn't called up reserves in this number since World War II. Iraq isn't Vietnam and it sure as hell isn't The Big One. There are several court cases that have been filed and many are fighting this. No one doubts these individuals patriotism, but one's gotta wonder about how much the top brass - both military and civilian - really cares about the people it puts in harm's way.

Is sending a 47-year-old man with serious back injuries, a seven-year absence from flying helicopters (his former specialty) and a brand-new baby really "supporting the troops"? Maybe if the Iraqi War had been planned better, we wouldn't have this mess or the one at Fallujah wouldn't be happening. Course, if we had leadership with an iota of sense, we wouldn't be in Iraq in the first place, Osama Bin Laden would be in the slammer somewhere and good men wouldn't have to be going to court to keep from having to leave their families.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Just A Few Short Ideas...

A little note before we begin: the following mostly appeared an hour or so ago atEschaton in a post concerning this story in The Washington Monthly. It's all about how a Democrat candidate won the governorship of Montana, an extremely red "Red State", by concentrating on environmental issues as they relate to hunters as well as environmentalist. He also went to the bat for small businesses and showcased how the state government in Helena more or less rolls over for Big Business.

Now, first off, there's no such thing as a "Red State". For that matter, there's no such thing as a "Blue State". In this post, I gave a link to Robert J. Vanderbei's county-by-county election map. It showed that even a heavily "red" state like Mississippi had a whole lot of blue and purple in it, especially in the Delta. In other words, not everyone in a state thinks the same, much less votes the same, so there's really no overwhelming conservative tide sweeping the country giving Bush and his cronies any sort of "mandate". This was an incredibly close race, with the outcome still being contested in New Mexico and Ohio. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that not only did Bush get the most votes ever for an incumbent, he was also an incumbent that had more people than ever vote against him than in any other race in history.

But I don't want to talk about that right now. What I want to talk about is how the Democrats can rebuild their party. Not win in 2008, mind you, but rebuild the party into a viable alternative to the GOP. Not many people in this country see it that way, and frankly, the national Democratic party has no one but itself to blame.

First off, Democrats...don't pay attention to Republicans "helpfully" giving suggestions on how to appeal to "middle America". They're really not trying to help, and anyway, they know that if you do what they say to do, it really won't help. See, Republicans are, as this election proves, masters at peddling bullshit. They know how to frame the debate, and thanks to an incredibly lazy mainstream media, the Democrats do little more than play catch-up. You want proof? Look how long the Swift Boaters stayed in the media or how quickly CBS rolled over concerning "memogate". Look how much scrutiny went into Michael Moore's facts in Fahrenheit 9/11 as opposed to the actual scrutiny the run-up to war got. Dear hearts, don't trust the big media companies; they ain't lookin' out for you anymore. Besides, do you trust anyone who's trying to tell you - their sworn enemy - how to beat them?

The question isn't one of "appealing to red state voters" or "Middle America". Those designations do not exist, just as it's fantasy to think all of California is one big perverted liberal hot tub party. It's simplistic. It's easy. It's twaddle. Democrats - and unaffiliated progressives and liberals - shouldn't be thinking of ways to change their message to fit the needs of people not generally inclined to vote for or support them. They should be thinking of ways to refine their message, speak truth to power to the people they're working for.

For beloved, the Democratic Party has, on a national level, flat-out forgot who its working for. Not corporations or big businesses or special interests or lobbyists, but us: the American People. And not people in Manhattan or San Francisco or Athens, either, but folks in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Whitefish, Montana, as well. This doesn't mean singing hosannas about prayer in school or being tough on crime. It means giving your stance on the issues in such a way that the average Joe can not only understand it, but also see how it relates to him and his day-to-day life.

Read the story linked above and you'll see what I mean. Dig, this guy in Montana figured out what mattered to his constituents, figured out how to frame it in a way that appealed beyond party loyalty and figured out a way to point how the party in power was falling short in dealing with the problem. Notice, Schweitzer also went after small businesses as an issue, particularly how they're being run over by Big Business and Corporate America. And furthermore, he didn't let the other side frame the debate going in. He just went after what he knew mattered to the people of Montana and explained it in such a way that made sense without resorting to platitudes.

