Friday, December 31, 2004

Bush Administration Labors for More Abortions

Okay, I admit it (and I admit it often), I am lazy. I am out of time. I have to put together a bike for my son and he is going nuts waiting while I write this. I need to sit down and come up with more excuses like this...

I have not read the source material on this one, but I did read Atrios.

The consequence of keeping raping[sic] victims from the [morning after] pill will inevitably be more actual abortions.

But, they don't really care...

Get the details here...

I recently wrote a long post in response to this column. The writer was claiming that the left was winning the culture war, and almost saying, "Ah, shucks... there is nothing to worry about."

One of the subjects was the morning after pill.

My take was that, "I believe that the availability of morning after pill is an essential element of women's health care, one that includes comprehensive sex education enabling people to make choices that lessen the need for the morning after pill and for abortions."

I felt that the "Ah, shucks... We'll win in the end" attitude was a good way for us to lose a lot of important ground in this country.

The Bush Administration knows how to fight its battles. They will not come out and make drastic changes all at once, but they will chisel away here and there at their issues, in ways like those described in Atrios' post, until America looks very different from the one most of us want to live in.

Sarcasm aside, it is important to remember that many in this Administration, beyond wanting to limit the morning after pill, also want to ban all abortions. Even in cases of rape.

Finally, I am going to say this again...

With the vast majority of the media's attention on the Indian Ocean, I hope someone has their eye on the White House.

If they want to slide a couple of zingers through, this is an opportune time to do it.

UPDATE: January 2, 2005 - 11:04 AM

I just had to add this...

The controversy has erupted just weeks before the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to reconsider whether to make it easier to get emergency contraception. A year ago, the FDA rejected non-prescription sales of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive. The ruling delighted conservative groups who had lobbied the Bush administration, but went against the FDA's own staff, advisory panels and major medical societies.

Assholes... (Registration Required)

Screw it, here...

Guidelines for treating rape victims omit emergency contraception BY MARIE MCCULLOUGHKnight Ridder NewspapersPHILADELPHIA - (KRT) - The U.S. Department of Justice has issued its first-ever medical guidelines for treating sexual assault victims - without any mention of emergency contraception, the standard precaution against pregnancy after rape.The omission of the so-called morning-after pill has frustrated and angered victims' advocates and medical professionals who have long worked to improve victims' care.Gail Burns-Smith, one of several dozen experts who vetted the protocol during its three-year development by Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, said emergency contraception was included in an early draft, and she does not know of anyone who opposed it."But in the climate in which we are currently operating, politically it's a hot potato," said Burns-Smith, retired director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.For two weeks, Justice officials were unavailable to talk about the new 141-page protocol, published in September. But in an e-mail, department spokesman Eric Holland reiterrated points made in the document."The goals of the protocol are to ensure that all victims, regardless of differences in background or location of service, receive the same high quality medical and forensic exam, while being treated with respect and compassion, and to improve prosecution of sexual assault cases through the appropriate collection of evidence," he wrote. "The protocol is not intended to supercede the many state, local, and tribal protocols that are currently in practice."Lynn Schollet, a lawyer with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said without emergency contraception, the trauma of rape could be compounded by an unplanned pregnancy."It is very unfortunate to set forth a model national standard that is not giving women the best care available," Schollet said.The controversy has erupted just weeks before the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to reconsider whether to make it easier to get emergency contraception. A year ago, the FDA rejected non-prescription sales of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive. The ruling delighted conservative groups who had lobbied the Bush administration, but went against the FDA's own staff, advisory panels and major medical societies.The manufacturer's latest application would make Plan B available without a doctor's orders only to women 16 and over.The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is now collecting signatures on a petition urging the Justice Department to fix the "glaring omission in an otherwise thorough document."In the half-page on pregnancy "risk evaluation and care," the protocol says to take victims' pregnancy fears "seriously," give a pregnancy test, and "discuss treatment options, including reproductive health services."Advocates point out that emergency contraception, which is nothing more than high-dose birth control pills, reduces the chance of pregnancy 75 to 90 percent - but only if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex."This narrow window of effectiveness makes timely access to emergency contraception critical," declares the petition.Five states - New York, Illinois, California, Washington and New Mexico - have laws requiring hospitals to provide the contraception to victims, or at least tell them how to get the pills.The development of national guidelines was required under the 2000 renewal of the decade-old federal Violence Against Women Act to develop uniform, quality care for sexual assault victims."In too many hospitals, the nurses and doctors are still reading the rape kit directions while they're doing the exam," said Linda Ledray, a sexual assault exam trainer who directs the Sexual Assault Resource Service in Minneapolis.One of the most inconsistent aspects of care is the morning after pill. A 2002 analysis of national emergency room data by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that only 21 percent of sexual assault victims received it. In a 1998 survey of urban Catholic hospitals, a University of Pennsylvania study found that 12 out of 27 centers had rules against informing rape victims about the method.The risk of pregnancy after rape is small - less than 5 percent - but the vulnerable group is large. Of 333,000 sexual assaults and rapes reported in 1998, about 25,000 resulted in pregnancies - of which 22,000 could have been prevented, estimated Princeton University population researcher James Trussell.Emergency contraception is controversial because, like stem cells and cloning, it has become tangled in the politics of abortion. The method usually works by keeping an egg from being released or being fertilized. However, it may sometimes prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus - equated with murder by some conservative groups and the Catholic Church (which opposes all forms of contraception)."I think it's very smart not to put that in the guidelines," said Dr. George Isajiw, a board member of Physicians for Life, a Philadelphia anti-abortion group.By giving emergency contraception, he said, "you're giving a dangerous drug that's not doing any good, or else you're causing an abortion. As a moral principle, a woman has the right to defend herself against an aggressor. But she doesn't have the right to kill the baby."Anne Liske, executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault said the decision should be left to the woman. "The victim needs to be in charge of decisions about her care."New York State - which mandates that hospitals, regardless of religious affiliation, provide the contraception to rape victims - recently fined a Coney Island hospital $46,000 for not giving it correctly and mishandling forensic evidence needed for prosecution."We've just started to get successful lawsuits" against hospitals that don't provide emergency contraception, said Ledray in Minneapolis. "I'm afraid such lawsuits will fail if the national protocol doesn't treat emergency contraception as the standard of care."Some experts who reviewed the protocol think it is a huge step forward - just not the last step.Dr. Michael Weaver of a Kansas City, Mo., helped write the American College of Emergency Physicians' sexual assault response protocol, which prominently includes emergency contraception."If we can get this national protocol out there, we can gather evidence more appropriately and prosecute more cases, and it will be a much healthier society," he said.---© 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer.Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer's World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.comDistributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

I am too lazy to go through and put the breaks in.

Final Washington State Post of the Year

Talking Points Memo covers today's developments well, so I'll link there.

A quote? Sure...

So now Rossi has a new angle. He says Gregoire should join him in calling for a whole new election to be held. You know, to ensure the integrity of the process.

Newsflash: she ain't interested.

Says Gregoire: "A do-over ... is only in golf. We call it a mulligan. This is not golf, and this is not practice. This is an election. It's had three counts."

Now some of the locals are putting together an email campaign to tell Rossi it's time to hang it up.

Blue Oregon has posted essentially the same information as Talking Points Memo. The mulligan quote is attributed to "Gregoire spokesman Morton Brilliant" on this site.

Is Gregoire's campaign saying that what happened a few days back in the Ukraine was democracy gone wrong? I support her, but Brilliant needs to pull away from the news coverage of his own canidate and glance at the world headlines time to time.

A note on the attribution, AP gives the quote to Gregoire, then the AP gives the quote to Brilliant.

There is one big difference between Washington and the Ukraine. The AP offers the following from Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed:

While there were mistakes, Reed told a news conference, "at this time there is nothing that appears fraudulent."

"I saw serious mistakes being made. I saw them being corrected," Reed said. "That's part of the process. The system itself has worked well."

Still, there is Republican talk of a "Smoking Gun" that may overturn the election... Again.

New Frames tosses this one out, and I agree. It is why I have given so much attention here to my northern neighbors:

The Dem lawyers in this case were the kind of junk-yard dogs we could have used in 2000, but of course that's the past. So let's use these guys in the future. They know how to fight to get every vote counted (note to DNC.)

