Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wow!! They are desperate!!!

I cannot believe the Republicans are so desparate.

Anyone who claims to believe that John Kerry -- a decorated veteran who has expressed his admiration and support for our troops many times -- intended to insult soldiers with his comments today is either incredibly ignorant, abysmally stupid, or a liar. I do not believe George Bush is ignorant or stupid. I have known which category Bush fits under since early in 2003 at the latest. He should be ashamed.

The Republicans have sunk to a new low.

By the way: reporters who play up such ridiculous charges without noting the obvious absurdity are doing a disservice. An example is blow-hard Lou Dobbs. Lord only knows how idiots like Sean and Bill will do with this little misstatement.

Nancy Pelosi Should Make This Speech

I Am Determined To Focus the Attention
Of Congress on Important Questions

And now, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi:

Thank you. I am determined to focus the attention of congress on those great questions that as a nation we need to consider. I am determined to find and follow the ways of wisdom in helping this nation to find a firm footing and a sure path to a future that is worthy of future generations. I am determined to find what policies that government should best follow so that twenty-five years from now, today’s youth will be grateful for our choices.

Remember those early Republican claims concerning the pursuit of an Iraq war-- that is would cost only $50 billion or so, that it would be a matter of “mission accomplished” in only a short while? There were many amazing claims. Amazing claims -- that time has shown totally wrong.

Remember the Republican claims that they had an economic theory that would actually work? Six years ago the nation’s debt was $5.5 trillion and today the debt is $8.5 trillion. There has been a debilitating $3 trillion increase in the debt in just six years. The amazing Republican economic claims were also wrong.

And so, in these two huge issues of war and economy, the kindest comment that could be said is that, “mistakes were made.” These mistakes incurred huge costs. Everyone must pay and some must pay much more than is their share of these huge costs, and the huge costs for these mistakes are just beginning to be incurred -- the costs will last for generations.

Choices have consequences. Our nation’s future is imperiled by costly “mistakes.” As individuals, the future impinges upon us and compels us to make plans. But as a nation, we have no plan to deal with many important questions. How do we as a nation avoid costly mistakes and instead make those choices that will lead to a good future? In my judgment, a big part of successfully facing the future is simply to make the commitment to do so. As I said, I am determined to focus the attention of congress on those great questions that as a nation we need to answer. We need to find a way to deal with clear thinking the important questions that face our nation.

I will ask congress to appropriate money to bring together the best thinkers and best informed minds to create meaningful studies to help congress address these questions:
  • How can the United States become a more effective democracy?
  • What economic policies would best help create more prosperity for all Americans as well as more world wide prosperity?
  • How can world poverty be eliminated?
  • What are the reasons for terrorism and what US policies would lead to terrorism being diminished or eliminated?
  • What policies should the US follow so that the danger of nuclear poisons and nuclear weapons may be eliminated?
  • What policies should the US follow to develop energy?
  • What policies should the US follow to best protect the environment, both worldwide and nationally?
So, the question we must deal with is how do we make good choices so that we can secure a great future for the next generations? We need a twenty-five year plan, based on the best thinking that is available.

The task of government is to lead with wisdom. The huge errors in Iraq and in our economy were the result of politics, the result of a failed democracy -- not the result of objective thinking guided by a profound understanding of the common good. Now that the Democrats have a forum of leadership, we need to demonstrate our commitment to the common good via clear thinking and shared problem solving; we need to structure a thoughtful process that shows no fear of objectivity and truth, and that seeks the best insights and ideas. I am urging the House of Representatives to meet the challenge that I am outlining and to act on this request immediately.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement."

You're not gonna believe this. I guess if the guys are willing to excuse torture of human beings, we can't expect them to mind torturing the public (and the truth) with ads like this. Yessiree, my Republican friends, this is your Republican National Committee at work. Must make you proud.

Hat tip to Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from."