If this past election cycle proves nothing else, it shows us how the DNC is doing little than trying to play catch up to the GOP. It's not a matter of appealing to "Red States" - which don't fucking EXIST, and neither do "Blue States" - it's a matter of figuring out what works for Americans and what they care about, really care about, rather than playing semantic games on nothing-but-emotional issues like abortion or gay marriage.

That doesn't mean Democrats and progressives should abandon gay marriage or abortion as issues; just quit playing the semantics game the GOP sets up to their benefit (with the help of a staggeringly lazy media). When the whole gay marriage flap went up, the DNC should have said, "Look, this is obviously an issue that needs to be sorted out, but right now, it needs to be sorted out in Massachusetts, and it is. And really...is this the most important thing going on, rather than the economy, jobs, etc. and so forth." Or say something like, "The GOP wants to restrict basic human rights to a group just because they're 'different'. We want to know what you want to do about it and, most importantly, why."

If the Democratic Party wants to re-emerge as a viable alternative to the Republicans, it's gonna have to build from the ground up. I'm no expert on such matters, but I have some ideas. Now, grant you, these ideas are about as valid as the nonsense I heard Rush Limbaugh spewing the other day, so take it all with a huge grain of salt.

Number one, cut ties to lobbyists and big money. Painful, sure, but as Dean and the internet fundraising proved, there's untapped millions - both monetary and otherwise - in the people of America. Lobby groups have way, way too much power in the halls of government, and frankly, the Democrats are no less guilty of kowtowing to certain groups than Republicans are. And I'm not talking unions or whatnot; I'm talking lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness. Everyone plays and everyone gets paid, except us.

Number two, quit defining yourself as "Republican lite". Find out what your constituents want, and all of them, not just the ones who'll agree with you or the most vocal. Realize there's a goodly number of people in this country who are just crazier than fox squirrels. Write those nutjobs off, okay? Don't try to appeal to the fundies, but that doesn't mean you tell the merely religious to go to hell. You're not going to win over people who think Limbaugh and Hannity are good sources of info, nor people who think some sort of Supreme Being actually had a hand in selecting the president. An aside, if you will...if God chose Bush, why'd the Creator of everything, one, make the election so close, and two, why'd he wait over 200 years to decided to get involved? Anyway, I digress...oh, and for the record, same thing goes for blind followers of Saint Ralph or any dingbat that describes him/herself as an “anarchist”. Don’t even try to argue with these people or the Irrational Bush Worshippers. You’ll just be wasting your time and theirs.

Number three and most importantly, build from the ground up. Here in Georgia, we got a new Democratic congressmen in the form of John Barrow. Here in Athens, we elected and re-elected the most progressive and connected to the town people for our commission. Folks who live here and give a shit about the town, rather than some yay-hoo trying to build political capital. True, the anti-gay marriage amendment passed, but that was a lost cause in the first place. It’s interesting to me, as an aside, that the Georgia state legislature couldn’t find the time to balance the state’s budget nor adequately fund state education, but they could get an anti-gay amendment through without much hassle.

And it wouldn't hurt to try to reach across party lines, not just to Republicans, but to other liberals and progressives. The New Party has done wonderful things in connecting citizens - not ideologies - on issues that matter to them, not the standard ranch line. One of the most disappointing things in American politics, in my opinion, is how much it reminds me of college football. We root for "our team" come hell or high water, and it doesn't matter if the running back got busted for rape or taking graft as long as he's scoring touchdowns. Granted, this idea runs rampant on the conservative side of the isle - really, can you imagine the gut laughing on all sides of the political spectrum if anyone said any Democratic candidate was "chosen by God" - but liberals and Democrats do it, too.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not that the GOP knows the people better or that they care more. They don't. There's been study after study about how American people support ideas like civil unions, nationalized health care, a strong social safety net and dozens of other progressive ideals. And the GOP sure don't give a damn about the people of this country. What they do well, however, is play the game and manipulate the arena. If "moral values" decided this election, then "moral values" ends with abortion and gay marriage. That's simplistic, but it plays into the fears and questions a lot of people have.

The Republicans have also successfully defined the words people use in the political arena. A lot of folks have been conditioned by 30-some-odd years of calculated horseshit to believe that "liberal" is another word for "evil", while mainly forgetting that every success story in America - not necessarily personal, but societal - is due to "liberal values".