Awhile back, blogs all over had their eye on this issue. Is it too early in the morning today or has the attention span waned? I will say, it makes me nervous how political blogs are hovering around the Tsunami issue.

I hope someone has their eye on the White House. If they want to slide a couple of zingers through, this is an opportune time to do it.

ABC People of the Year: Bloggers

I posted the following as a comment a few minutes ago on PoliPundit... I just wanted to add, ABC didn't mention our notorious typos and lack of editing. Shame on them. We are proud of our slacker approach to publishing...

I know that all of the hoopla about blogging this year is about the growing influence of “power” blogs on the political sphere, but it always seems strange to me that something I have been doing for over three years is suddenly “New” and “Exciting.”

To me is shows just how behind and out of step the traditional media is.

I suppose it also makes me feel appologetic… After the election I split my blog in two- one for the 13 year old girl within who wants to Journal, and another for irrelevant political ranting.
So, since I have a “new” blog for politics, I feel like I am just jumping on the bandwagon, though the reality is far from the truth.

My blog on 9/11 recieved hundreds of hits that day since I was providing up to the minute updates and many people who were stuck at work could not get information from the established media websites because they kept crashing from the volume.

But blogging was irrelevant until this year, I am told.

I also wonder, are any blogs started since the election going to be taken seriously because of all of this old media hype?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Engaging Red America

Alice at GOTV thinks that the Democrats can engage new communities in the suburbs by touching them first, before the Republicans move in.

I do not know if capturing these suburban voters is going to be as easy as slapping an “I’m first!” line on their hypothetical Commenting tool, but it is a start. Name recognition is huge, and the first name in the spotlight is always going to be harder to beat in many people minds.

I also very much agree with the idea that:

Human beings are social creatures, and the physical presence of a campaign, by itself, can sway voters our way. And physical presence must include personal contact with campaign volunteers.

Just from anecdotal evidence, I would guess that my little, recently developed valley about 40 minutes from downtown Portland, OR went about 2 to 1 for Bush over Kerry. I just moved out here last fall and it was shocking for this Urban Liberal Type to suddenly find myself back in the Republican dominated Suburbs for the first time since high school… But still, its not like we talk much with our neighbors out in these parts.

One other factor that plays where I live, I am in an “older” (built in the early 90s, I am guessing), apartment complex where there are also a high number of immigrants, many from Russia and the former Soviet states. I do not know how they went in the election, if they went at all, but as far as the established middle class goes, my guesstimate comes from the bumper sticker/yard sign counts.

Personally, I agree with Alice that discussions regarding party politics in these neighborhoods tend to stir up a lot of “clich├ęs and stereotypes about suburban voters put forward by those who have never walked a precinct.”

Alice’s post seems to be inspired by an entry yesterday on Mercury Rising that concludes with the sentiment that, in order to engage these neighborhoods, in order to engage my neighborhood, well…

"Placating the exurbs" means placating racists who don't want their tax money going to help people whose skin tone is darker than theirs. Even if this really would get us votes, is this something we really want to do?

At least the Republicans sugar coat their insults with lies before they lay it on me.

Really, this is the sort of rhetoric that is making it difficult to engage with Red voters. In rural areas, it is my belief that there is a sense that Liberal Urban types mock their values. In suburban areas, stereotypes like the one above insult voters more directly. If you have just called someone a racist, they are not very likely to then listen to your ideas on Social Security. They are very likely to say, “Fuck you,” and then to pull the Elephant lever on Election Day.

Alice, in an earlier piece that she quotes on this recent post, writes, “Precinct operations are, by their nature, about treating people as individuals, not stereotypes.” This helps avoid making insulting assumptions about voters at the most grass roots level.

Unfortunately, it is not the precinct worker who is usually being quoted in the media. One insulting quote in the media can make it very difficult for a grass roots campaign volunteer to be given the time of day when approaching certain individuals.

The whole, “I know my party called you a racist asshole this morning on Good Morning America, but would you like to talk about the Democrat running for your State House against a man who just voted to knock 31 days off of your daughter’s school day?”

I suppose one good solution here is to get that insulted voter engaged by a friendly face, and that does depend on the precinct volunteers.

Alice’s “guide” for local campaign volunteers is a good, informative read on this subject.

My Assumptions about Winning Red Territories…

There are studies that contain a lot of useful data out there, but Democrats need to be very careful about how they interpret this data and about how they take the attack to the enemy.

Another belief I have is that the centrist swing is actually larger than many people give it credit for, even during these times, though I have not put together any data to support this. I feel the last two Presidential elections saw this swing split fairly evenly between the two candidates.

Now this would lead one to think that I would favor a DLC-style centrist Democratic Party, that Clintonesque (politically) candidates should be where the party focuses its efforts.

The problem is that this approach relies on strong candidates who can capture the center through the force of their personalities. Some years, the strongest just do not rise to the top. The party, by having a strong, clear platform, by delivering a strong message and by wrestling control of the debate away from the opposition, can win without having the Cult of Personality on their side.

When voters vote for a Republican, they know what they are getting. When voters look at Democrats, they are not always sure if they are getting a Dukakis or a Kerry. A Clinton or a Dean. There is no Democrat “Brand,” so to speak. It may seem distasteful to use advertising terms when referring to political issues, but trust me, the Republicans use these tools extensively and have been spanking the Democrats with them since 1992.

So, even by moving the party into the centrist, Republican-lite land, there is still no guarantee of victory since the other side will just brand the candidate as a liberal anyway, or a flip-flopper, or a… Many of the conversations I had with people who were not caught up in the partisan furor last fall tended to express the sentiment, “Bush is an idiot, but I don’t know what Kerry is all about.”

If the Democrats had a strong identity behind Kerry, it would have helped define him for the national audience and it would have helped to insulate him from extremist attacks on his personal credibility. It surely would have been enough to gain several hundred thousand votes in Ohio and Florida.

So, what should “Brand” Democrat look like?

There is a lot of emotion out there that the future DNC leadership will throw some of the core issues onto the bonfire of sacrifice for victories in 2006 and 2008. In fact, a lot of this debate may even be inspired by Rasputin-like Republican whisperers already drooling over their 2006 mid-term slogan, “The Democrats have no values, they will say anything to win!”

Most people are not one-issue voters. Those who are will not change parties because the platform is softened. The Democrats should absolutely not change their platform on the key issues in a vague attempt to reach voters who see devil horns on every donkey.

Still, I believe that could be tremendous value in expanding some of these debates within the party…

There could be value in the Democrats saying, “We will always defend a Woman’s right to choose, but we also want to start working with the opposition on programs that focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies.” And there could be value in building these programs around abstinence, though making sure that they are based on fact and that birth control methods are discussed, as well.

I do not believe that approaches such as these would mean that the Democrats are sacrificing their values. I do believe that it would make them play better among voters with conservative values who, for what ever reason, appear to vote against their economic interests.

I am not talking about running Pro-Life candidates in Republican strongholds; I am talking about running candidates who share the values surrounding the issue with their constituents.

While we will not win swing voters without a tightly controlled message from the Party, and while we will not win conservative values voters by sacrificing the core principals of the party, we will lose election after election if we continue to be defined by the same handful of social issues over and over again.

We cannot be the party of abortionists who want to put condoms into Kindergarten where we can teach them how to use them properly in different gay sex acts.

We can be the party that defends family values by protecting children from the dangers of irresponsible sexual behavior while protecting the rights of all Americans.

When it comes to these issues, it is really more a matter of controlling the message than it is a need to change the core issues themselves. But more than this, it may even be that the focus on these issues in the first place is what is turning off many Red voters.

I do not believe that many of the people who went Republican in November really understood that voting for Bush was voting against their economic interest. The social issues and, more importantly, the War on Terror and the old adage from 1864 about not changing horses in the middle of the stream tilted them over to Bush.

If the noise about the social issues is dampened, there would be more room for the Democrats to focus on what they used to do the best, representing the issues at the heart of blue collar and farming communities.

Okay, it is time to end the rambling attempt at armchair political science now. I will post this and I may review and revise this post in the future. Or, more likely, I will just continue on about these themes in a later post.

