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Thursday, March 24, 2005

There in Spirit 

Just when you think you’ve heard about all the obscenity from the culture warriors you can take, you turn around and hear some more.

Readers know that I’ve written a bit here about my college friend Pam Hartman and her partner, Jeanne Kerechanin, who perished recently in a tragic auto accident. It’s been heartwarming to see the comments people have posted here in response. It also keeps my spine a little stiffer to know that other people take the offense as seriously when they see evidence of the ways that gay people are denied even the simple courtesy and validation given to heterosexual family members in a time of grief.

So I want to pass on this article by Kathryn Eastburn , from a local Colorado Springs publication, the Independent:


“There was no irony lost in the fact that just as the news of Pam and Jeanne's passing began to spread around downtown on Friday morning, demonstrators from Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church appeared around the corner from the restaurant at Palmer High School, carrying signs spewing their hatred of gays, some of the most hideous slogans carried by children.”


The only thing that makes it any easier to take is that the response was massive. Eastburn goes on:


“Across the street, an estimated 1,000 counter-demonstrators peacefully protested the Westboro contingent's presence and their politics. Among that group were many personal friends of Pam and Jeanne, including Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, their employer. Had they been in town, they most definitely would have been there.”

This is Why... 

…You'll Hear About Social Security Here— Waaay Past When You're Sick of It.

Sorry for the monomania, but that’s the case. It’s gonna be a long war. As I posted the other day, they’ll just keep saying green is blue until journalists tire of citing the facts. So we gotta keep telling the truth.

Whiskey Bar Open 

Billmon, in his own curmudgeonly way, says it all more eloquently than I can. But keeps the faith, in practice if not in word. And yes, The Salvador Option is, in itself, a reason to keep fighting.

Two Years 

Two Years... maybe instead of the major commemorations in the Big Media, you might want to hear one Iraqi girl tell it the way she remembers it.

“Remember when the fear was still fresh- and the terror was relatively new- and it was possible to be shocked and awed in Iraq?”

Just a Little Valentine 

I'm finally reading Joe Trippi’s book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, about the Dean campaign and about the revolution in American politics represented by his younger, committed, internet-savvy, supporters. It's captivating and a bit intoxicating to remember the moment before the Scream. There’s a power in this medium— in sharing our thoughts and creating a community of ideas and action, which Trippi captures.

While the Dean candidacy itself faltered and fell, the insurgency backed by his supporters remains. Here we are, after all, not all of us in the blogosphere having supported Dean, but many, myself included, were activated politically in opposition to Bush’s optional war and drawn to Howard Dean’s lonely but clear voice. We became active (or reclaimed, for others, our legacy of activism). Here we are, still writing, reading, and participating. I’m hopeful that in the long run, the real legacy of the 2003-4 run won’t be Bush II, it’ll be tens of thousands of us who work, still hold the torch and believe in a better America.

Unlike the activism of the 1960’s and early 70’s, this generation and those of us not too tired to participate again, are savvy about the ways of the world. I don’t think younger activists have an expectation of being given a revolution on a platter, nor are they surprised at the political artillery being wheeled out to defeat progressive change. This allows all of us to build a movement over time, something the right has been working on since Watergate thinned out the ranks of Republican moderates and gave them the GOP as a vehicle to begin rebuilding and taking over.

It will take time, and perhaps more defeats, but I’m hopeful. Being part of the community here in blogistan feeds my optimism. I really believe we have a tool here to nurture each other’s thinking, keep our community strong, and create an extensive grassroots political movement. Hey, I’m a longtime Red Sox fan too, so my obsession with lost causes has been just recently been given new life. I’m feeling good about the future and just wanted to say so this evening.