I don't know if this shows or not, but I'm a big fan of Socrates' method of gaining knowledge. Asking questions. Asking people to define what they say, and if the answer isn't pleasing, asking them to define it further. So, you go to a city commission meeting, put up a proposal and some dingbat says, "Ah, that's just more liberal hooey", come back and make them explain it. "Yeah, I'm a liberal, sure, and I think this is a really good idea. Here's why. Tell me why you think it's a bad idea."

Nine times out of ten, they won't get further than "liberal hooey". That means you've got them. You may not win that particular person over, but I guaran-goddamn-tee you the people around him will be going, "Hmmm...ya know, I never thought of it like that." And if they can explain sufficiently why they don't like the idea, then you at least got something to work with. And generally, if someone can articulate their ideas that well, you got someone you can work with to reach a compromise. Life in America isn't a zero-sum, winner-take-all game even if the election is (or we're told that it is).

But...and this is very important...never give up. Never rest on your laurels. Never allow them to change the rules of the game in their favor. Never let 'em see you sweat. And never, ever let them get away with giving you a bullshit answer.

Democrats, progressives and liberals need to take a cold, hard look at the towns, cities, communities, neighborhoods and states where they live and figure out what they can do there first. If we can do that and really work it - and most importantly, really mean it - the presidency will be a shoe-in...eventually. May not be 2008 or even 2012, but it's gonna be a long, hard road one way or another. Beloved, we get Americans to actually thinking rather than running on fear, envy, hatred and loathing, we'll see some magical shit happening pretty damn quickly.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Man, Trust A Tomcat To Cat Around...

In news that surprises absolutely nobody, Bob Jones III - president of the fundamentalist based college that bears his name - said in a letter to George W. Bush that his re-election is a reprieve for an undeserving America. Some choice quotes:

"In your re-election, God has graciously granted America - though she doesn't deserve it - a reprieve from the agenda of paganism."

"You have been given a mandate. ... Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."

Plus, they're all a-quiver that Bush is in the position to appoint boatloads of conservative judges and force legislation that enforces the "biblical norm" regarding a bunch of stuff like sexuality, freedom of speech, religious freedom and the sanctity of life, which to be quite frank, worries the shit out of me.

BJU - and I gotta admit, I love those initials - spokesfundie Jonathan Pait said the letter shouldn't be taken as to imply the good Rev. Jones thinks all Kerry voters are "pagans" and "hate Christ". Course not, that'd just be silly.

White House spokespeoples have said it's uncertain whether or not the Little King has read the letter, dated Nov. 3. Which goes to figure, because the letter has big words in it and it takes time to read all of 'em.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs...Err, Maps...
Got this from my buddy Jen. It's a county-by-county breakdown of the 2004 election results. It's pretty interesting if for no other reason than it shows the GOP Red Tide isn't as all encompassing as we're being told by the "liberal media". Heck, even my home state of Mississippi has a number of blue and purple counties. And one black one. Figure that out.

Course, this is just a curio, but from the best I can figure, it's pretty legit. The guy who did the page, Robert J. Vanderbei, is a member of the Mathematics and Computer Science faculties at Princeton and teaches Operations Research and Financial Engineering, whatever the hell that is. In other words, you know he didn't just ride in here on a head of cabbage.

Like I said...interesting and, if one were to take it in such a way, encouraging.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Well, Dammit...

Like Atrios, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is taking a break to write a book, but he leaves with a goodie. He's right about one thing. Democrats need to quit pandering to the nutjob religious right minority - as opposed to the larger number of just plain ol' religious folk - because they ain't gonna get them. I'll say it again. Democrats, you want to win? Work for it. Don't cave in to radically conservative judges for "partisanship's sake", because the GOPranos will continue to eat your ass for lunch.

Remember who your base is and work for them, not for the people who think "liberal" is another word for "evil". Work for people who see the value in a strong social network and civil liberties for all rather than trying to court the hate vote. And don't give Bush an inch, for he will take many miles.

Never surrender. The only way you truly lose is when you give up the fight.
This Is Supposed To Be The New World...

Considering most of my traffic probably comes from his site, I doubt the announcement that Atrios is taking the weekend off comes as a surprise to anybody. Well, he is and as much as I hate to lose one of my primo time-wasting holes, he's got the right. The boy done worked himself down to a nub during the election, for both the Kerry campaign and Pennsylvania state elections, and I imagine he's as blue about the outcome as just about anyone. Plus, he's got a sweet gig with Media Matters, a very groovy media watchdog sit, and I imagine that's keeping him hopping.