It has been my opinion since early 2003 that President George W. Bush and his Congressional rubber stamps are more dangerous to America than the terrorists from whom he purports to be protect us. (I make no judgments as to the motives or patriotism of the President.) There have been no indications to the contrary since then and lots of further evidence to support the opinion. The terrorists can kill and injure, but they can't take our bill of rights. Only we can do that. This week not Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the Dear Leader of Korea (as much as they might like to), but Mr. Bush and his enablers in Congress have damaged our rights. I do not say this lightly. Keith Olbermann says it well:

"Beginning of the End of America"

On the other hand here is the ultra-divisive propaganda sent by the Republicans. President Bush and his propagandists inundate me with e-mails like the following-- I suppose I got on a list through one of my misguided relatives.):

There is nothing more important than protecting the American people and ensuring that we have the intelligence we need to stop attacks on our homeland. The vast majority of Democrats in Congress did not agree. Shockingly, 84% of the Democrats in the House voted against interrogating terrorists, as did 73% of the Democrats in the Senate.

The Democrats who voted against this bill out of concern for terrorist civil liberties include all of their key leaders in Congress: would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader-in waiting John Murtha, and Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid. Would the Military Commissions Act have ever seen the light of day in a Democrat-led Congress?

The law signed yesterday continues a vital program that has played a prominent role in questioning every senior al-Qaeda leader now in our custody. Republicans in Congress worked to successfully extend this program, and Democrats overwhelmingly voted "No." That's a very clear difference.

I'm sorry, but our freedoms ARE more important than our short-term safety. Give me a break, "Voted against interrogating terrorists" -- typical Republican straw-man lies. I do not know ANYONE who opposes "interrogating terrorists." And it is the civil liberties of all Americans that we are concerned about.

Is there anyone on the right who argues the merits any more? Can they manage anything besides straw-man arguments and ad hominem attacks? There is a very clear difference. Democrats, as a rule, support a strong defense, tough counter-terrorism measures, AND our Bill of Rights; Republicans, as a rule, support whatever President Bush wants.

In November we can, if we will, restore Congressional oversight of the executive (even Roosevelt in the midst of WWII had tough oversight!) and force the President to moderate his most extreme positions. If we say nothing, if we allow the Republican assault on our rights to continue, if we reelect a Congress that refuses to exercize its Constitutional duty of oversight, then our children and grandchildren may indeed someday ask, "Where were you, Grandpa, when our rights were eroding?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Can Our Democracy Respond?

Congressional Incompetence
Is The Issue

I was surprised that Dayton’s newspaper, The Dayton Daily News (DDN), on its editorial page endorsed the incumbent senator, Republican Mike DeWine, for reelection. The DDN at one time was considered a Democratic paper, I wonder what happened that the paper would endorse DeWine? Anyway, I decided to write a letter to the editor in response. The newspaper’s instructions is that letters should try to be 200 words or less. That is a tough restriction. I rewrote this several times -- and couldn’t seem to find a way to 200 -- what follows is 258. I hope that is short enough.

A whopping 69% of all voters disapprove of the work of congress, according to the average of eight independent polls taken over the last month, as reported in the Washington Post.

The huge disapproval of congress, I feel, is based upon a wide perception that, under unwavering Republican control, congress has acted ineptly. The recent DDN endorsement of Sen. Mike DeWine for reelection, it seems to me, fails to deal with this fact.

Because DeWine has sided with the Bush majority in every major vote, DeWine must answer for overall congressional incompetence. Among other fiascos, his votes and actions have empowered: 1) The ballooning of the national debt -- from $5.5 trillion in 2000 to more than $8.5 trillion now. 2) The neglecting of congressional oversight of the Iraq war.

DeWine has voted almost 100% of the time with the Republican majority on any issue of importance. The DDN endorsement says, “(DeWine) needs to go beyond casting an occasional dissent.” Yes, but doesn’t that sound like wishful thinking? The DDN endorsement also says, “(DeWine) needs to help find a new course for his party.” Again, doesn’t that sound like wishful thinking?

