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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Errol Morris poses a Riddle

This article in the NYT is worth a perusal. It's fascinating.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Congressman John Boehner, GOP: "a small price to pay"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What a deal, eh?

We had an election in 2006.

After years of Bush talking about the Iraqis standing up and us standing down. After General Casey talking about the training programs for the Iraqi military that didn't work. The American people decide they'd had enough of Bush and his rubber stamp GOP Congress. We pulled the plug.

The Democrats won both Houses of Congress.

The very next day Bush fired Rumsfeld and turned the command of Iraq over to General Pertraeus whose plan means, almost four years into the occupation of Iraq, that instead of having the Iraqis secure their country for themselves, that the American taxpayers will fund a "surge" and have American troops do that job. Bush asks for and receives from Congress hundreds of billions of dollars from the Democrats and tens of thousands of more troops.

Where General Casey equivocated and talked about progress in training Iraqis, General Pertaeus now fudges the numbers and asks the American taxpayers to give him $200 Billion and "six more months" of surge having our troops in Iraq to try to do a job the Iraqis are supposed to be able to do for themselves.

What a deal, eh?

George Bush couldn't train the Iraqis to defend their country, so now he wants the American taxpayers to spend our dollars and our soldier's lives to continue to do that job for them. It's a familiar refrian...six more months after six more months after six more months. Hundreds and hundreds more dead American soldiers (the total will rise to 4,000 soon.) and 28,000 wounded. And that's not counting the rampant incidence of PTSD.

That's over 30,000 American families whose lives are irretrievably touched by this war in Iraq and hundreds of thousands more who are caught up in this never ending cycle of tours of duty in Iraq.

For what? What national interest does it serve for our forces to try to keep the peace in Iraq? How many more times are Generals going to talk optimistically about some future point...always supposedly just months from now...when our soldiers will be reunited with their families?

It wasn't about WMD. It wasn't about Osama bin Laden. Was it about oil? Are we allowed to ask that question? (Not a word about energy conservation from the President by the way. Global warming is melting the ice caps and Bush doesn't even talk about it.)

What a deal for George W. Bush!

Lose an election and yet we still send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq to do a job that the Iraqis can't or won't do for themselves. We fund Bush's policy in Iraq for another two years. After Colin Powell and Tommy Franks and John Abizaid and Donald Rumsfeld and John Casey presided over the debacle in Iraq, after their misleading testimony before our nation time and again...we are supposed to take what General Petraeus says at face value!

If you ask me, the President should be under impeachment procedings for his conduct of this war and the way he misled this nation into Iraq on false pretenses.

Instead, Bush has got a free ride.

In 2003 he asked for $87 Billion and it was a big deal.
In 2007 he's asking for $200 Billion and nobody blinks.

What suckers we are if we give it to him.

Don't look at what the Generals say. They're just repeating the lines that they've been coached to say from the White House...exactly like Colin Powell did before the United Nations. Look at what George Bush does.

Actions speak louder than words. They've been talking about a "draw down" of troops for years. What have they done?

Ask yourself...do you think we are "making progress" in Iraq? Is that what goes through your mind when you hear about car bombs that kill hundreds of people? Is that what you think when you see the pictures? Do you remember what Iraq looked like before we invaded it?

We had an election in 2006. The American voters pulled the plug on the GOP majorities in Congress. But that didn't stop George Bush from vetoing a bill that would have started our troops coming home and given the Iraqis the message that we were leaving. That didn't stop the GOP from filibustering a bill that would have simply set a timeline.

If your hopes of an exit rise when you hear General Petraeus talk about draw downs on the horizon in Iraq...just like General Casey did two long years ago...I have news for you. We're not leaving. Not with George Bush in office and the GOP, even in the minority, voting in lock step to keep his policies in force. Apparently some folks still think this war was a good idea. You won't hear me saying so.

We're running up on half a trillion dollars on this war. All of it paid for off the books...as in, we'll pay for it later.

That's over $1,600 of debt for every single United States citizen, or $4,500 for each household in America. That has to get paid for somehow.

And for what? What national purpose did it serve? Did the war in Iraq make us safer? Did it advance the interests of our nation?

Has it been worth losing the lives of 4,000 of our fellow Americans?


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Steny Hoyer is no friend of Jerry McNerney

You would think that as House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer would work relentlessly to help freshman Democrats in vulnerable districts keep their promises to their constituents.

Not Steny.

We all know that Jerry McNerney made a pledge in no uncertain terms:

I want to clearly and unequivocally express to you where I stand on the question of executing a responsible redeployment from Iraq:

I am firmly in favor of withdrawing troops on a timeline that includes both a definite start date and a definite end date ("date certain") and uses clearly-defined benchmarks. I am not in favor of an "open-ended" timeline for withdrawal, as some members of Congress have proposed recently.

Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader, just threw Congressman McNerney under his version of the unstoppable bus...

From the Hill article linked above:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) came out on Wednesday in favor of holding a vote on a bipartisan Iraqi withdrawal bill. Meanwhile, the party's left wing renewed calls for a pullout and announced a new campaign to block funds for arming and training the Iraq Security Forces.