Never fear, though, for there's plenty of groovy blogs out there for wayward Eschatonians and the three or four of y'all that come to this site because you know me. Some of my favorites include Pandagon, Rittenhouse Review, the shit-kicking Daily Kos, TBogg, the righteous babes at First Draft, Corrente, Big Media Matt, the always clever Sadly, No, MyDD's top-notch site, the no-bullshit Max Speaks, the deliciously snarky World Of Crap, Eric Alterman's excellent work and the very bad-ass David Neiwert.

In other words, there's a lot of good sites out there to get your info, and lest we forget, there's stuff like Media Matters and Bob Somerby's essential Daily Howler. Beloved, this is where the good shit is, not the mainstream media. Oh, don't get me wrong. One should keep up with The New York Times, CNN and the major networks as much as possible, but if this election has shown us nothing else, it's that the "liberal media" ain't. The mainstream news ain't lookin' out for us anymore, and with Bush's imaginary "mandate", it's doubtful to improve. There's many reasons why, of course, and while I like the idea of someone like George Soros buying CNN and making it a liberal opponent to Fox News - if for no other reason than the whinin' wingnuts will have something concrete to bitch about - I don't really think it'll improve anything. The media isn't really right or left; it's cowardly, pure and simple.

I've had a day or two to process and consider Tuesday's election, and I've come to a couple of conclusions. For one, by hook or (most likely) by crook, Bush is the president for another four years barring impeachment. I doubt the latter will happen, frankly, given how craven the press is, the vast majority of "unreality-based" citizens engaging in Irrational Bush Worship and a truly worrisome GOP in power in both houses. This ain't 1972, kids, and there ain't many Congress critters with either the balls or the integrity to go after the Bush people. May happen and probably should happen, but I don't see it. So, we're stuck with the beady-eyed bastard.

So what to do? Well, frankly, nothing changes. I said over and over during the election that had Kerry won, it was every American's duty - conservative or liberal - to make sure his feet were held to the fire and he worked for us and not Big Business. Same thing goes for Bush, it's just gonna be a bit more difficult. There's lots of talk from wingnuts that we - liberals, progressives, Democrats, what have you - should, basically, give in and do what we're told. Bullshit. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't be fighting for what I think is right and against what I think is wrong. I think, for example, Bush's recent bleatings about a "national sales tax" and monkeying with Social Security are horridly bad ideas, in my opinion, and I don't see why I shouldn't make my voice heard and do what I can to do my duty as an American citizen. Just because he's president doesn't mean he's king, despite what wingnuts think.

Speaking of what wingnuts think, some of the trolls that infest Eschaton did have some good ideas. For one, they rightly pointed out - whether they meant it or not, and I for one am doubtful they're really trying to be helpful - that Democrats spend way, way too much time reacting to Republican policies instead of blazing their own trail. They spend too much time fighting against GOP talking points instead of establishing their own. They need to fix that, and the best way of doing that is probably a massive cleaning of house within the Democratic Leadership Council and Democratic National Convention. Cut out the dead weight. Terry Mac, I'm looking at you. And for Elvis' sake, Hillary in '08 is a really, really bad idea. People will turn out in droves to vote against her, partly because she's a woman - and this country's still too backwards for a female president, even one as conservative as her - and partly because she's a Clinton.

Speaking of Clinton, I wonder if wingnuts will stop blaming Clinton for everything bad under the sun what with their "mandate" and all. I doubt it, and I doubt Bush will start taking responsibilities for his screw-ups. I also wonder if wingnuts will cease their incessant whining. God, I hope so. No more bitching about the "liberal media". No more complaints about Hollywood, what with an actor as governor of California. An end to the rather Freudian whines about homosexuals "shoving their lifestyles down people's throats". No more pissing and moaning about how "persecuted" Christians and white people are in America. In other words... wingnuts, you got the ball now. Mandate or no, y'all got the numbers. Do something instead of acting like children that don't get their way.