Just don’t call me a racist because of where I live and I am happy. And my vote is not at risk, even if you do call me a racist. But I will remember on the battlefield of internal party politics.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

100 Ideas to Fix the Democratic Party

Oh yeah... This is good. Now, do we actually have any new ideas?

As a first step, we are collecting ideas from December 14th through January 14th. We will take the best 100 ideas and submit it to the new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman and to every Democratic U.S. Senator, Member of Congress and Governor.

If you have any ideas and are not already running for DNC Chair, please submit them here...

Sharing Christmas with our Muslim Brothers: Ann Coulter is Crazy... Part 1,472

My, oh my...

I saw this quote on Wonkette this morning and thought she was just taking a snarky, cheap shot at Ann. It's easy and it's a nice warm up exercise for anyone with a conscience and a brain.

To The People Of Islam:
Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW!
Merry Christmas

The Wonkette finishes up with...

We're thinking this is one reason to convert most Muslims' haven't thought of, but, ironically, "Because we want to give them Christmas gifts" was actually in the first draft of Colin Powell's UN presentation.

One of these quotes is a cheap shot by the Wonkette; the other is REAL...

Oh, Ann. Al Franken and all the others are right. There is something wrong with you, honey. Admitting that you need help is the first step.

Ann actually put this on her web site. Or whoever runs Ann's website put it on there. Either way, it is there.

We could actually solve this whole mid-east problem by slaughtering all the Jews in Israel and turning control over to the PLO, assassinating every leader in North America, Europe and the former Warsaw Pact and replacing their legislative bodies with Islamic mullahs, and converting the masses to Islam.

Actually, historically, this is not how Muslims operate. In the past, Islamic empires generally leave the local leadership structures in place and do not forcibly convert anyone, though they do levy additional taxes on the new non-Muslim populations.

This slaughter and convert practice more accurately reflects western imperial tactics.

Now, if I seriously suggested the above solution, I'd be labeled crazy. And if I was a Muslim who seriously suggested the above solution, the American government would probably find a way to incarcerate or kill me.

Ann, however, just gets more publicity and sells more books.

Ann is crazy, but she knows where her bread is buttered.

Maybe I am just bitter because my selfish inner child wanted more Christmas presents.

Christmas Cancelled?


How fun... According to Atrios, it is official: The Liberal Heathen War on Easter began yesterday! After the success we had ruining Christmas, I fear we may be the underdogs here, but let the effort begin anyway.

The War on Easter

Sunday, December 26, 2004

An Absolute, Fundamental Right of a Democratic Society

It is an absolute fundamental of a democratic society that everyone who has the right to vote and casts a ballot should have their vote counted.

So says the godofthebasement.

Someone did not give this god his requested burnt offering, and now he is pissed. In order to appease his vengeance, I will post his e-mail here and I will invite him to be a contributor to this blog.

Hopefully he will be appeased by this post. If not, duck...

He is currently suffering from the work-only web access but he is getting anxious. He may soon hook up from home where he will be free to unleash his wrath upon all of us...

As I said before... He must really hate America.

The Republicans do have an ongoing problem with allowing votes to be counted.

The ongoing trend among Republicans is to first try to stop as many people as they can from voting in the first place via fraudulent felons lists, not putting ballot machines in Democratic precincts, challenging anyone who is not white or has a non-Anglo name and then, among other tactics, by trying to stop votes from being counted.

I am explicitly saying they committed fraud: it is clear that Republicans share no interest in allowing people to vote in the first place or in counting the votes of all eligible voters. It is an absolute fundamental of a democratic society that everyone who has the right to vote and casts a ballot should have their vote counted.

The Republicans have consistently opposed this and have proven themselves to be fundamentally against democracy on both the state and national levels. They are dreaming of a fascist state where it would be illegal to vote against them.

Think that's an exaggeration?

Check out the books by Anne Coulter and Bill O'Reilly. It is terrifying shit.

Republican= Fascist. Period.

They are pure evil and they want to steal from the poor to give to the rich, to steal from the middle class to give to the corporations and to run the country for the benefit of the rich and the powerful...

Sorry about that. My pissedoffedness has no limit and I'm ranting again. Maybe I should start a website [ ?!?]!

Then I could express all of this without dumping it on my friends! is a good idea, and I need to get on it. One day I'll learn not to preach to the choir, but not today apparently.

Anyway, Christmas is going well here. This afternoon we went to this bar at this golf course where my sister's friend's husband works and we had a lot to drink. Nothing like getting fucked up with the family. For Christmas morning we're going to go to church to see my Dad play banjo. I guess that is what retired English professors do these days. I've never seen him perform and I'm looking forward to it.

Well that's all the news that is nowhere near fit to print, but clearly fit for a drunken rambling e-mail.

Let's just call it all a run up to a happy new year.

UPDATE: January 1, 2005 - 8:44 AM - A. F. Litt
I just wanted to quickly throw this link up...

It is a good rundown on what constitutes Election Fraud...

Major Tom on "Actionable Fraud" and More!


After much hemming and hawing, I decided to let it go up...

Count Every Vote Declares the NYT

Sure thing... We'll get right on that.

This article from December 20 has a few days worth of dust on it but I have to link to any editorial that beats my favorite drum.

From the piece:

Every vote is supposed to count in America, but candidates too often maneuver to disqualify votes that they think might go to the other side. A month and a half after Election Day, battles are still raging in Washington State and in San Diego over whether to count all of the votes that were cast. The answer to that question must be yes.


Clearly the American election system needs significant improvement, starting with voter-verified paper trails for every vote cast electronically. In the current flawed system, the best chance we have of producing accurate results is to be on guard for manipulation of electronic voting machines and tabulation software, and to conduct conscientious recounts when the outcome is at all in doubt.

Count Every Vote

Wherefore Art Thou, Ohio: Election Reform is the New Black

I spent my 37 seconds searching for news on the Ohio election activities today and found… Nothing.

I admit that I took my eye off of this ball, focusing more on Washington State, but still…

There should be something about Ohio out there, right?

Media bias = Silence.

Although I did find this interesting article on

Third World Democracy: The real problem with the American election system isn't fraud, it's good old-fashioned incompetence. And that's something we can fix -- if we have the will.

Big quote from the article:

But it can be fixed ... especially if activists take on the challenge. Before the election, many people -- people like Lockshin -- felt irrelevant with respect to politics in America. Now, after the election, many Americans are distressed by the results. Why not channel this despair into something productive for the future? ... Why not work to reform the abysmal American electoral system?


Unfortunately, in the past couple of weeks, while the Internet has been consumed by theories of a stolen election, the efforts of activists like Rodriguez-Taseff and of all the volunteers who manned the polls on Election Day have largely been overlooked. Focusing on the long-term reform of the system is not sexy, Rodriguez-Taseff concedes; it doesn't promise the kind of excitement you get from looking into ways that might overturn Nov. 2's results.


There should have been a big push for comprehensive election reform after the 2000 election in the United States, but that didn't happen. "Other things cut in line -- September 11, gay marriage, the war, you name it," Chapin says. Now, Chapin hopes, election reform will creep back onto the agenda.

Yet it's likely that the only way lawmakers will fix our elections is if citizens press for it -- and only if they press for it constantly, in a nonpartisan manner, as part of a broad effort to remake the way we vote rather than to reverse the results of the last election.

And for all the people who were so passionately involved in that election, what better way to spend the next four years than to dedicate your efforts to remaking our democracy? If you think the American system is broken, if you've felt alienated and abused by recent political affairs, doing the good, honest, hard work of fixing things may feel quite refreshing, activists say. Lockshin, the Berkeley student, offers this testimonial: "Now that I've worked on this with Election Protection, I'm sure I'll be doing it again. I'll be doing it every year, till they stop needing me."

I think I may have linked to this article before, but I am too lazy to review all of my posts this morning to check.

But I agree, election reform is the new black...

In the Salon article, I did find this link...

On this site, I found the following tidbit on Ohio...

The Ohio legislature passed a law that requires that ALL DREs in Ohio have a voter-verified paper audit trail (V-VPAT) by January 2006. Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections is planning to file a lawsuit to stop the purchase of any DREs in 2004 that do not have a V-VPAT.

