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August 31, 2007

Eli Nails It

The Stranger's Eli Sanders has the best coverage on last Monday's Bellevue doings of any of the media.  There was Bush's visit (now, why did Reichert even allow it to happen at all?), Darcy's Town Hall (an unprecedented amount of money raised; an opportunity to discuss a responsible exit plan) and the protesters outside Bush's talk (in Bellevue?). 

He also references David Goldstein of Horsesass, who's one of the smarter political folks around, as well as the big blogger in the neighborhood.

Take a read.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 31, 2007 at 07:32 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 30, 2007

Two Years On

"We are Still Not OK" is a summary of the ways in which New Orleans is still not working by Poppy Z. Brite, a New Orleans writer.   Her post this year lists the original entries from last year along with updates a year later.  She covers the topics like lack of power and trash pick-up and medical facilities that most of us catch as part of the more thoughtful national news, i.e. NPR.  But she also brought up the huge number of folks in New Orleans on antidepressants.  That alone says as much as the rest of it put together:

Every month or so we get a news story about how many of us are on antidepressants, how many are abusing drugs or alcohol, etc. The numbers are frighteningly high. The latest buzzword is that we're not having PTSD, but "continuing stress disorder" from living among wreckage and other constant reminders of what happened, still not having levees we can depend on, the increasingly out-of-control cost of living, etc. Many of my close friends are depressed, some so severely that I fear for their lives. (I expect they sometimes fear for mine too, though I think that if I were going to do anything like that, I would have done it last winter.) I myself am still taking two anti-anxiety drugs, Klonopin and Xanax. I've tried to get off them a few times, but since I started having severe panic attacks this spring, I feel more dependent on them than ever.

The national news attention on New Orleans at this time of year reminds me of how numb we seem to have become as a nation - numb to the impact of what we are doing in Iraq, both to the Iraqis and to our military and military folks; numb to the fate of the increasing number of folks without health insurance; numb to the folks in a major American city still impacted by a hurricane that came through two years ago. 

I heard a very thoughtful local man say something on a radio show that caught my attention a few days ago.  He said that the definition of society was caring about folks other than our own and working to make things better for others as well as ourselves.  Right on. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 30, 2007 at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 29, 2007

2-Year Anniversary of Katrina: The President's Empty Promises

It's a stunningly beautiful morning here in the Northwest. Neighborhood gardens are just starting to lose their blooms, you can feel the nip of fall in the air and still, we'll be basking in a warm 82 degrees by late this afternoon. I have a home, a job, great friends and plans for the future. I don't have much to complain about. Not everyone in America is so lucky.

On this second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, when guesses are percolating about which Bush crony or incompetent will be nominated for attorney general, I won't forget how Michael Chertoff, Director of Homeland Security, told NPR's Robert Seigel, just hours after flooding wreaked havoc on New Orleans, that there were lots of rumors swirling and so he was totally unaware of 1200 people languishing inside the convention center without food or water! Chertoff's willful ignorance was like a dare. Too bad NPR sent John Burnett out to report on the facts -- confirming the numbers, the lack of food and water and adding that two people were also lying dead in their wheelchairs inside the convention center, now teeming with stench and desperation and mayhem.

It's going to be hard to forget the images and voices of that time -- people grouped together on the side of the road screaming, "We need help!"; folks, literally, clinging to the rafters of their attics, praying the water wouldn't get to them before rescuers did; and of course, Barbara Bush, chuckling nervously and telling the world how the refugees that made it to the Houston Astrodome were "underpriviliged anyway, so this -- this is working very well for them".

The residents of the Gulf Coast will also remember the night the president -- his vacation over -- finally decided to grace them with his presence, standing under the klieg lights of Jackson Square in a city eerily deserted. He made some promises, vowing that the city would rise again because we can't imagine America without New Orleans.

What of those promises?