The bipartisan legislation, authored by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.), would order Bush to draft plans to withdraw from Iraq but not require them to be implemented. Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) and two other Republicans have signed on as cosponsors.

"I would like to see us move forward on that," Hoyer said. "The president ought to come up with a plan for withdrawal."

That is, Hoyer supports a plan without a fixed end date, exactly the legislation that Congressman McNerney just went on record opposing. Thanks Steny! That's really helpful to all of us here working our butts off to re-elect Jerry McNerney.

That Hill article makes it seem like the issue of the war in Iraq is a matter of "liberal" vs. "the center" with deceptive claims about "left-wing" policies. We all know a change of course in Iraq is a mainstream issue. Yes, there are many liberals opposed to Bush policy, there are also many moderates and independents who have the same views. Americans want a change of course in Iraq:

-69% of the American public disapproves of Bush on Iraq
-64% of the American public opposes the war in Iraq
-59% of the American public as recently as July favored withdrawing US forces from Iraq to save American lives even if it would leave Iraq unstable

This is not "a liberal issue." The war in Iraq is a mainstream American issue with clear majorities calling for a responsible change of course. Mike Soraghan at the Hill is fooling nobody with that tired frame. That's lazy journalism. And in this case lazy journalism highlights the grave failure of leadership exhibited by our friend from Maryland, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Congressman McNerney has voted consistently for an Iraq policy that would fully fund a change of course in Iraq...a policy that would start bringing our troops home safely and give the Iraqis a firm deadline for taking charge of the security of their own nation. Steny Hoyer wants to toss deadlines out the window. In doing so, he's throwing right-wing Republicans a life preserver and throwing Jerry McNerney under the bus.

Steny Hoyer is no friend of Jerry McNerney or CA-11. If you feel like it, you should let him know....OOPS!!

I guess even though Congressman Hoyer is the House Majority Leader, he doesn't accept emails from us folks out here in the greater USA. Try him on his landlines! Let him know what you think of Democratic leaders who throw our freshmen under the bus:

Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader:
Phone - (202) 225-4131
Fax - (202) 225-4300

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Monday, September 03, 2007

September thoughts

I have some thoughts for Democrats about where we are today. I want to say that while I believe that engagement with the Democratic Party is the only course of action that makes any sense given the work we need to do changing the laws and regulations and policies of the United States, I also want to convey something deep and sincere.

Given my life experience and the results we have in hand as we start the month of September 2007, I have never been more ashamed of the leadership of the Democratic Party than today. I am ashamed of Hillary Clinton, of Barack Obama, of John Edwards of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I am ashamed of their leadership of the party from stem to stern.

I want to be clear. My disgruntlement carries over to leaders of the left of the party as well. I'm not particularly happy with Howard Dean. I'm not really a fan of Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums here in Oakland at this point in time. (And I was pretty unhappy with Jerry Brown to be quite honest.)

When people talk to me about distant ills in Gaza and Darfur, I have to stop and ask them if they've given much thought to the running and unabated genocide of gang violence going down in East Oakland? When we talk about Katrina, I have to ask have they taken a drive down Market Street in West Oakland? If they are focused on Arnold and the GOP power grab for CA electoral college votes, have they also spent a day thinking about the issues facing students at McClymonds High? What is the message we bring to these young American citizens in our city of Oakland? How has that message changed in the last thirty years?

In my view, it hasn't.

And when I think about Howard Dean's speech at YearlyKos I have to ask myself this question: How can the man who gave that courageous and principled anti-war speech at the California convention in 2003 give the speech he gave in Chicago in 2007? The message I get from Howard Dean and leaders of our Democratic Party is this: we have to have another election in order to get a change of course on this war, and, even then, it's not clear what that change of course is going to be.

That is not acceptable.

There is too much to do and we have come too far to forget our principles and our positions. How can we be the party that embraced the values of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and, yes, read and reacted to the work of Michael Harrington and his Other America, and now have fallen so low? It's 2007. What are our leaders scared of? Where is the backbone?

I wrote about fighting Democrats in the aftermath of the 2004 elections. Where are they?

Rahm Emanuel is no fighter. His position on immigration is an embarassment to our party and its values. Steny Hoyer's constant undercutting of Speaker Pelosi is so obvious and shameless, he should be ashamed to call himself a Democrat. As someone who, like so many others, went out and busted my ass to win Democrats new majorities in 2006, surrounded by other volunteers who cared passionately about our nation and our world and, in particular, the tragic consequences of our ongoing occupation of Iraq, I have to ask, in September of 2007 with the impending approval of more money for Bush's surge to the tune of $200 Billion : is that all there is? Steny Hoyer primping and posing for the cameras? Rahm Emanuel claiming the mantle of the "fighting Democrat?"

Our presidential candidates are not profiles in courage, to say the least:

John Edwards is pro death penalty and anti gay marriage?
Barack Obama is for expanding the military industrial complex?
Hillary Clinton thinks that we are making progress in Iraq?