Sexy stuff, this election reform jihad... But necessary.

Faith and Reason: Another Look at Religion

It seems that the recent political debates on faith and the recent holiday has people all over looking at the politics of faith.

Mark Matson of The Moderate Liberal posted Faith Versus Reason for his Christmas entry:

Taking the Christian Fundamentalist argument that “evolutionists” have the same sort of belief in their science that “creationists” have in their faith that The Bible is the literal word of God, he responds:

I believe in reason and the scientific method not because I have some faith that cannot be confirmed but because reason has proven its worth. We see the success of the scientific method all around us and, as opposed to the natural world, we know where science came from.

He also adds that faith is important, writing, “I believe that other forms of faith also work, such as hope, optimism and confidence.”

It is a good post and you should read it.

Social (In)Security…

The Social Security issue has always been strange for me. As someone in their early thirties, it has always seemed like an issue outside of the scope of my concern. Sort of like rooting for a major league baseball team when you live in Butte, Montana: it can be a fun sport to watch, but without a hometown team, it remains a bit removed and there is no “personal stake.”

Social Security does not feel outside of my scope of concern because the benefits are, knock on wood, thirty years away. It feels irrelevant to me because every since I was a teenager, I have never expected Social Security to still be available for my generation when we reached retirement age.

Because of this, I have never really dug deeper into Social Security than the “headline” level… I pick up the gist of the debate from sound bites and headlines, but avoid participating in any in-depth discussions or debates.

So, pretty much my thoughts on this current round have been… Giving the public control over investing their “accounts” on the stock market is about as wise as loaning your I-Pod to a heroin junky who is desperate for their fix.

I also read, somewhere along the line, that privatizing Social Security would take billions off of the national debt, so there is the sly, machiavellian angle the Administration is approaching this issue from.

Details, though… Here I am weak.

Today, I saw a post by Atrios that inspires me to take a closer look at the Social Security debate.

He writes:

Look, this is our issue. This is one we should be confident about winning -- perhaps not the legislative battle, but the '06 election. Democrats shouldn't be running scared from this, they should be salivating at the prospect of being handed a gift on a silver platter. They just need to be a bit smart.

He provides a couple of links that look at Rep. Harold Ford’s probable jump to the Republican side of this debate.

If Atrios is right, than this issue moves from the periphery, from being political background noise, to being very close to the heart of my political interests.

It is time to take a closer look at the issues emerging in the Social Security debate.

Tone Deaf

Sammy Glick on the Hill

Dear Congressman Ford

It’s the Day After Christmas… Let’s Look at Religion

I wish I had seen this yesterday; it would have made a great post for Christmas.

Rev. Federici of the United Church of Christ in Vienna, Virginia wants his Jesus back.

This sermon was posted on his church’s web site (all lower case there, too):

i want my jesus back.
i want my radical jesus back.
i want my christianity back.
i want my radical christianity back.

i do not understand how jesus became the spokesperson for a christianity that is afraid.

i do not understand how jesus became the spokesperson for a christianity that honors judgement, condemnation and smallness of mind and heart.

i do not understand how jesus became so graceless, so heavy handed, so like an unpopular kid who suddenly becomes a classroom monitor, a tattle tale jesus telling his father god who is good, who is bad, who is fooling around, a wet blanket , blue chip, risk free jesus backed up with a secret swiss bank account.

how did jesus get so boring?

how did christianity get so embarassing?

I want Rev. Federici to have that Jesus back, too.

jesus and christianity need to be rescued from those who are using it in the service of fear, control, oppression, the keeping of the status quo.

jesus and christianity need to be rescued from being in service of the travesty of their counterfeit versions. those versions that pervert the heart of the gospel.

the wolf wearing sheep’s clothing.

underneath is simply an aberrant strain of hatred, cruelty and arrogance.

i want my jesus back.

i want my radical jesus and my radical christianity back.
right now.

Yes, this is the same UCC who’s ads were turned down by a couple of the broadcast networks recently because they were divisive (essentially chiding other churches for their hypocrisy on racial and sexual issues). That was the reason given for the ads being blocked, but really, the ads were pretty good and not the little Molotov Cocktails that they were described as.

It is unrealistic to ever expect faith and politics to truly be disconnected. This is why there is so much weight put on the Constitution’s First Amendment. Since faith and politics are so closely bound, it is important that the faith and politics of the minority is protected against repression by the political majority.

The separation of church and state also exists to keep the political majority from cramming their faith down the rest of the population's throat. The majority is allowed to be guided by their faith, but legislating it is strictly off limits, let alone using their political power to evangelize it.

Anyway, I found this link on the blog GOTV. It was the Christmas post there.

Glory to God

“the foyer of wickedness”

UPDATE: December 26, 2005 - 3:00 PM

Elsewhere on the web, I found a link to this site. According to the message board post that made me aware of this link, it "attempts to distinguish what Jesus actually taught from what the Church teaches."

I have not had a chance to review the site yet, but I wanted to post the link anyway because it sounds very interesting to me.

Jesus Seminar Fourm

Washingtion Election Highlights Need for Election Reform

As voters hit the polls for the do-over on the election in the Ukraine today, voters (well, the political wonks, at least) in Washington State are still dazed and confused from their 2004 gubernatorial race. Final, for now, result: Democrat Christine Gregoire by 130, with a “microscopic margin of 0.0047 percent.”

Though the law only allows for this third and final recount, the Republicans are expected to now continue the fight in the courts, unless they decide to take the high road and to concede, giving Republican Dino Rossi the pole position for a run against Maria Cantwell for the 2006 Senate race or for another face off with Gregoire in the 2008 race for the governor’s mansion.

From the AP:

The only sure winner so far is election reform. Proposals for reforming Washington's election system are going to be as common as umbrellas at the state Capitol this winter.

Secretary of State Sam Reed has suggested a package of changes, though he has said he believes the election went well, all things considered.

"We don't expect it to be perfect," Reed said. "But we do have a system set up to correct those imperfections when they surface, and we have done that."

Wise. Beyond a single state, though, we need national election reform.

As The Seattle Times points out:

The counting of nearly 3 million votes three times uncovered a series of mistakes, by both voters and ballot counters.

The final hand recount showed that 4,018 votes of validly registered state residents had been missed in the original tally from the Nov. 2 election.

A handful of ballots were found left in machines, hundreds more were discovered in misplaced trays, and many more didn't get counted for a variety of reasons. For example, an optical-scanning machine might have failed to read votes that weren't marked properly. Additional ballots were found in nearly all of the 39 counties during the final recount.

As for the candidates in this race, the AP goes on to say:

The two candidates predictably split over whether this election was free and fair.

"Like many people across Washington, I'm very concerned about the integrity of this election process, and I'm also very concerned that not all votes are being treated equally," Rossi said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. He said Washington has neither a clean election nor a legitimate governor.

Gregoire, on the other hand, brimmed with confidence in the Washington electoral system after the results were announced Thursday night.

"I think we have been a model to the rest of the nation and to the world at large," she said. "This is the biggest display of democracy I have ever seen, and I am proud of it."

The Seattle Times article from today has a question and answer section that covers the idea of setting aside the November 2 results and holding a new vote on this race.

Q: Haven't some people called for a new election?

A: Yes. Some Republican supporters of Rossi, notably former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, have called for a new election because the current results are so muddled. They worry that voters won't have confidence that a true winner was selected.

Q: Is a new election possible?

A: Republicans would have to go to court to contest the election. State law says a judge has the right to "set aside" an election because of "error, wrongful act, or neglect" in the conduct of the election.

Q: How would that be proven?

A: Essentially, a judge would put the election on trial. Republicans could present evidence and witnesses to make their case that the election was flawed.

The judge could confirm the election, make Rossi the winner instead, or annul the election.

Q: What happens if the election is nullified?

A: No one seems to know for sure. The law does not specifically say the judge can call for a new election, just that he or she could set aside the current one.

State Elections Director Nick Handy said his reading of the law is that a judge's action to set aside the Rossi-Gregoire election would create a vacancy in the governor's office. That would call for a special election, which would be open to any valid candidates, not necessarily just Rossi and Gregoire.