So, here's where we stand in the World According To Matt: Republicans, it's up to you to prove to me why I should support you. Why should I - a far-left progressive liberal - support your policies? How will they help all Americans, not just those in "the heartland" - i.e., white people afraid of minorities, gays, foreigners and powerful women - and make this a better place. Give me something besides fear, loathing and greed.

Democrats... well, you're like an ex-girlfriend at this point. I feel let down by Kerry and the DNC giving in so easily in an election where there were a whole lot disconcerting voting hiccups. I need a reason to take you back. Now, don't get me wrong. I'll continue to do what I've always done and vote for the candidate and not the party. I have no shame at all for voting for a Libertarian in Georgia's state election for public service commissioner or a Republican for Athens-Clarke County district attorney. They were the best candidates for the job, just as Kerry was the best man for the presidency (of the candidates available, of course). But y'all let me and a whole lot of folks down. Not by losing, mind you. That happens. I feel let down because the Democrats didn't have enough fire in them to fight when things turned dark. The national organization, that is; there's still plenty of sand in your average Democrat on the street. Give me a reason to take you back and I will. Keep up this weak-sister, Republican-lite horseshit and, well... I'll write Willie Nelson in for president next time around and not feel one damn bit guilty.

You got four years. For the rest of us, well, to quote Robert Earle Keen, "The road goes on forever and the party never ends". You want a better world? Work for it. Nothing's ever given to anybody. Like I said, had Kerry won, we'd still have a lot of work. Now, we just have to get over our disappointment, keep our eyes on the prize, kick some ass and take some names.

We got no other choice, dear hearts. Good planets, after all, are hard to find.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Don't Believe The Hype....

I'm still getting my thoughts together concerning the outcome of Tuesday's election, but I did want to post this link from Alternet concerning the turnout among young voters. A lot of the media "experts" are saying young folks didn't come out, it apparently isn't so. Something like 51% of first-time-eligible voters turned out to do the job, a nine-point increase from 2000. What's skewering the numbers is that voter turnout increased across the board, making the percentage of first-time voters look smaller than it really is.

So, good going, kids. That’s what this country needs, active participants in a functioning democracy. If nothing else, this makes me feel good and, hopefully, turnout will be even higher in 2006 and 2008. What I still don't get, though, is how come so many people turned out to vote and stood in line for up to three hours in some places just to keep the status quo. Guess Americans hate gay people more than I thought, but that's a stroke for another time.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

And The Winner Is...Well, We're Not Really Sure

It's 2:45 a.m., November 3, 2004, as I write this. As of right now, incumbent George W. Bush leads challenger John F. Kerry in both the electoral vote 249-242 according to CNN. He's also an edge in the popular vote. It's not over yet, though; the race is so tight in Ohio that they're gonna circle the wagons and count up all the provisional ballots, absentee ballots and early ballots. There's something like 300,000 or so (comes from memory in a chat room, so forgive me if it's off) in Ohio, as well as nearly a million uncounted votes in Florida (which has been called for Bush). Iowa also called it an early night because of a malfunction in their equipment.

So. We don't know who won. It looks like it's Bush's right now, but there's still a whole lot of votes to be counted and things could shift in Kerry's favor. It's been a weird day. I was in line to vote fifteen minutes before the polls open, and there was a line around the block. Voter turnout broke records this time around. Apparently, the Bush people looked shaky as hell earlier in the evening, like they knew their number was up. I didn't see it, so I can't say for sure, of course, but the day's definitely been a roller coaster ride.

Now, I really don't know what to think. I don't feel fear for a loss so much as I just don't understand why it's so close. It makes no sense. Not only has Bush been showed to be a complete buffoon over and over in the past few months - the resurfacing of Osama, the Al QaQaa incident, the continuing Plame Affair, the total lack of WMD's in Iraq, loyalty oaths at rallies, dismal performances in debates, etc. - but this year saw both a huge grassroots voter movement and a huge young voter movement. People were pumped. People were excited to vote. I knew people who hadn't voted in 20 years, yet were looking forward to casting their ballots.


There's been a lot of talk about shady dealings in Florida concerning absentee ballots or monkeyshines concerning Diebold voting machines, but honestly, I can't think of that right now. My mind's too cluttered. I do know, however, that the Kerry/Edwards people better fight tooth-and-nail to make sure the results are on the money. Same goes for the DNC. We cannot have a repeat of the confusion surrounding 2000, the country just won't stand for it. And furthermore, if the Democrats cave like they did in 2000 - no matter the reason - it's the end of that party. They'll be nothing more than figurehead opponents, and the progressive ideal will lose what little voice it has. And the mainstream national media, it probably goes without saying, should hang its collective head in shame for being so weak and toothless, more apt to chase stories about blonde white women getting killed than the real issues that affect all Americans.