Feel free to elaborate or disagree below

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Schiavo 

The Schiavo case is a tragic story, any way you approach it and it’s sadder still that we are drawn into a partisan political mugging involving her and her family. Most of us of a certain age have been confronted, some in a glancing way, others head-on, with the effects of a medical ‘miracle’ that left a family member or friend living, but in a state of great incapacity. Most of us find it hard not to feel empathy for both Mr. Schiavo and for his wife’s parents, as well as for Ms. Schiavo herself. It’s hard to know if medicine has done a favor to many it’s ‘saved’, much less what the right thing to do is for the patient. Sympathizing with the families doesn’t make it any more acceptable to bring the Congress into the Schiavos’ hospital room, pretending to help.

Only the despicable circumstances of our current political discourse allow this intensely personal struggle to become another ‘opportunity’ for the culture warriors. However much the morality thugs ‘know’ about the case, one thing is sure. Most of them have scanned only a brief thumbnail of the volumes presented in court since Ms. Schiavo’s care became a legal issue, years ago, and have no idea what the humane or respectful thing is to do for this woman. That appears not to have been a problem for those who voted to intervene, or for the President, who has presided over wars and executions, but ran to the White House in the dead of night to sign the legislation, to tout his position that 'all life is sacred.'

It’s a tragedy and a spectacle. A spectacle that should illuminate just how low these hooligans will stoop.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Jeanne Kerechanin 

Pam Hartman’s partner, Jeanne Kerechanin, made quite an impression on people as well. You might want to check out some of the things said about her as well.

Riverbend 

Courtesy of A Brooklyn Bridge, I’m turned on to an interesting Iraqi blog, Baghdad Burning. Her writing makes mockery of the grand democratic victory described by our Dear Leader. She wrote a post earlier this month that included the following:

“…I got an interesting email today telling me about an internet petition to nominate Sistani, of all people, for the Nobel Peace Prize. That had me laughing and a little bit incredulous. Why should Sistani get the Nobel Peace Prize? Because he urged his followers to vote for a list that wants to implement an Iranian-styled government in Iraq? Is that what the Nobel Peace Prize has come to?…”

The actual voice of this blogger is Riverbend, an anonymous 25-year-old Iraqi woman who has chronicled her day-to-day life as an educated Muslim woman in occupied Iraq since August of 2003.

Riverbend’s now the subject of a play here in New York, presented by Six Figures Theatre and adapted from her blog by Kim Kefgen and Loren Noveck. A review by Jason Zinoman in the Times last week gave it thumbs up as a blog, perhaps a mixed review as a play.

Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq" continues through this weekend at the West End Theater, 263 West 86th Street, (212) 946-1737.

As Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge says, “ I hope she’s getting royalties.”

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Show Must Go On, and On and On... 

I missed this originally when it appeared in the Washington Post on March 12, but after thinking and writing recently about the White House Social Security road show, I thought readers might like to check out Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker's excellent piece on the stagecraft behind the sell job, particularly the vetting of 'real people' who interact with President Bush:

The night before the event, the chosen participants gathered for a rehearsal in the hall in which the President would appear the next day. An official dispatched by the White House played the president and asked questions. "We ran through it five times before the president got there," Darr (a participant) said.

Another participant was quoted about their experience prior to the Town Hall:

"They had a couple people on the staff come down and introduce us all," he recalled. "We all went into a small room, and they told us what they were looking for was what our ideas were on the President's Social Security plan." By then, he said, the interview process had thinned out the group. "They found out how we felt about it, and I guess that's how we got chosen."

The article details the many ways in which these events are like commercials, staged for effect, rather than for information. They're essentially like watching Fox News, instead of news, yet they are picked up as if what happens during them is something other than an unpaid political announcement. It's a brilliant stroke of empty Rove showmanship, catering to the media machine’s need for action pictures in news settings for the nightly broadcasts. The effect is to show the President, looking magnanimous, with 'real' folks, as the lower third onscreen says 'Social Security Reform.'

Every damn night…

No Compromise 

Today’s column by Ron Brownstein in the LA Times opines that the window of opportunity for a compromise solution on Social Security may be closing. Brownstein laments the failure of momentum around an add-on program of private accounts, even if coupled with a program to shore up Social Security’s guaranteed accounts into the foreseeable future. This, he thinks, could be the compromise that would allow everyone to walk away into the sunset together.