The state Supreme Court, which is likely to eventually rule on any contested-election case, could set a runoff election between Gregoire and Rossi.

The Seattle Times also points out that there is a precedent in Washington State for nullifying the November election:

Q: Has there ever been an election set aside under the contested-election law?

A: Yes, though not in a statewide race. In 1974 there was an Adams County Commission election nullified by a Superior Court judge, a decision later upheld by the state Supreme Court, over concerns about ballot security. The loser in the race argued that security was lax and presented evidence that ballots had been tampered with.

The Supreme Court ruled "that the irregularity was such that the actual result of the voting could not be ascertained and a new election should be held."

There is no mention of what happened after the results were set aside.

I don’t know if they need to re-do the whole election up there or not, but they definitely need to look at reform. The whole country needs to look at reform. Some would probably argue that the tight margin in races across the country reflects our current political climate, and that once that shifts, these problems will just go away on their own. To some extent, I believe that is why the reforms after the 2000 election were so lightweight.

Even if it is 50 years before the lines are drawn so tightly again, these are the times when the system needs to be at its best. To make it worse, it is hard to “steal” an election when one candidate has a 10% margin of victory and a clear majority. However, this year has shown that it is possible to steal an election when the race is as close as some we have seen this year. If an election is stolen when passions and politics are this heated, real, lasting damage can be done to the system. I am not saying that this actually has happened anywhere this year, but we need to be sure that it did not happen.

Looking to the future, we need to fix the system, regardless of how long it is before those changes prove their worth.

Votes tallied for governor, but what's next is unclear

Washington Governor's Race May Not Be Over
...and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the wind of God was moving over the face of the waters.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Letter to a Christian Fundamentalist

My brain is rotting, I have been tinkering with blog too long this morning...

One last post before I run...

On a new blog I found this morning, The Moderate Liberal...

A letter to a Christian Fundamentalist

In a letter to his cousin, "a born-again Christian Fundamentalist who moved to Texas to be with others who share her beliefs," Mark Matson writes:

I believe this world is at war between the forces of religious fundamentalism and enlightened reason. Enlightened reason must win. It isn't a coincidence we refer to the last time religious fundamentalism ruled as the Dark Ages. Religious fundamentalists brought down the twin towers. Enlightened reason must, must win.

There need be no conflict between enlightened reason and religion. Many of the founding fathers were deeply religious, but they all believed in The Enlightenment, the base philosophy this country was founded on, the principle of open discourse that lead to democracy, capitalism and science. But they were not fundamentalists.

Even if the Bible is perfect, no human who reads it is. We decide which lines to emphasize. We interpret meaning. We humans decide what biblical laws should translate to modern laws and what should be left to the individual.

It is a good letter.

I do not believe we will prevail by "converting" the other side, as I said in an earlier post, but it is good to have thoughtful, logical arguments if we are debating with them.

Check it out.

Happy Holidays!

If I say this, does this mean I hate America?

I've been meaning to write something about this crap for a while, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I would be helping to transform this into a legitimate issue.

Maybe this is a good one to just ignore.

Plus, I like Atrios' point, "it really feels fucking stupid saying "Merry Christmas" on December 1 when Christmas is over 3 weeks away."

Then there is this banality...

Homosexuals behind Target action? Stores banned Salvation Army bell ringers from property

Dude, I am taking my ball and going home...

The Grinch who saved Christmas

A Possible Re-Do In Washington State?

The Democrat’s Christine Gregoire now leads by 10 votes. This lead might grow by several hundred once 500 or so more ballots in King County are counted.

According to The Seattle Times, this means, “statewide, the vote difference between Gregoire and [Republican Dino] Rossi is now 0.00036 percent.” 2.9 million votes were cast in the election.

According to a piece published Tuesday in USA Today:

The trouble with extremely close elections is that a candidate's victory margin can be smaller than the total vote's margin of error, regardless of voting technology. A lead of just a few votes could be the result of mistakes. That's why there are recounts. But recounts themselves, whether by machine or by hand, have error rates of 1% to 2%, says Phil Howard, a political communications professor at the University of Washington.

Looking at the vote totals for the three recounts, we see the problem illustrated more clearly…

From today’s Seattle Times article:

Rossi won the Nov. 2 election by 261 votes, which triggered an automatic statewide machine recount. After Rossi won that recount by just 42 votes, the state Democratic Party requested a third count -- this time by hand.

For the first week of the manual recount, Rossi gained votes in most of the state's smaller counties and at one point was ahead by more than 120 votes.

But Gregoire charged back late last week, picking up 43 votes on Rossi in Snohomish County and 31 in Pierce County.

She overtook Rossi yesterday when King County -- the last to complete the manual recount -- reported she had gained 47 votes, while Rossi had lost 12.

King County elections director Dean Logan said Gregoire may have benefited from ballots on which voters wrote her name as a write-in but failed to fill in any bubble, Logan said. Machines disqualified those ballots, but the manual count gave them to Gregoire.

Which gives Gregoire a ten vote lead.

Maybe the Republicans do have something of a point when they whine about recounting over and over until you get a result that you like.

This has triggered talk of re-doing the election.

The election to replace two-term Democrat Gary Locke has dragged on so long that calls for a new election are gaining traction.

Last week, a former secretary of State who oversaw elections for 20 years joined the chorus, warning that whoever emerges from the recount would have trouble governing.

There are some precedents for this in American politics.

In 1974, a two-vote margin in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race led to a court battle so contentious that both candidates agreed to a new election. Democrat John Durkin won a rematch.

Now, this one article in a national publication is the only place I have actually seen the possibility of a re-do mentioned. I have done my extensive 37 seconds of searching on Google, I have glanced at the web sites for the two Seattle newspapers…

I doubt that this is really much of an issue outside of random, idle chatter. Or is it? I tried to find an article from Washington mentioning the idea of a re-do, but I was unable to locate one before I got distracted.

This probably will be settled by the courts in the end.

I just hope one of the canidates does not suddenly develop facial scaring.

Wash. election drama plays on

Unofficial manual recount results

Text of Supreme Court's decision

2004 is not 1969: Middle America Values

The Middle Americans cherish a system of values they see assaulted and mocked everywhere--everywhere except in [the President's] Washington... It was their interpretation of patriotism that influenced the mood of government...The Men and Women of the Year were the Middle Americans... Middle America is a state of mind, a morality, a construct of values.

--Time Magazine, "Man and Woman of the Year"

Seattle's alternative rag The Stranger has a column in this week's issue that starts with the above quote.

Here are the first couple paragraphs of the piece that follows:

No, I didn't get an advance copy of Time's Man of the Year issue. This is from 1969, when the magazine honored red-state Americans and the reemergence of moral values. Before they go and honor the same group in 2004, scaring the shit out of you with the idea that "moral values" are in ascendancy, I'd like to offer a reality check. Let's start with a history lesson.

1969? Moral values? Roll the film: Woodstock, mini-skirts, and the gay rights explosion at Stonewall; feminism, Black Power, and the debut of the super politically correct Sesame Street; orgies, communes, and the debut of the sexually explicit Penthouse.

By the mid-'70s, liberal Democrats firmly controlled the Senate, a bunch of stoned comedians, including John Belushi, were hosting the most popular TV show in the country, and blatantly gay disco hits were topping the charts.

Essentially, Josh Feit compares the cultural trends of that period with the current one, and comes up with the idea that "We're winning the culture war."

He writes:

Desperate Housewives, with its swinging '70s values, is the number-two show in the country--and it's number one in red turf like metro Atlanta. More substantively, civil unions--once anathema--are now the Republican fallback position. Polls find two-thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal, and prescriptions for the morning-after pill have increased from 48,000 in 1998 to more than 310,000 in 2000, according to Planned Parenthood.

And he concludes that;

2005 will make it clear the Bushies and the media (as before) are overplaying the moral "mandate." If there's going to be any backlash, it's going to be ours--against their house of cards.

Uh... Okay.

Desperate Housewives, a show I find myself despising, though I have admittedly never seen it, and approximately 250,000 more women a year resorting to the morning after pill as a last resort? Are these good things? Do you really think that we are trending towards Red America lightening up and getting with the hip crowd, accepting what they see as perverse and immoral?