Someone please explain to me, then, how there can be this massive turnout of voters, including unprecedented new voters and movements to get Bush out, and the vast majority of my fellow citizens, living as they did through the past four years, took a look at Bush and said, "Well, he means well, so let's give him another shot."

I've asked Bush faithful over and over for a reason to vote for the man, and no one could ever give me one that didn't revolve around greed, hating gays, hating Kerry, hating Muslims, hating foreigners, hating liberals, religious poppycock, or good ol' fear that someone may attack us and Bush is the only one who can save us. No one's ever given me one single, solitary action. He lied about WMD's. He lied about Hussein being connected to Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's still alive and running loose. Iraq's a complete mess. He passed bullshit, under funded programs like No Child Left Behind that did more harm than good. The rest of the world looks at us like we're a mad dog. He called people who disagree with him "supporters of terrorism" and "America haters". He's misled us on the economy. He's misled us on health care for seniors. He fought tooth-and-nail against any investigation into the events that led to 9/11. He's misled us on who his tax cuts benefit. If it didn't come from Bush's mouth, than it came from folks who speak in his name. This country's probably more divided now than it has been since the '60s. Either 1960s or 1860s, take your pick. No matter how Ohio turns out - no matter who wins - it's gonna be ugly in this country for a couple years, real ugly.

And I don't understand a bit of it. I know I live in something of a bubble, living in a relatively liberal college town, keeping mostly to a small group of friends and avoiding trash like Rush Limbaugh or Little Green Footballs, if for no other reason than life's tough as it is and there's no reason to make it unpleasant. I realize that, but still...do people in this country really hate that much? Are they that disgusted by two men who want to share their lives like any other married couple that all 10 states with anti-gay marriage amendments overwhelmingly passed them? Are they that bloodthirsty that they don't care that over 10,000 people who had nothing at all to do with 9/11 are dead in Iraq, not to mention over 1,100 American soldiers? Are they that afraid that they don't care about all the lies and mendacity concerning the war in Iraq and the war on terror? Are they that blinded by religious fervor that they don't care if advances can be made in sciences or that it's not horrible that other folks don't believe as they do? Are they that greedy that they don't care if society collapses as long as they get a tax cut?

Or is it that they just don't care? I find it inconceivable that after living through the past four years, any body can look on the Bush Administration with any sort of favor. He's not tough on terror. He's not a man of faith or Christian values. He's not looking out for us. He doesn't care about us. And saying "Well, Kerry's no different" doesn't cut it. Kerry hasn't been the president for the past four years, Bush has. How can so many people think he's done a good enough job that he deserves another four years? Some say it's an indication of the rightward shift in the American culture, but I gotta ask: take a look around, how much further right can we go? Where does it stop? A return to feudalism and enforced church attendance? Censoring anti-government art and literature? Forcing people to pay an even larger part of their taxes to support an already bloated military-industrial complex?

I really don't understand it. Why should I support Bush, win or not? Why should I not want him out of the White House? Why should I not want equal liberties and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their social status, race, gender or sexual preference? Why shouldn't I want a society and government that both looks out for its citizens and works for them? Why shouldn't I want a national media that isn't cowed by conservative chicken littles and rich thugs? Why shouldn't I want a world that runs on love and knowledge, rather than fear and loathing?

I wish someone would explain it to me. I really do.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Right On The Edge And Right On Target...

Some heavy hittin' in an interview with Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and economics guru. Good stuff in the excellent Texas Observer, so go read it. He's right, too. Once we win back the White House, we can't back down. Not one whit.
Now This Is Sorta Nice...

Despite all we've heard from both sides about voter suppression and fraud - from Democrats and Republicans, respectively, it seems - the New York Times reports that election officials are saying that things are going rather smoothly. Early voting is up by an enormous percentage, and while there have been some reports of voter harassment, it's been incidental rather than systematic. This makes me feel good. I like that both parties are being vigilant in making sure the Constitutionally assured right to vote is protected. Course, the Republicans way of fighting ineligible voters is to make sure that a lot of folks who might include said voters just can't vote in the first place. One rotten apple and all that, I suppose. In any event, Common Cause says there's been over 52,000 reports of hassles like long lines or missing absentee ballots, and over 8,000 of those reports come from Florida. Well, ain't that a kick in the head?