The issue this election must focus on is whether our democracy can effectively express its disapproval of congressional incompetence. To return members to congress, based on wishful thinking, regardless of the mess they have made, would be a big mistake. DeWine has had his chance. My vote for US Senate will be for the Democrat, Sherrod Brown.

Michael Bock

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Doomed by Twisted Thinking

Can a “Christian” Nation
Live by Christian Principles?

During the recent national discussion concerning the treatment of terrorist suspects, I wonder if there were any sermons in Christian churches that condemned torture? I doubt many such sermons were given. Such sermons, condemning torture, would have contradicted the view of our “Christian” President and such sermons would probably have been very unpopular in many churches.

Believers think they are being taught Christian principles by their preachers and evangelists. But it is possible to go to some churches for years without hearing one sermon on “Turn the other cheek,” or “Resist not evil,” or even a sermon concerning the beatitudes. Increasingly, it seems to me, we are being taught a very selfish gospel, a gospel designed to make us comfortable. We are taught that our religion is all about our personal salvation, all about our personal reality. Increasingly, ministers, who appear on TV, for example, are teaching that Christianity is all about personal financial gain, all about one’s personal aggrandizement via God’s blessing.

And so, if people are convinced that Christianity is all about personal safety and personal welfare, then from those beliefs can flow all sorts of rationalizations: Christians can approve of torture. Christians can approve of the current status quo system of economic injustice. Christians have rationalizations that are not based on the teachings of Christ, but upon false premises. This is not a new phenomena, of course. In previous ages, Christians approved of slavery and approved of social order based on officially sanctioned terror, and, approved of war and torture.

We seem to be set to collectively march over a cliff. What could save us? We should all be very afraid of what the future may hold. If we extrapolate the trends we see today out 25 or 50 years, it seems a grim future awaits. I keep wondering how our country and our entire world could possibly move toward a bright future, rather than to the destruction. Our current attitudes and practices are based on twisted thinking, and a twisted view of truth, and such thinking will surely lead to disaster.

If anything can save us, it will be wisdom and truth. We need new thinking to infuse our society. But how could that happen? I don’t see our educational or political structures as bringing such a change in thinking about. It seems to me that such a change is more likely to happen via religious revival. Throughout history there have been religious revivals or awakenings that have hugely impacted the societies in which they occurred. A Christian revival in our time may be possible. Ultimately, if we are to be saved, it is truth that must set us free, it is truth that must guide us to fulfillment of our human and societal and world potential. A religious revival may be the force that is needed.

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” A profound question, but as Mark Twain observed, it’s not what’s in the Bible that we don’t understand that should bother us, it’s what’s in the Bible that we do understand that should bother us. We don’t need to know all about truth in order to benefit from the truth that we do know.

Consider the “war on terror,” for example. Our political leaders profess that they know truth and they promote the idea that our safety and well being is assured through aggression and violence. They want us to believe that we overcome evil by unleashing a greater evil. But, Jesus taught that we overcome evil with good. Quite a difference in a view of truth. We are being sold the idea that war is the answer, and that it is possible via war and violence to defeat war and violence. That is an amazing premise. And that is not the truth; it is twisted thinking. We don’t want to be soft, we don’t want to coddle our enemies, and so we have advanced a theory of how to resolve issues that is based on cave man thinking. What we need is ideas based on better thinking, and based on a more profound commitment to truth.

In our efforts in Iraq, the latest estimate is that 600,000 Iraqis have been killed. What kind of strategy is that? And we have spent enough money now in Iraq to given every one of the 24 million Iraqis about $20,000. To assure peace and a hopeful future, it is mind boggling to think how such a fortune could have been spent on positive, life giving actions, rather than on actions leading to death and destruction.

Could you imaging a US President, in response to the Twin Trade Towers attack, saying something like: “This attack shows that there is evil in this world and that this evil can no longer be ignored. We know that evil comes from ignorance, from poverty, from injustice, from lack of hope. This attack has shown us, more than ever, that we must find effective strategies for overcoming evil. I am asking congress, therefore, to approve a ‘Marshal Plan’ type of program for the Middle East, funded over the next ten years for a total of $300 billion.”