Do I even want to be in this hip crowd?

Now, I am on the left. I believe that the FCC needs to back off. I believe that Desperate Housewives is a valid form of entertainment. I believe that the availability of morning after pill is an essential element of women's health care, one that includes comprehensive sex education enabling people to make choices that lessen the need for the morning after pill and for abortions. And I believe that all Americans deserve the same rights, period. If I can do it legally, you can do it legally and on until dawn. No exceptions.

But I would say, the culture war is not something that CAN be won. It is not something that should even be fought in the first place. We are a nation of moral people, but different groups have different morals. Just as they have different belief systems.

Trying to win a culture war, to me, is no less offensive than Ann Coulter saying:

We should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.

Earlier this week, I was in The Dalles in Eastern Oregon. This is a pink county on the election map and their split on the President was exactly the same as the national result: 51% Bush, 48% Kerry. Just off the freeway there is a porn shop. On Sunday, there were also a handful of perfectly legitimate protesters with anti-porn signs standing outside of this perfectly legitimate business.

This was almost odd to me. I live in a city where every neighborhood has its very own porn shop (seriously, Portland is like that, we also have the highest per capita number of strip joints in America), but in a culture war, one of these sides is going to win and one is going to lose. Both sides have 1st Amendment protections safe guarding their activities. Regardless of who would win such a battle in a culture war, we all would lose as basic freedom of speech rights were eroded.

Beyond this... Before the November elections, many liberal Democrats actually assumed that they were a majority in this country. Regardless of your beliefs on the validity of the results of the election, one thing is clear... We are split right down the middle, 50/50. I'll say the 3% difference in the presidential election results would be called within the margin of error on this point.

According to Feit, he assumes that this same unseen liberal majority will quietly slide into power as a backlash against conservatism. But what he fails to understand is that the political climate is very different these days. What we are seeing today in many ways is the backlash to the cultural shift that happened in the early 70's.

It could even be said that we are seeing a correction, that the conservatives are not pulling America in their direction but that the conservatives themselves are actually the true face of American values that was subjugated by the culturally amoral liberal minority for 30 years.

It seems to me that there are actually two Americas with almost equal populations; Blue urban America and Red rural America. We need to find the values that both sides agree on and work on building consensus through those points.

We will never convince Red America that what their faith labels as perverse and immoral is just a fun, legally protected Saturday night and that our soul is our own business. They will never convince Blue America that it is good for the country to limit our rights and choices.

But right now the culture is trending towards the Red. While it is important to accept their values as legitimate, it is even more important that we do not become complacent and let them take away our rights and freedoms.

We have to be viligent and defend our values; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to privacy; control of our own bodies, civil rights for all Americans...

The most disturbing thing about this column was not its total miss on the cultural climate of rural America's socially conservative values, but that it encourages those with more to lose than soft core porn on network TV to be passive and to ignore the fact that their basic rights are being threatened.

And by the way, Atlanta is almost as Blue as Seattle. Fulton County, Georgia had Kerry at 60%, Bush at 39%. King County, Washington went for Kerry 65% to 34%.

Complacency, making naive assumptions about Red American values and the nature of Red States in general (Atlanta is in Georgia, Georgia is Red, Atlanta must be Red) are at the core of why we find our Democracy in Distress.


Quote of the Day

We have been following developments very closely and are deeply disturbed by the extensive and credible reports of fraud in the election. We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results... We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse.

-- US Secretary of State Colin Powell, 11/23/2004, referring to the election in the Ukraine, of course, not the one here in the US.

Eat The State

A Democracy In Distress First: A. F. Litt sides with Republicans on Washington State recount issue

A new wrinkle in Washington… Two victories for the Democrats.

Yesterday, the state Supreme Court ruled that those ballots in question in King County, a Democrat stronghold, can be counted.

As if to spike the ball, Democrat Contender Christine Gregoire pulled ahead by 10 votes anyway. All that is left to count are 735 disputed ballots in King County. Unless these ballots go for Dino Rossi, which is highly unlikely since King County, in the initial count, went 58% for the Democrat (65% for Kerry in the Presidential race), the Democrats will retain the govenorship in Washington State.

Okay, what is it that the Republicans like to say? Something about recounting over and over until you get a result you like, but at some point a winner has to be declared and the process just has to stop?

Well, if the current totals in the Washington State Governor’s race continue their trend, the Dems can start chanting, you can challenge the results in court over and over until you get a result you like, but at some point a winner has to be declared and the process just has to stop.

Time for a big quote from The Seattle Times:

The Supreme Court yesterday unanimously ruled that during a recount, counties have the power to reconsider previously rejected ballots.

The ruling allows King County today to count some, if not most, of the 735 ballots that election workers improperly rejected because they failed to find matching signatures in county files. The county expects to finish counting and report its final returns this afternoon.

What happens after that is not clear. At yesterday's court hearing, justices and lawyers made reference to the state law that allows elections to be contested in a court trial where evidence of fraud or legal error can be heard. The law allows election results to be set aside, and new elections ordered, under certain circumstances.

"Someone will decide to contest it," the Republican Party's attorney, Harry Korrell, told the Supreme Court yesterday. "I think that is almost unavoidable regardless of what this court does."

He said a contest would allow for an adversarial process where evidence would be presented and witnesses cross-examined.

Are the Republican’s already planning their challenge or are they taking the high road they preached in Florida in 2000 and letting the process roll to its conclusion?

The Times quotes the State Republican Chair Chris Vance as saying, "This is the election without end, this is the election without rules."

Ambiguous, sure, but I am guessing, after all the Republican hand wringing in Ohio this year and Florida four years ago, they are going to start the healing in Washington and concede, right?


Please feel free to mentally insert your favorite Republican spin doctor’s “Democrats are sore loooooosers” quote here and then chuckle over the blatant hypocrisy.

So, really…

Let’s parse this out a bit… Now, over those 735 ballots in King County, the issues here are the same as those in Ohio and those in Florida in 2000, every vote must be counted.

King County Executive Ron Sims, a Democrat, said the ruling reinforced the state's process for running elections and correcting mistakes.

"For us, this hand recount hasn't been about partisan politics; this has been about having a process that assures every eligible vote is counted," Sims said in a statement.

Now the Republicans are running with this ball, saying that the courts ruling should allow every county in Washington to review their ballots.

Of course, this sudden Republican concern over counting every vote is because, as of today, the Democrats are ahead and Rossi has lost. Even without the 735 ballots in King County.

Vance said the Republicans have a list of 500 people statewide, including about 260 who have signed affidavits, who voted for Rossi but contend their ballots were wrongly rejected due to signature problems.

In light of yesterday's court ruling, he said the party will press county auditors across the state to reconsider those ballots.

"Now, we're with the Democrats," said Vance. "Let's count every vote -- everywhere, not just in King County."

Ah, man… Uh, oh.

[Rossi spokeswoman Mary] Lane and ... Vance said the party planned to go all over the state asking canvassing boards to take another look at ballots the party believes were erroneously rejected.

"If the rules are going to be changed for a select group in King County, it only seems logical that the rules are changed for everyone, including military voters overseas," Lane said.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican who backed the Democrats' bid to add any valid disputed ballots to King County's recount, said it's too late for counties that have already certified results to recanvass their returns.

"He's wrong," Vance said, noting that Thurston County certified its results last week, then changed them to add one Gregoire vote. "This battle is not over. This election is not over."

Trovah Hutchins, Reed's spokeswoman, said the secretary of state's office advised Thurston County against changing its certified results. "Our reading of the law is that it's very clear, and that you cannot go back after a county has certified and begin adding votes back into the process."

I would guess that one way this issue could be resolved would be for King County to go ahead and certify their results without adding in the additional ballots. Then the other counties would have little room for complaint, since the same process was followed in all of the counties. However, this would mean that valid ballots were not counted and that voters were disenfranchised.

This is one of those principal defining moments. What is more important, a Democrat winning or defending the principals of our system and counting every valid ballot?

They’ve got to count those ballots. Even if it puts Rossi into the job.

I said it.

But it would still be nice to see the Righties live by the principals they whine about in the recent Presidential races and to just concede.