There's also a report from Cleveland that folks posing as election officials are going door-to-door collecting absentee ballots, when real sho'nuff officials say no such service exists. And it should be noted, speaking of Ohio, that U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott of Cincinnati ruled that people representing political parties may not challenge voters at polls. Judge Dlott said folks bringing a lawsuit challenging the previously legal statute may be able to prove it was unconstitutional. The Ohio Republican Party issued an appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court, but you wanna know their reason for wanting to have challengers at the polls? New voters unfamiliar with the process may "impede" voting. That's right, can't have those new voters out there, don't want them around making things slow for us Republicans. Good gravy...

Still, all in all, everything seems to be swimming along smoothly. Of course, there's still a great, big worry in the form of Diebold, which still refuses to provide any sort of paper trail. For me, that's the only worry. I really, truly believe the voters will chose John F. Kerry to be the next President Of The United States Of America. I just worry who Diebold - who's CEO said last year that his company's top priority was the "re-election [sic] of President Bush" - is gonna chose.

Now, this makes me feel bad. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush administration lawyers argued in three states - Ohio, Michigan and Florida, all three close states, mind you - that unlike it's been since the Civil Rights movement of the '60s, when people fought and died to make sure everyone's votes counted, it's the Justice Department and not the voters who are allowed to sue to enforce voting rights. That's right, Republicans; your boy's "trial lawyers" are saying it's the government and not the people who should be allowed to make sure the government follows the rules. Man, doncha just love the party of "small government"?

This all stems from the Help America Vote Act, which was passed in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 election. The Justice Department - led by Smilin' John Ashcroft - claims "Congress clearly did not intend to create a right enforceable" in court by individual voters, and that it's clear that wording says only the Attorney General may bring such suits and, for what it's worth, at his/her discretion. Veteran voting-rights scholars and election officials are dismayed that the Justice Department and the government would reverse it's own stand in favor of private rights of action to enforce statutes and regulations on governmental action - you know, rule by the people - but also decades of precedent when it comes to American citizens protecting their right to vote.

They're surprised, but I sure as hell ain't. Anyone who's followed The Crisco Kid's career for any length of time knows he only cares about American citizens' individual liberties when they're doing what he wants them to do. Never forget: Tommy Chong's doing time and Osama bin Laden is running loose. Ashcroft, Bush and the rest, they know where their priorities lay. Unfortunately, theirs don't lie with ours.
How To Maximize Your Get-Out-The-Vote Count

On a recent edition of "Larry King Live", former CBS newscaster and "the most trusted man in America" Walter Cronkite said he wouldn't be a'tall surprised if the recently released video of Osama bin Laden wasn't yet another shennanigan by Bush's miniature Machiavelli Karl Rove. Let me repeat that. The man who goes around being called "the most trusted man in America" and the majority of people in this country do not laugh out-and-out said that the recent piece of evidence that the man who is responsible for the most horrific attack on this country was done so Bush could get re-elected. Cronkite also said he figured bin Laden was working with the Bush re-election campaign.

Wow.

I won't go into great detail about what Cronkite said - that's what the link's for - but I do want to say a thing or two about this latest video by bin Laden and the hullabaloo surrounding it. Frankly, I don't know what makes me sicker, the fact that bin Laden is still running around loose or that the pundidiots immediately went into spin mode as soon as it was aired this past Friday. "Osama supports Kerry" said one, and where they got that idea, I don't know. On the link above - to Sacred Cow Productions, which is a website connected to the late comedian Bill Hicks - has a transcript of bin Laden's video at the link, so I won't go into what he said exactly. I don't have to. You people are smart, you can read and think for yourselves, but I will say that's complete horseshit.

Osama didn't "endorse" Kerry or Bush. He said it didn't matter who we vote for - maybe he's a Nader supporter, then - because unless our foreign policy changes. And as much as I hate to agree with the lunatic, he's right. Our actions in the rest of the world will bring consequences here. We ignored it up until 9/11... and we continue to ignore it because, for the most part, we can and we want to. Americans have a long tradition of not cleaning up our own backyard or admitting that we've screwed people over. Ask the Indians. Ask the Hawaiians. Ask black people. We may stop doing it, but we never own up to it.