Wow. Can you imagine?

To make our way to a bright future our actions must be guided by sound principles. We need a basic change in our thinking -- or I fear we are doomed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Check These Out

From the Limb -- a lazy man's post. Be sure to check out the last for a chuckle. Surely this pic has made Leno, Letterman, and The Colbert Report -- but I somehow had missed it.

From Donkey Path:
The Republican Party is imploding after years of corruption and a misguided ideology taken farther than most Americans have realized until recently. (Read the complete post.)

From Oh!pinion:
Had enough? Tired of being used, abused and manipulated by the GOP and the big-money interests that gang is sold out to? The real remedy is not just for the federal government to look the other way on its own bad law. It’s to elect people who will start governing again in the public interest — seniors’ and everyone else’s. (Read the complete post.)

From Cold Flute:
We went to war in Iraq without finishing the job in Afghanistan and we're beginning to pay the price for trying to run two incompetent wars from the White House, the Vice President's office and the politically appointed civilian wing of the Pentagon. (Read the complete post.)

From John Dean:
Professor Turley, who has many good ideas, never had a better one: It's time to create a Board of Overseers for the Congressional Page program made up of former pages. This is exactly what history, and the folly of Mr. Foley, instruct should be done. The sooner, the better. (Read the complete post.)

From Bill Press:
So now, to deal with the Mark Foley congressional page scandal, Republicans have put forth their expert on ethics.

Their Mr. Clean, their Paragon of Virtue, their St. Thomas More…

To speak about morality and politics, Republicans have put forth – Who?... (Read the complete post.)

I love this one from The Anonymous Liberal:
-The screen then flashes to the original TV Guide advertisement used to launch the Contract with American. In bold type it reads: “If we break this contract, throw us out. We mean it.” (Read a great idea for a campaign ad.)

From Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nachos:
Bush and Foley. Some jokes just write themselves. (Write a caption!)

Friday, October 06, 2006

RJ Matson Nails It Again.

Here are three more great Matson cartoons:

The Vision Thing


Didn't Ask; Didn't Tell

The Power of Forgiveness

The Rev. (I'll never get used to that title, Frank) Frank Logue, at Irenic Thoughts, writes today about the remarkable faith and forgiveness of the Amish families whose children were murdered or brutalized in the insane attack we've all read about.
The story of what happened in the school and the forgiveness that follows is so clearly a Christ-like example. The deep, abiding faith of the Amish made the acts of courage and forgiveness possible. I am humbled by their actions.
Read the complete post.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"The Civil War" Reprise

If you are anywhere close, reserve October 26 or 27, 2006
on your calendar for a night in Rome, Georgia.
Rome's Own Musical Ensemble and the
Rome Area Council for the Arts will present a reprise of

A Musical by Frank Wildhorn
under the direction of Brian Sikes and conducted by Sam Baltzer

Our performances in January may have represented the most outstanding group of musicians with whom I have ever performed. Some of these artists will bring tears to your eyes! We are doing the show with minimal staging. It might be considered more concert than musical play. The songs are moving, rousing, agonizing, plaintive, and the readings are authentic, thought-provoking and all that the songs are, as well. Dr. Clementine Slack performs the famous Sojourner Truth monologue, Ain't I a Woman; Justin McGough will break your heart as a dying Union Soldier singing Tell My Father; Dan Biggers will perform several Lincoln monologues; Detrick Redding, Jason Fordham, Janeal Johnson, Angela Flanagan, Shawn McDougal, Jim Powell, Gussie Lee Knox and the Rome Gospel Choir led by Priscilla Jones, and lots more...

All I can say is "Wow!"
I am thrilled to sing with these folks and to add my little solo: Brother, My Brother.
If you miss this show, you'll really miss something really good. We will miss Marvin Williams, Jason Whitfield, and Dan Bishop this go round, but we'll have other great voices in those roles.