And flying monkeys just shot out of my ass.

Finally, the money...

If Gregoire's lead holds, Democrats will get back the $730,000 they posted to cover the cost of the manual recount, and the state will have to pick up the bill.

Gregoire leads by 10

Both parties respond to the latest chapter in recount saga

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Because Representative Democracy Undergoing Difficulties Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring to It...

So I call this site Democracy in Distress instead.

I bring this up because this morning I ducked over to Lance in Iraq to see if he happened to be stationed at Camp Merez outside of Mosul. All I know from his blog is that he is in Northern Iraq, so he might be there. God bless the dead and wounded, and Lance- Blog soon so we know you are okay.

So while I was checking on our brave, patriotic spin meister (sorry, Lance, I respect you as a person and as a soldier but your politics are fair game), I noticed that he suddenly had a ton of comments on his posts. Seems like the recent media coverage of his blog cranked up his traffic quite a bit. He is a bit annoyed with the tone of some of the lefty comments, however. "The Comments section may not be family friendly until I get a chance to do some cleaning," Frizzell writes.

So, seeing an opportunity to chide my team for using bad language (something I never do), I reviewed the comments on this blog looking for bad behavior... None that I could find, but maybe Lance had a chance to exercise his administrative rights and clean up the nasty.

Seriously, I do hope that we can take the high road and not resort to name calling, etc. I hope we can focus on logical, fact based arguments and leave the hysteria and irrational conspiracy theories behind...

Anyway, on to the main point of this post...

DJ writes in a comment on Lance In Iraq:

Socialist democrats ... do not know, in their "Gathering to Save Our Democracy" , probably from their disdain for our pledge of allegiance, that we do not have a democracy in the USA. It is a representative Republic. There is a difference. In a democracy, "mob rules". Our republic is constitutionally protected and equally represented by elected officials, hence the Electoral College.

A good try, DJ, but calling our political system a republic is just about as meaningless as calling it a democracy. What we actually have is a representative democracy, "in which the people elect representatives, and the reps make the laws."

The Straight Dope has a nice, readable article on this concept. A few quotes to help define fine our terms:

In recent times, the term "republic" has been bandied about by just about every country, with a popular vote or no, on the claim that the government and the people were subject to the same law. Covers just about everybody except for hereditary monarchies, as I say, including the People's Republic of China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Republic of Texas, as well as the more "republican" Dominician Republic, Kyrgyz Republic, and Banana Republic.

True democracy can also be called "town hall" or "referendum" government. Some small towns use the town hall as their exclusive system of law-making, and most state and local governments in the U.S. use referenda in placing bond issues and similar decisions directly on the voting ballot.

Direct involvement of the people is a nice concept, but for matters of day-to-day government, a strictly democratic system is impractical. Even now that it's somewhat feasible via electronic communication to survey each and every voter on each and every matter of administering the laws, would you really want this on a national, state, or even local level? Voting is rightly looked on as a civic obligation, but if you were asked to do it every morning when you woke up, you'd probably get pretty sick of it.

I don't know... I get up and make random comments about politics almost every morning on this blog, so I might like logging on and voting every morning. But then again, when politics is not your full time job, it is hard to make informed decisions on the issues. Also, I am more interested in politics than the average American (or human, for that matter).

So yes, I know we do not live in a pure democracy, but it is the democratic elements in our system that seem to be distressed right now, so that is why I call this site Democracy in Distress.

And what ever we want to call it, these men and women are over there fighting and dying to protect it, regardless of what the Bush Administration is doing to it back at home. So I say thank you to them and I hope they are okay.

Lance In Iraq

Is the U.S. a democracy or a republic? What's the difference?

Attack on US Iraq base kills 22

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bush Not Ready for Primetime?

I do not have enough coffee in me. After posting the previous post and tinkering with my personal blog, I looked up at my TV and realized that Bush was having his "End of the Year" Press Conference.

Didn't Presidents do these sorts of things in primetime at one point in history? Were they not publicized before hand? Or have I just been hiding too deep in my bunker?

Listening to this man talk makes me hurt. It's not even his politics, just his voice and the way he talks. It looks painful for him. It makes me cringe just watching.

This started sometime before 8 AM on the west coast. Monday morning, that is when they let this guy live and uncensored on the television. It is on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News, NorthWest Cable News, CSPAN... I am actually surprised; it is on the three broadcast networks too. Maybe this is the only time they were willing to clear time in their schedules.

Rolling Highlights:

Bush seems really concerned about not "negotiating with [him]self." That sounds like something Ashcroft would not have approved of.

Rumsfeld "is a good and decent man... A good human being who cares deeply about the military." I would add that he cares enough to use the very best equipment so he does not have to sign 1300+ letters of condolence regarding service in Iraq, freeing his time up to work hard on providing armor for the living soldiers in the combat zone.

He is now taking credit for the courts ruling against the Administration on behalf of foreign nationals being held in Gitmo, saying that it proves that we "honor the rule of law" and that criticisms of the administration's human rights record regarding these prisoners is "unfair."

"I've been in the diplomatic dental chair for four years" Bush says regarding Israeli/Palestinian relations. Also, "I know the world is wondering if this is just empty rhetoric or if... It is really time to move this process forward... I look forward to working with the world..."

Okay, he was all over a ton of issues here, but I was unprepared and missed most of it. CNN is calling it "good." If it was so good, why didn't the administration put it up in primetime?

Anyway, the talking heads are spinning wildly now, and these are just the impartial CNN commentators.

A weak post... It is too early and I did not have enough warning to properly prepare for this. I see, I get it. Oh, they are good.

CNN has returned to its regularly scheduled broadcast of the Fetus Cut From Its Mother's Womb and Kidnapped! and the upcoming Michael Jackson Pedophilia Trial!

I am not kidding, these were the next two stories they went to, in that order.

Republican Press Secretary Serving in Iraq Discusses Rumsfeld and Armor

I am always a fan of "primary source" material. To me, this is one of the best things about blogging: It gives people who would be normally overlooked by the mainstream media a readily accessible pipeline to the masses. Because of this, I don't have to go to Iraq to hear a first person story about life there. I don't have to rely on catching a few stories on life in Iraq squeezed into the slow news gap between the Peterson Sentence and the Kidnapped Fetus.

One of the worst things about blogging? Being stuck in an apartment in the suburbs with no access to primary material and writing about news and information recycled from other media sources. Using blogs for research isn't much better. It still isn't the same as being there, talking to a live human, but at least it feels one step closer...

There was an article this morning calling Lance In Iraq, by Second Lt. Lance Frizzell, the first blog out of Iraq by a US soldier from Tennessee. I do know know if it is true that this is the first blog from a Tennessee soldier in Iraq or not, but it is the first blog I have noticed from any US soldier in Iraq.

It is an interesting read. It is written by a National Guardsman who's civilian job is being "the Press Secretary for the House Republican Caucus in the Tennessee Legislature."

There is bias here, obviously, but I have no problem with bias as long as it is not claiming to be "Fair and Balanced."

I get laid off from my job and decide to kill time by writing about life and politics on my blogs, this man gets sent to war and decides to kill time by passing "on some of the things the 278th[Armored Cavalry Regiment (now Regimental Combat Team)] is doing in country as well as talk a little politics and media analysis. "

I can respect that, regardless of his political affiliation.

The 278th is the same unit that Spc. Thomas Wilson is from. He is the soldier who asked the Secretary of Defense why the US Military had to "dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles." To make hillbilly armor, as they call it.

Obviously, I am interested to see what a Republican press secretary who is in a combat zone has to say about this...

...what would happen if the 278th hung out in Kuwait for an extended period of time waiting for official up-armor kits. Here is the answer:

The units we are scheduled to replace would be stuck in Iraq waiting to be relieved. A lot of these units are National Guardsman like ourselves who rolled in last year when things were dicier than they are now. I'd hate to be languishing here in country because some members of the U.S. Army are too prissy to pick up a welding torch and put steel on a vehicle. It's time for these guys to go home. It's time for us to take their place. Period.

If we are delayed a year from now because the next rotation is scared of angry family members and Congressional inquiries I (and everyone else in the 278th - especially those complaining about armor) will be highly pissed.