And we haven't really stopped doing it in the Middle East. Every day we're in Iraq creates more people that hate us, but I honestly don't know how we can pull out now and not leave yet another mess that'll bite us in the ass in twenty years. After the video was aired Friday, nine more Marines were killed in Iraq. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert paints an even uglier picture in the mess we're in over there, but can't just cut and leave. We can't just pretend once again that nothing bad has ever come from the ol' Red, White and Blue. We need to clean up our mess there, but we need to do it in a way that doesn't result in the deaths of more Iraqi civilians and American soldiers. I wish I knew how, I really do.

And on another note, how in the hell does bin Laden's video - showing him healthy, fit and more than a little cocky - help Bush at all? What that dingbat Safire seems to forget is that our president swore he'd "get Osama dead or alive"...and then let him slip loose from the net so he could go fight a needless war in Iraq. How does this make Bush look good? Seriously. How in the hell does this make anyone in the Bush malAdministration look anything even close to competent?

Remember in 1993, when the World Trade Center was shook with an explosion from a rented Ryder truck full of fertilizer bombs. The dude responsible, one Ramzi Yousef, was caught and convicted less than two years later. He wasn’t caught because we invaded the country where he was hiding nor because we invaded a country that had absolutely nothing to do with said attack. No, he was caught because law enforcement officials stayed on his ass and did their job. Now, I'm no fan of Clinton or his administration, but they got the job done there and did it right. The same can't be said about Bush. If you need a reason why, remember: bin Laden is still alive and making more videos than Brittany Spears.

One last thing. This came from an email from Eddie Spaghetti, bass player and lead singer of one of my all-time favorite groups The Supersuckers. Now, the band's not what you'd call a "political group", but Eddie's a smart cookie who's concerned about the future of his home, like all Americans should be. He's got a kid. He wants a future for the kid. And he knows everyone isn’t as liberal as he is. So, without further adieu, may I present Eddie Spaghetti's reason why Republicans should not vote for Bush:

"That's right, it's down to the nitty gritty. I know that many of you think that my emails should consist strictly of 'liquor, women, drugs and killing, rock-n-roll, outlaw country and the occasional joke or two' and to you, I apologize. Feel free to bury your head in the sand once more and delete this missive now because I am here to use my (very nominal) influence to tell our fans to please get out and vote for a change this Tuesday.

"To my republican friends (and I hope you are still my friends if you've made it this far into my email) I have this rock-n-roll analogy for you:

"Let's say that the Republican Party is Van Halen and (for the sake of argument we will time travel quite a bit) Abraham Lincoln is the David Lee Roth of Republicans. An ass kicking, slave freeing, minimize-the-government-in-our-lives bad ass. The glory years. Then let's say that Sammy Hagar is the Ronald Regan character, he totally lost the die-hard but for some reason Van Halen had never been more popular. Hit after hit. The Van Halen machine makes more money than anyone thought possible! Next, sadly, it's time to enter that guy from Extreme, Gary Cherone. Here is our G.W. Bush. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Van Halen fans have to admit, this was one bad idea, it didn't work and, thankfully we only had to put up with one record from this version of the Republican Par..., uh, I mean... Van Halen. Gary made Van Halen so bad that Sammy Hagar returning actually seems to be a GOOD idea!

"So there you go, even Republicans have to admit that G.W. has totally 'Gary Cheroned' this Presidency, don't you think? I thought this would help clear things up for you. Now get out there and buy one of those 'Republicans For Kerry' stickers and help us make this change. Sure Kerry's no Diamond Dave either, but who is anymore? It's not like Van Halen's gonna ask ME to sing for 'em...

"Vote. Please."

Damn straight. Buy the band's records and go see their shows. And vote tomorrow. There's never been a more important election, not only for those us muddling through this, the best of all possible worlds, but also for who we bring in to play the gig after we've put away our guitars.

Oh, and for the record, I'm not a Van Halen fan, but even I know how bad that Gary Cherone record was. You wanna talk about a stinker from what I already considered a dull-as-dishwater band.