From where I stand, none of them have shown clear leadership to end this occupation now and start getting our sons and daughters out of the slaughterhouse that is our nation's occupation of Iraq. Friends, John Kerry promised us to do that in two years in 2004 and he was roundly criticized because we expected more of him. It's now September of 2007 and, in my view, we are being bamboozled by a lack of leadership once again. Our leaders delay, obfuscate and refuse to bring a clarion voice and they get away with it. There is simply no accountability within the Democratic Party. We are left waiting for January of 2009, and that is supposed to be acceptable. It isn't.

I'm sick of it. I'm not afraid of saying that we've come too far, and fought too hard to watch as the leadership of the Democratic party once again fails to live up the ideas and ideals that we are so deeply bound to. And it's not just the war, it's also the bedrock value of social justice.

I said I would make it personal and this is it: I am 38 years old, I'm white, I've spent my life growing up side by side with African-American and Latino children coming of age in America. That's my experience. These are my neighbors, my fellow citizens and my friends. This is the community that I love: the multi-racial, multi-income world of America's cities. In terms of where I've lived, either in the Midwest, the East Coast or here in Oakland, this is the only world I have known. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I drive past the public housing projects around the corner from my house. I don't think I have anything new to bring or say to counter the powerful message that Katrina sent about the real values of America: when we judge America by its actions, too many in this country don't really believe that "all men are created equal" when it comes to the beautiful mosaic of children...American citizens...coming of age in America's cities: their education, their safety, their health care, their environment.

We have failed that social contract.

We left an American city and its poorest citizens to drown. We did that for all the world to see. (Fwiw, Katrina was mentioned only as an aside at the very end of the YearlyKos presidential forum.)

Where is the hope? How can I go back to the West Oakland BART station, where I do GOTV on election day every year, once again, and ask the mosaic of voters on their way to and from work to turn out for the Democratic Party?

I don't want a snow job of predictable rhetoric from Barack or Hillary or Edwards or Barbara or Ron. That's not acceptable; that's too par for the course. Lip service is easy. We need leadership.

I know that if we are going to accomplish what we need to accomplish going forward that it will take every last one of us taking responsibility and rising to the occasion. Like so many Democrats and all of you reading this today, I am willing to do my part, to be pragmatic, and to bring as many others along as I possibly can. In that regard, I feel that I've done alright so far.

However, let me be real. Without a doubt, there will be rousing speeches that express our values at the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008. In my view, that's too late. The time for a "Come to Jesus" moment within the Democratic Party is now. Will Steny and Rahm and others continue to run the show, or will somebody finally put their foot down and have some courage and call them out? Will someone make a clarion call for social justice within our party in such a way that it results in legislation and action this fall, the fall of 2007? Will we put bills that give this nation the change the people are hungry for, the change we were promised last election, on the President's desk?

I will vote for the Democratic nominee, of course. I will do so not simply because there is no alternative, but also because I am proud of the values of our party and what we stand for. I am proud of our history. But let me get personal once again. On my journey in politics I've changed and grown. I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that I've made mistakes and learned things. I've deepened my understanding of how things really work in this country. (Hence my relentless encouragement of local blogging and grassroots activism.) I will continue to work in politics and will grow and change along the way. Where can you find that candor in our candidates?

Now is the time for our leaders (Nancy and Harry) and candidates (Hillary and Barack and Edwards) to rise to this moment in history. Now is the time for them to grow into the leadership we so desperately need, to admit mistakes and to move forward boldly.

It's not simply about ending the occupation. If only it was as simple as that. It's about justice. It's about vision. It's about hope.

Hope has to mean something more than the partisan victory Howard Dean seemed to promise in his speech at Yearlykos. Leadership means nothing if it has been made hollow by consultants and cowardly operatives. That is all we have to show for our efforts in 2006 as far as a true change from business as usual in DC: Zippo. Nada. Not much. (ie. From where I stand they sold out our position on the war to pass minimum wage in the Senate...that's about it.)

Let me put it simply: the true leader of the Democratic party will be the person who carries the torch, who creates fear in the corrupt "go along, get along" members of the party elite, who shames Rahm and Steny and John Dingell and, yes, my former Congressman, Mr. Rangel, for their utter lack of conviction and inside dealings inside our new majority, someone who reaches out and inspires new leadership to emerge in all fifty states to revitalize and reform our party.

Nothing will change in America until we work together locally to effectively make it change. Our leaders, so far, have failed us. They are timid, they are out of touch and they are not rooted in the bold ideas that motivate their core supporters: the bold ideas that are our only true hope.

What's so hard to understand about "all men are created equal?"
What's so difficult about "equal justice before the law?"
What's so hard to understand about protection from "unreasonable search and seizure?"
Why is it so hard to talk about a woman's right to choose?
Why are we still fighting rear guard battles against big GOP money and Roveian tricks?

When will we end this horrible lie and disaster in Iraq and move on to the true battles our nation faces?

There is so much else we have to do. We all know that.

I will not stop fighting and writing, but I will not choose to fight and write because we have the leadership we need in the Democratic party, far from it.

I have other reasons that motivate me to do what I do. As part of working the fulcrums and levers of change, I've chosen to share some of those reasons with you.