Rome City Auditorium
Octobert 26 & 27, 2006
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 (adults) $5 (students)

Here are some pics from our performances in January. The guy with the camera is the fellow who usually occupies The Limb.

Let's Compare Denny Hastert and Tip O'Neill

The Republicans have been throwing up the page scandal of twenty-four years ago as if to cry: "Well, they have perverts, too.

Great!! I hope Americans are paying close attention. There is no better lesson on the difference in the way Congress used to conduct itself, and the way it behaves under the current one-party government.

Yes, there are Democratic no-accounts, too. But unlike our current Republican speaker, Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill put the nation before his party in handling the crisis:

Califano compares the Foley/Hastert Scandal to the Studds/Crane Scandal

RJ Matson's Cartoons

RJ Matson is one of my favorite cartoonists. Click on the links below for a chuckle at his take on recent events.

It's the Democrats' Fault

Coach Hastert

The Other Shoes

The Next IM Scandal

Bush Declassifies Intelligence

The Republican Surge

Throw the Bums OUT

A Branch of Our Government
Seems Missing in Action

Suppose you were told of a country where 90% of the members of its representative assembly have no meaningful opposition to their reelection. You would think that the country in question was a sham democracy -- not a real democracy. Totalitarian states, after all, have a history of showcase “representative assemblies.” Totalitarian leaders invariably claim that they operate by the will of the people, for the benefit of the people.

The face of totalitarianism, we know, is a smiley face. Mao paraded his happy peasants and Stalin boasted that he was building a workers’ paradise. Hitler proclaimed his love for the German people, and his concern for their welfare. It would be very poor propaganda strategy, after all, for the leaders of a totalitarian state to tell the truth.

How can the United States reconcile its claim of operating as a democracy, with these facts: 90% of House members are “safe,” from meaningful competition, yet, 77% of Americans, according to a recent poll (NY Times / CBS), say most members of the House do not deserve to be reelected? At most, there can be only a modest change in the House, regardless that a large percentage of voters feel that change is warranted.

How can we reconcile the fact that a government, that claims to be operating as a democracy, time and again, makes decisions contrary to the interests of the majority it supposedly represents?

Yes, we still take school children to the capital building in Washington DC and explain to them how ours is a representative government, designed as three independent branches of government, a system of "checks and balances." What we don’t explain is how things in Washington really work. We don’t explain about the huge amounts of money that we allow individual congressman to accept, money that slushes through the corridors of power and that transforms everything. We don't explain how one party can gain a monopoly of power and, by its actions, make a joke of "checks and balances." The reality of how our government actually works wouldn’t fit the smiley face view of our democracy that we seek to project.

What does it say that for years President Bush never disagreed with any legislation sent to him by congress by using his veto? It says that such harmony shows a Win. Win. That is, it shows that everyone in the one party wins -- and some win bigtime. And it says that one whole branch of government, as envisaged by our founding fathers, is missing in action.

Our congress has failed to operate in a way that we tell school children that it is suppose to operate. We have an ongoing fiasco in Iraq, but those who are responsible are not held accountable. There is no oversight. A whole branch of government, with constitutional obligations, a fundamental aspect of our democracy, seems missing in action.

Bob Woodward, on “60 Minutes,” said that his new book, “State of Denial,” details how the Bush administration has repeatedly and deliberately misled the public about the conduct and progress of the Iraq war. Could anyone in congress really have been surprised by Woodward's report? Hundreds of billions of dollars spent and tens of thousands of lives destroyed by pursuing our Iraq strategies, and the public must wait for a lone reporter to reveal something about the truth of the matter? Why has congress failed us so? And, in the words of Bob Dole, “Where is the outrage?”

The refusal of congress to protect the public interest -- by exercising its constitutional role of oversight concerning Iraq -- is simply one symptom, the most obvious failure, of the failure of congress to protect and advance the public good. The full details of how, under Bush and Co., the root corruption of this congress has manifested itself in selfish and self-serving actions, I believe, would be shocking, if the truth could ever be fully told.