Frizzell writes that he is more concerned about the troop rotations, getting soldiers who are due to leave Iraq out, than having adequate armor. That is very noble. I would guess this is how most soldiers going into this situation feel. This is because we have good people serving over there. They deserve all the protection they can be given while they are doing their jobs over there.

The point here isn't quite on target, unfortunately. The debate isn't about delaying your arrival in the combat zone. You are going with or without the proper equipment. The debate is about making sure that going in unarmored stops.

In a different post from the same day, Frizzell talks about Clinton's secretary of Defense Les Aspin turning down a request for "tanks and armored vehicles for his forces" during the Somalia deployments.

He quotes the following from a DOD web site profile of Aspin:

In September General Powell asked Aspin to approve the request of the U.S. commander in Somalia for tanks and armored vehicles for his forces. Aspin turned down the request. Shortly thereafter Aideed's forces in Mogadishu killed 18 U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 75 in attacks that also resulted in the shooting down of three U.S. helicopters and the capture of one pilot.

In his post, the Republican press secretary/soldier writes, "Liberals and lefty media types using the armor issue to take down Rumsfeld were no where to be found during the Aspin debacle. "

The sentence immediately following the DOD quote above is:

In the face of severe congressional criticism, Aspin admitted that in view of what had happened he had made a mistake, but stated that the request for armored equipment had been made within the context of delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia rather than protecting troops.

Aspin ended up resigning a short time later.

I would use this example not so much to complain about differences in the media coverage between events a over a decade ago in Somalia and current events in Iraq, but to illustrate the difference between an administration that can admit its mistakes and one that cannot, no matter how bad they are.

Especially when considering... Aspin's mistake, apparently, did not cost those soldiers serving in Somalia their lives.

According to one of the comments posted on Frizzell's blog, "But of course having the armor wouldn't have prevented either the attack, or the deaths -- the armor was requested by the 10th Mountain Division, not the Ranger detachment, and the Rangers were based on the opposite side of the city than the 10th Mountain Division."

As far as the media coverage goes, I cannot remember if the media latched onto this Aspin controversy or not, but I do know that very little was said in the mainstream media about the lack of properly armored vehicles in Iraq until Rumsfeld was confronted by one of his own soldiers about the issue.

Body armor was discussed to some degree before then, mostly during the presidential campaign, but the discussion was focused mostly on congressional voting records, not if the soldiers ever actually received armor or other materiel that was supposedly being voted on at the time.

What was that money for? One of our left-liberal stars, Rep. Jim McDermott from Washington, outlined some of it on the House floor...

We have got no jobs in this country. But we are printing money. The presses are running like mad printing this money to send over to Iraq.

Now, what are we going to send it there for? You heard from one of my colleagues a little bit of it. We are going to send over a guard system for public property, $15 million. That is just for training and administration.

We are going to send them 80 pickup trucks at $2.6 million. That is $33,000 apiece. That is a pretty good pickup truck. You can get a pickup truck for under $20,000 right now. But, no, we have to send them the $33,000 brand.

We are going to send over a communications system of handheld radios, 400 of them, and 200 satellite telephones, for $6 million. How many of your police departments have that kind of equipment? And yet we can send it over to Iraq.

Or we can go and give security for the judges at $200 million. Four hundred judges. We are going to provide security details constantly for $200 million.

These phony dollars that they got us into, they got us into a war on a fraudulent basis. The President stood right here and said things which he now says, ``My, it wasn't true.'' But we are going to pay for it.

We are going to pay for a witness protection program. If any Iraqis come forward, we promise them that we will take them to the United States and set them up someplace in Florida or wherever, I do not know, and spend $100 million on them, like they were crime fighters in the Mafia in the United States. That is what your money is going for.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things in this country that ought to happen before that happens.

We are going to buy them 200 tanker trucks. We are going to buy them 250 natural gas trucks. More of these dollars. They are going out. They are going out to the people, and they are going to be spent over there, and the Iraqis themselves say, ``Give us 10 cents on the dollar, and we can do it ourselves.'' But this is an American occupation headed by Viceroy Bremer, and there is no intention in this list of turning over control to them.

We are going to set them up an army. We have decided they need a 40,000-man army. They had an army before. Where is it? Why do we have to buy new weapons for all of them?

Four hundred thirty-five Members are going to come in here with their rubber stamp, and they are going to say, ``Mr. President, you want it. I close my eyes, it is yours.'' And we are going to send them $87 billion , with no discussion. It is wrong. Keep your eye on them.

$87 Billion in October 2003, $25 billion on August 2004, another $70 Billion in the works; all in addition to the initial " $78.5 billion measure that included $62.4 billion for combat and $7.5 billion for foreign assistance..."

This is why the lefties get a little upset and confused when US troops still seem to be unprepared two years into this phase of the Global War on Terror.

This is what inspires "lefty" Congressmen, like Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., to demand accountability from the Secretary of Defense.

Dodd sent a letter to the Secretary "and called the secretary's answer to Spc. Wilson's question 'unacceptable.'"

"Your response -- 'You go to war with the Army you have' -- is utterly unacceptable," Sen. Dodd wrote. "Mr. Secretary, our troops go to war with the Army that our nation's leaders provide."

I can spin in Oregon. Frizzell can spin in Iraq. That is the beauty of blogs.

Welcome to the conversation, Lance.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Voting With Your Wallet... Buy Blue

I added a button for this organization's web site to the blog. I like the idea. Not so much thinking that it will effect campaign contributions or anything like that, but...

I just don't like the Republicans getting my cash.

That is enough for me.

Tomorrow I plan on posting something about how the liberals are trying to take the Christ out of the Mas and destroy the beloved holiday. A part of this plan, it seems, is that the homosexuals are behind Target banning the Salvation Army...

All bunk, I am sure, but I wanted to toss out a statistic from the site.

Target: $298,000 - 72% to Republicans

Secession Wear... Moving the debate in the wrong direction?

While researching (Heh, I called it researching!) one of my posts for the evening, I saw an ad for Secession T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, etc.

It's funny and I would like one of the T-Shirts for my birthday, but I hope that this is not a mounting movement.

We do need to unify this country. Most of the values of Red America are shared by Blue America. I believe that it is the parties, both parties, harping on a few key issues that has created the feeling that there are irreconcilable differences between Iowa and California... Okay, maybe there are between those two states, but living my whole life in Washington and Oregon I feel there are irreconcilable differences between my states and California, but we both manage to come up Blue.

And that is my point, I suppose.

Unfortunately, we got Skippy the Wonder President saying his obligatory few words about reconciliation and unity after the election, so the Administration's efforts at building bipartisanship in America is complete for the next four years.

It is probably going to be up to the Democrats, to the lefties within the party, to reach out to Red America. We need to explore the issues important in rural America, we need to field candidates that are electable in rural America, we need to redefine the issues and control the message so our beliefs are not corrupted and labeled antagonistic to rural America, and we need to do all of this without sacrificing our principals and morals.

I believe it is possible.

This is one of the main themes that I mean to pursue with Democracy in Distress. At this point, most of my posting has been commenting on news items, but we do need to start organizing. We need to take control of the party, control of the issues, control of the message and we need to learn how to heal this nation.

On a side note, in my evening's running commentary on Comedy Central programming, The Daily Show just ran their Great Moments in Punditry segment where they had children reading transcripts from Scarborough Country on MSNBC. That is about the clearest illustration I have seen recently of the current state of political debate in this country.

Scary stuff. We must demand better from both the media and from our politicians. And from ourselves… Poopy heads.

And yet another final note on a rapidly growing post… Clicking over to the Scarborough Country for the web link, I noticed a clip of Al Franken and Ann Coulter debating whether The Passion of the Christ would be nominated for an Oscar. It turned into a “debate” on if either Mel Gibson’s controversial film or Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 would be nominated.

In the end, there wasn’t much debate. Neither of the talking heads had seen the other camp’s movie.

Could this be a part of the problem? It does illustrate part of the media’s problem, more and more the debate over controversy is being analyzed with out enough attention being paid to the root issues behind the debate. In this case, two movies. In the election, the media ignored the candidates' actual platforms and instead focused on the horse race of the campaigns themselves.