NOLA blogger Dangerblond has written an open letter to the prez, and she finds that some of those promises seem hollow now, especially when contrasted with how much blood and treasure has been spent in Iraq:

New Orleans has more challenges and fewer resources than we’ve ever had in my lifetime in the City of New Orleans. Yet, other than FEMA repair reimbursements, the only direct federal assistance this city has received from you has been two community disaster loans that you are demanding be paid back even though no other city government has had to pay back a these types of loans for as long as our research can determine (at least since the 70’s). These loans are being used to balance the city budget to provide basic services to citizens who need far more than the pre-Katrina basics.

Despite this obvious contradiction, your administration blames local leadership for our continued need for federal assistance. But this argument is disingenuous, Mr. President. There are a host of tasks that only you and your administration can accomplish for our recovery. These are some concrete steps you can take to make good on your 2005 Jackson Square promise:

• Completely fix the federally managed levees
• Fully fund our expertly crafted recovery plan
• Give New Orleans all that you have promised to Baghdad - schools, hospitals, infrastructure, security, and basic services
• Forgive the community disaster loans, as authorized by the new Congress
• Appoint a recovery czar who works inside the White House that reports daily and directly to you and whose sole job is the recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the region
• Restore our coast and wetlands
• Work with Congress to reform the Stafford Act
• Cut the bureaucratic red tape

I've been reading the NOLA bloggers for more than a year now and I guarantee you, those of us who aren't in the Gulf Coast would have a hard time identifying that area -- parts of New Orleans in particular -- as the same country that we in the Great Northwest enjoy each day, with our spectacular Olympics and Cascades, our lakes, our coffee houses on every corner, our high living standards and our luck with federal dollars continually being sent our way. It's not perfect (what is?): Washingtonians have a 3rd district congressman who's suddenly having an incomprehensible epiphany on the escalation of troops in Iraq; a Seattle Police Department that's under scrutiny for roughing up people whose arrests were questionable but is, at the same time, unable to quell the gun violence streaming throughout the city; nothing but arguments about how to fix our transportation woes; still too many homeless who haven't yet been helped by King County's ten-year-plan; and a housing crisis for anyone not making upwards of $75,000 a year. These are real problems and the infamous "Seattle Process" is something of a frustration in solving the city's portion of them. But compared to cities like New Orleans, we've got it made.

There are times when it's important, even morally obligatory, to step back a little and remember how much we've got and how much we have yet to give. Today is one those times. I don't think it will be that difficult for ordinary Americans to do that sort of introspection. If only I had as much faith in those safely secured in the seat of political power. Maybe this is a good time to remind them about promises made.

Update: I mistakenly credited the great letter to Dangerblond. After checking back at her blog, I see that she had actually front-paged a letter written by NOLA city councilmember Shelley Midura. Credit where credit is due. Midura seems to be doing her part for her constituents. But I never would have seen it if it hadn't been for Dangerblond's excellent blog.

Posted by shoephone on August 29, 2007 at 09:55 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 27, 2007

Abu Gonzales GONE

Gonzales just announced his resignation. This took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it seems those in White House have seen their futures decline with a transparent liar like Abu in place, and well, pitching water out of a sinking ship is all they've got at this point. The resignation is, perhaps, the greatest example of Incompetence Writ Large for this White House.

Lots of speculation is swirling around who Abu's replacement may be. CNN's convinced it's Chertoff, the prospect of which should be enough to make everyone's blood run cold. Other sources in the beltway are floating the names of Paul Clement (solicitor general), John Danforth, and for pure entertainment's sake, Orrin Hatch. David Kurtz from TPM thinks it's Clement, partly based on Chertoff's horrible, unforgettable, performance during and after Hurricane Katrina.

There's also speculation -- and trepidation -- that Bush would put that new AG into place as a recess appointment. That seems unlikely because Abu's last day of work is going to be September 17. And Senate Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy would eat rocks before allowing a recess appointment of such an important position. Bush is just dumb enough to believe that with Abu gone the House and Senate will let go of their investigations into the firings of the US attorneys. To that I'll simply say: no soap.