Unfortunately, there are two reasons, both acknowledged by Brownstein, why there’ll be no grand compromise to ‘fix’ Social Security while leaving it intact. The most important one is the most basic: ideological conservatives want the program as we know it dead. Leaving Social Security intact and breathing negates the entire point of bringing up the concept of privatization in the first place. It’s privatization or nothing, in the eyes of the hard core, who’ve been eyeing the program for decades (it’s been since 1978 that George W. Bush was first on the record to privatize the crown jewel of the New Deal).

The other reason why fixing the modest hole in future Social Security actuarial tables and passing an add-on of private retirement savings accounts won’t happen is a consequence of the first. Because the conservatives’ unspoken goal is to achieve total privatization and the Republican House leadership has a proven track record of undermining any ‘deal’ with Senate Democrats, there’s no willingness on the part of Democrats to pass any legislation that will depend on the conference process to become law.

Here’s what the scenario looks like to pass a stealth GOP privatization victory in conference:

1- Convince Democrats in the Senate (where they, combined with a few Republican moderates can stave off privatization) to pass a bill that keeps Social Security safe, perhaps by raising the ‘cap’ on earnings eligible to be taxed, in combination which one or two other small adjustments. In addition, Senate Republicans agree to support this fix and add-on a separate program for private retirement savings accounts, accounts that do not affect Social Security in any way. Everyone agrees and the legislation passes.

2- House Republicans ram through the old legislation, pretty much as President Bush envisions it.

3- Conferees gather, with Republican leaders at both the Senate and House sides of the table holding the cards. They gut the Senate legislation and come out with— Viola— privatization of Social Security.

Think this wouldn’t happen? It already has on other issues. Ask House members about the ‘open’ vote on Medicare, when after hours of arm-twisting and the offer of bribes to Congresspeople, the majority got their changed vote in the dead of night. Senate Democrats now are understandably unwilling to trust that the slash and burn tactics of the majority wouldn’t be applied to any possible compromise and are left with only one option—fight privatization until electoral conditions change and honest compromise is possible…or until the President comes to the table with an offer that takes real bipartisanship into account.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

News Flash- Green is the New Blue 

On Friday, the President, introducing his mother to an Orlando crowd, to whom she pled for her 17 grandchildren in the Social Security debate, took no position on removing the casino industry’s feeding tube from Rep. Tom DeLay. No, he was staying full-force on the privatization hard-sell. Nothing new, just another day on the road, pushing the same idea. It’s like the campaign trail, where sometime after the candidate’s staff begins passing out from hearing the same speech delivered the same way, week after week, Karl Rove thinks maybe it’s almost been said often enough-almost.

President Bush is betting on the effectiveness of repetition. Some of his arguments for privatization have been discredited and the crisis rhetoric has had to be tempered slightly in the face of evidence that it was a manufactured panic, but by and large, the wager his Administration makes is that if the argument is repeated often enough, that makes it true.

One of the arguments being repeated, even in the face of it’s intensely negative initial reception, is the idea that African Americans should support privatization because, well, people of color die sooner and can collect retirement benefits for fewer years than whites. According to Edmund Andrews in the NY Times today, The GOP thinks they’ve got a ‘wedge’ issue here. "The Democratic Party is so dependent on huge margins in the black community that if even 25 or 30 percent of blacks back personal savings accounts it would be a big gain for Republicans," said Michael Tanner, the director of the Project on Social Security Choice at the Cato Institute.

So, rather than work to address the issue of difference in life expectancy between African Americans and the rest of the population, the sell continues. Rather than admit that the current system is progressive and pays out at a higher rate to those in lower income brackets, where most of the early dying happens, the GOP is selling an argument that everyone should take their money and gamble it on a continued short lifespan.

The long range planning on the part of the Administration is to outlast the arguments against their plan, while continuing to lob the same ‘facts’ forward until their validity is treated on a par with actual facts. They’ll continue to say that black is white and green is blue until reporters start saying, “Green is blue, according to highly placed officials.”

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