The one party rule of Bush and Co. has revealed a huge problem: we are not acting as a democracy. Electing Democrats in this election cycle is crucial. One party control has been a disaster, and it must be changed.

I had finished writing most of this and, this morning, I read the New York Times column by Thomas Friedman. He writes: “It is so important that the Republicans lose, because if the Bush-Cheny-Rumsfield-Rice team can get away with the grotesque incompetence they have exhibited in Iraq -- a war that was not preordained to fail, but was never given a proper chance to succeed -- it makes this country look like a banana republic.”

We need to elect Democrats in this election. But electing Democrats won’t solve a root problem that needs to be addressed: our structures for democracy need revision. Maybe a constitutional amendment will be required to address this root problem. There is a collusion of power that goes beyond parties and that unites a political class in mutual self aggrandizement; it is a collusion of power that includes Democrats as well as Republicans. The 90% reality of House non-competition is wrong, regardless of which party has the upper hand. Both parties should be appalled and ashamed at the 90% fact and should work together to abolish the gerrymandering that frustrates fair and democratic competition that should be a cornerstone of our country. Both parties need to agree on ways to empower the force of average people and somehow to diminish the force of money in politics.

The facade that congressmen want to project, to school children and to all of us, is that their role is all about serving the public. Imagine that -- serving the public. Were that it so. Were that it so -- that we could have a group of representatives whose creativity and energy would be focused on promoting the public good. Were that it so -- that the actions and motivations of congress would match the propaganda we dish out to school children.

Serving the public. I’m reminded of the familiar twilight zone episode, “The Visitors.” A book brought by the visitors is found and the title is decoded. It says, “To Serve Mankind,” a phrase that verifies the visitors’ claims of friendly intentions. But as the episode ends, and the protagonist is boarding the visitors’ spaceship, the rest of the book is decoded, and, in the last scene the shout rings out, “It’s a cookbook !”

Don't you feel that we, even now, are being had for lunch -- served up by those who have debased the trust of everyone who voted for them.

So, throw the bums OUT. Throw out those who seek to "serve" us: the money grubbers, the hypocritical liars, the manipulators, the legislative worms loved by Fox News -- all who would change us into a banana republic -- OUT.

Bob Dole, and all Republicans who have fought for our democracy, this is your fight too. This is not about partisanship; its about diverting disaster. Actually Bob Dole would be perfect for a TV spot -- except for the fact that his wife is a Republican senator. So, in place of Bob, insert whatever high profile Republican in his place in the TV spot, and imagine the impact, if this high profile Republican would get on TV and say something like this: “I'm a Republican, but I need to listen to my conscience. I've been thinking how this congress has failed us all so miserably. This is not a partisan matter. We cannot allow this incompetence, this failure of congress to fullfill its constitutional role, to continue. Where is the protest? Where is the outrage? Why are there not more calls to Throw the Bums OUT?”

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Covering Posteriors, Exposing Posterity

One little note from a good opinion piece by Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post:
It was only a few weeks ago that Ron Suskind revealed in his book, "The One Percent Doctrine," just how cavalierly President Bush responded to being briefed on the al Qaeda threat, just a month before the attack.

From Barton Gellman 's review in The Washington Post: "The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled 'Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.' Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: 'All right. You've covered your ass, now.'"
'All right. You've covered your ass, now.'-- Is that typical Bush fratboy flippancy?! Perhaps he punctuated the remark with a chuckle and some of his famously expressive flatulence. What an incredible and dangerous jerk is our President.

I would remind those of you say "No one could have imagined..." that many had imagined. And I think no previous President would have responded so. Bush Sr., Clinton, Reagan, Ford, Carter, Nixon... can you imagine even Nixon taking his responsibility to safeguard our nation so lightly. The Shrub didn't think it would come to anything. He didn't have the imagination, the curiosity, the wisdom, to take it seriously. Can you in your wildest "I Hate Democrats" moment imagine Al Gore treating that report so flippantly?

Check it out.

Thanks to The Grey Matter for the tip.