Posted by shoephone on August 27, 2007 at 08:09 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 25, 2007

Heh.

Gotta like it when Bush comes to town for Reichert, and the netroots respond by generating over a 1200 new donors and over $40,000 for Darcy Burner.  That's nowhere near the $500k Bush will haul in from Republican fat-cats at $10k per person. But it's a pretty clear message that people are tired of Bush, Reichert and this horrible mistake of a war.

Posted by Jon Stahl on August 25, 2007 at 09:27 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 21, 2007

Congrats to Bill Sherman and Steve Sundquist

... Bill appears headed for a general election campaign against Republican Dan Satterberg for King County Prosecutor.  I met Bill last year in his unsuccessful primary campaign in the 43rd LD, and was impressed by his smarts, commitment to public service and all around nice-guy-ness. 

Steve Sundquist appears to be well ahead of all his opponents in the race for Seattle School Board position 6.  He face the second place finsher (likely Maria Ramirez) in the fall.  I've had the pleasure of working with Steve in my day job at an environmental nonprofit, and he's exactly the kind of brilliant, insightful, easy-going person that should be in public office.

It's nice to see the good guys win.

Posted by Jon Stahl on August 21, 2007 at 10:52 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Trouble with Moral Clarity

So I'll be the 38th blogger to weigh in on Brian Baird's "change of heart" concerning Iraq.  Since voting for a bill containing a timetable for troop withdrawal, he's visited Iraq and decided he can no longer support such an idea.  Truth be told, of course, his heart didn't have to go far; he was reluctant to vote for the withdrawal amendment in the first place.  He didn't like it, and after visiting Iraq and seeing the changes (progress?  I don't know) brought about in the situation after the "surge", decided he just couldn't do it again.  Baird's view on things?

"We have a moral responsibility to try to help these people whose lives we have impacted."

and

"It seems to me the threat of withdrawal is not such a clean instrument and may be counter-productive."

Something of a "we broke it, we bought it" view, one I've argued against, but not entirely unreasonable.  It's important to remember that Baird voted against the war in Iraq and would do so again today, but his view is that we have to deal with the situation as it is right now.  The interesting part of what he says, though, is his suggestion that we have a moral responsibility to the people of Iraq.

Much is made about moral responsibility regarding Iraq - many on the left view it as a moral imperative that we get out of Iraq immediately or as close to it as possible, while many on the right view it as equally morally necessary that we stay and "finish the job".  Both see themselves having moral clarity and the other side lacking moral standing altogether.  But is that true? 

Where do we all stand on Iraq?  All rhetoric aside, are the bulk of people that far apart?  Is Brian Baird that far out of touch with morality, with his constituents, with Americans?  Are we?  I think if you strip away the rhetoric, you'll find that, aside from cranks on both sides who advocate extreme solutions, right and left aren't arguing over goals as much as methods, and while that's a heated discussion, ultimately the morality of the discussion is inherently vague. 

  • A moral case can be made that we have brought physical, emotional and financial ruin on Iraq, and must correct this abhorrent situation before we move ourselves out of their world (let's call this the Baird imperative for today).
  • Another moral case can be made that we have brought physical, emotional and financial ruin on Iraq, and must correct this by moving ourselves out of their world (let's call this the...Postman imperative, for lack of a better term).
  • A case can be made that there are horrible people in Iraq just waiting to pounce, first on Iraqis, then on us, as soon as we leave, and therefore we must stay and pacify them (Lieberman imperative).
  • A case can be made that there are horrible people doing horrible things in Iraq and we have to leave quickly so the Iraqis can roust these troublemakers out on their own (I'll call this the Shue imperative, although it doesn't map directly to Mr. Shue's own stance.  His vocal advocacy deserves its own imperative).
  • And a case can be made, popularly in our own Northwest, that we have a moral need to get our own children, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, out of Iraq and prevent further loss of American life (we'll call this the Sheehan imperative).

These are, of course, simplified and do not include variants and combinations, but I think this is a good outline of the root mainstream belief structures about Iraq in American discourse today.  I do not include end-of-the-spectrum ideas intentionally. 

Each of these cases has polls, proof points, Iraqi and American voices, troops on the ground, and logical strength behind them.  Each has moral weight, and each provides its own moral clarity.  The nature of such things is such that there exists a ready-made blockage to any other idea.  I see a moral issue. I have moral clarity on that issue.  If you disagree on any point, you are wrong, and therefore immoral.  There is no need to debate an immoral person.  And that, my soon to be leaving angry comments readers, is the trouble with moral clarity.

We cannot change Baird's mind, nor he ours, for each stands in moral opposition despite each wanting to get our troops out and see a stable, safe, self-governing Iraq.  Many will, I'm sure, condemn his moral failure and support of the Bush ideas for Iraq (indeed, at the Slog, a commenter has already pondered where Baird intends to find "more people to sign up to be Darth Cheney's Imperial Stormtroopers", as though this were Baird's hope or plan). War supporters will trumpet Baird's moral conversion and the imminent collapse of Democratic unity on the issue.  But what will not happen, in the house down the street or any Congressional meeting room, is a meeting to discuss what can and should really be done. 

Originally, the argument on Iraq was "Go or Don't Go".  It became "Stay or Leave", and now that "Stay" has lost, the argument should be "When do we Leave".  Unfortunately, moral clarity has intruded, and we waste time claiming that Baird wants permanent occupation, or Kucinich wants to abandon our troops, or someone else wants to abandon Iraqis...all nonsense, all ultimately irrelevant, and all distracting from any possible solution. 

We must drop this moral clarity and seek answers.  Moral clarity has led too many politicians to find the answers they've wanted - Republicans (and Joe L) visit Iraq and find progress, troops who embrace the mission, high morale, while Democrats visit Iraq and find chaos, death, danger and troops lost in hopelessness.  Pre-screened audiences and carefully designed routes provide cover.  But why are we lost in these one-answer mazes?  Why do we spend tax dollars on these Iraqi campaign ads?  Would it not be more fruitful to bring John Murtha and Brian Baird and Lieberman and John Thune together in Iraq to meet with all manner of troops?  To simply listen to their feedback?  To meet with Iraqis in secure neighborhoods, as well as those not secure?  Sunnis and Shias? 

But this won't happen, because we've lost our way.  We're blinded by our moral clarity, unable to seek further answers or ask better questions, and in the chokehold of the madmen in charge, run by their own moral clarity which drags us all down with them.  I'm sick of moral clarity.  I want questions and doubt.  We don't know what will happen when we leave Iraq; we don't know if we're better off staying or leaving.  We don't know if it's making us safer or not.  And we can't admit we don't know because we no longer doubt, we no longer question, and we no longer talk. 

I disagree with Brian Baird, based on what knowledge and understanding of the situation I have.  But I have to listen to him because I don't know the answer.  Until our leaders - Republican and Democrat - take that one small step back and decide that they don't know the answer, they'll just keep asking the wrong questions, and these short-term Congressional battles will continue to resolve nothing, letting the very real war continue with lethal results and no way out.  Our moral clarity is creating a moral vacuum around Iraq, and in the end may be the biggest moral failure of all.

Posted by switzerblog on August 21, 2007 at 04:06 PM in Iraq | Permalink | Comments (15)

August 20, 2007

Bush to America's Children: "Go to Hell"

There really isn't any other way to spin this sordid piece of corporate trash by the Bush administration:

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend  coverage to children in middle-income families.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a monthlong Congressional recess. In interviews they said the changes were intended to return the Children's Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said yesterday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and impose new standards that could not be met.

"We are horrified at the new federal policy", said Ann Clemency Kohler, deputy commissioner of human services in New Jersey. "It will cause havoc with our program and could jeopardize coverage for thousands of children."

Over the last six and a half years, the Bush administration has shown an utter disregard for U.S. soldiers and their families, military veterans, seniors on Medicare, individuals faced with bankruptcy, victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and now... our nation's children. Clearly, Bush and his fat cat cronies in the insurance racket don't give two shakes what their policies have done to working families already struggling to put paychecks toward health care costs. "Compassionate conservativism" my ass. More like aiding and abetting. These pigs don't even have the courage to foist their amoral policies on America's citizens in the light of day, instead sneaking their snouts in through the back door and fouling up the place on a Friday night in the middle of a monthlong Congressional recess.

Cowards.

November 2008 can't come soon enough.

Posted by shoephone on August 20, 2007 at 11:49 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 13, 2007

YearlyKos Coverage - Democrats Work

What if every time people wanted help with a service project, whether it be painting a school or cleaning up a neighborhood park or setting up a food bank, they just naturally turned to the Democrats?  That was the dream of two young college students a decade ago.  Today, one of them, Thomas Bates, has created a new organization, Democrats Work, that aims to do just that.

I met Thomas in the exhibition room at YearlyKos, learned he was physically located in Seattle, and then ran into him in the crowded terminal on our way home.  We sat together on the plane and I did this interview so I could learn more about how he came to have this dream and how it has played out.

I came away a believer.

Democracy Works has, in less than a year, helped mobilize over 750 volunteers who have participated in 35 events in 7 states.  So far, none of those have been in Washington.  Thomas moved to Seattle this spring with his girlfriend to be closer to her family.

But there is no reason that the NW cannot be the prototype of this dream – a place where people immediately think of the Democrats when they have community projects that need done, a place where people get drawn into politics through their passion for serving and drawn into service through their passion for electing Democrats.

Interview with Thomas Bates of Democrats Work

Q:  So, let’s start at the beginning.  How did this idea come about?

TB:  When I was in college in North Carolina, I was volunteering for a Democratic Congressional candidate who was also my professor at Duke University.  He had been in Congress for four terms, had lost in the Republican sweep of 1994, and was running again in 1996.

The knock on Democrats at the time was that they were out of touch with real people.  My roommate and I decided the best way to blunt that criticism was for Democrats to be more visibly service oriented.

We did very little with it for 11 years.  I went on to work for that Congressman, David Price, who represents the 4th CD of North Carolina, the Ralaigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.   My roommate, Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter, went into the Peace Corps.

Later, while I was in Law School in NYC, I thought I’d see if I could actually mobilize Democrats.  I worked with the Young Democrats and saw that people liked to do the service work.  It was enough to validate the idea of what we’d thought about.

I went to work in a law office in San Francisco.  While I was there, I put together the structure for what is now Democrats Work.  I quit my job as a lawyer a year ago and put this organization together, looking at where we could do events, finding Democrats who were willing to be partners in this experiment.   

Q: And how has it worked?

TB:  We did a couple events in San Francisco, to kick the tires of the idea and look at how it might work.  At the end of the year, we started doing events in the states we initially targeted – Colorado, Arkansas, Georgia and Nevada, all selected because we had people on the ground who could help.

We’ve had projects where we did park and neighborhood clean-up, served lunch to the homeless, supported teachers in various ways, provided stocked backpacks for young children with parents in Iraq/Afghanistan, worked with Habitat for Humanity and others.

The model is simple.  We are not to create a new organization but to partner with existing organizations.  On the service side, we try to funnel volunteers into preexisting volunteer opportunities.  We hope that they can help build a reputation of Democrats who service organizations that need volunteers.  We want people to realize they can turn to Democrats when they have a need. 

Q: How does that integration of politics and service actually work on the ground?

TB:  We are actively studying this to see if it works on a political level.  We currently have two monthly service events in competitive legislative districts, one in CO, one in NV.  With each event, we will notify unaffiliated voters in those areas and say, “Last month the Democrats cleaned up the park down the street.  Please join us this month as we paint the elementary school.” 

We work with a nationally known GOTV researcher who is interested in studying whether or not this has an impact on voter turnout, the number of volunteers, and voter performance.  We want to track these volunteers to see if we can turn them into political activists.

We hope to demonstrate that this has political impact and can work as a focus for people to enter into Democratic politics.  The idea is to build the reputation of the Democrats so that when there is a need, people will say “Call the Democrats; they always have people who can help.” 

Q:  Young people these days seem to have an inclination to serve, more so perhaps that to get involved with politics.  Is that what you are trying to tap into?

TB:  Yes.  We think we can bring more people into the picture with service than with politics.  Let’s go to their turf.  Currently 51% of young people, aged18-24, are engaged in service while only 19% participate in political activities.

But what I really see is that we need to expand what it means to be a political operative, to expand the menu of options we give to get people involved.  Rather than just asking for money or phone callers, we are trying to add service to that list.

Our tagline is “Putting our values into action.”  We want Democrats to use service to reinforce what we say.  “We care about the environment, which is why we clean up parks; we care about education, which is why we help teachers and provide backpacks for the children of vets.  And so on.”

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 13, 2007 at 07:16 AM in Interviews, Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (7)

Bush Loses His Brain For Good -- Rove Quitting

From the WAPO:

"I just think it's time," Rove told Gigot in comments confirmed by the White House. The Journal said White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten told Rove and other senior aides that if they stay past Labor Day, they would be expected to remain through the end of the second term, Jan. 20, 2009.

"There's always something that can keep you here," Rove said, "and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family."

Rove said he was finished with political consulting and plans to spend much of his time at his house in Ingram, Tex., with his wife, Darby, and near their son, who attends college in San Antonio. He said he plans to write a book about Bush's years in office, a project encouraged by the president, and would like to teach at some point, but has no job lined up for now. He does not plan to work on a presidential campaign nor would he endorse a candidate.

The old "I want to spend more time with my family" trick! Except in this case half his family doesn't even live at home anymore. So, I guess Rove will be spending more time talking on the phone with his son who is away at college. But he may also be spending lots of time on the phone with his lawyers, providing, of course, that congressional Democrats actually follow through on their investigation into the firing of the U.S. attorneys. At this point, it's not clear who wins in a tussle between Bush's Brain and Democrats' Spines.

Film at eleven.

Update: For an excellent analysis of Rove's passing moment, and his legacy operating the wheel of Republican politics, go read Stillwell's post. It's very good.

Posted by shoephone on August 13, 2007 at 06:57 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sonics Ownership to Seattle: We Lied. Oops?

Sonics minority owner Aubrey McClendon has been put under a gag order after admitting publicly what pretty much everyone had already figured out : The Oklahoma-based owners have every intention of moving the team outta here and taking them over there.

"But we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle. We hoped to come here," he said. "We know it's a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it's great for the community and if we could break even, we'd be thrilled."

McClendon, the chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, did indicate the group would continue providing Seattle the first opportunity to keep the team by coming up with a plan for a new arena. When the Oklahoma-based conglomeration bought the team a year ago, Bennett set an Oct. 31 deadline for a new facility agreement to be in place. Otherwise, he said he'd file for relocation with the NBA.

"They've got 60 days to make some decisions they haven't been willing to make in the past year," McClendon said, "and if they make them in a way that satisfies Clay, then the team will stay there. If they don't meet the requirements he's laid out, the team will move, and Clay has indicated they'll come to Oklahoma City."

Well, at least we know that whatever we do, it had darn well better satisfy Clay Bennett! Obviously, it's most important to cow-tow to some gang of Johnny-come-latelys that, apparently, doesn't have a clue when it comes to the history of our region forking over millions millions millions in taxpayer money to fund *new and improved* stadiums for sports teams. At least they deserve credit for getting a little further with their snow-job on this city after Howard Schultz couldn't extract even a trace amount of trust out of us. Now that the cat's out of the bag, will Senator Margarita Prentice be buying a home in OKC? And just for laughs, who, if anyone, is really surprised by this attempt at a con job by Bennett and his cast of clowns? Show of hands? C'mon now, there's gotta be someone.

There is an upside to this. Bennett and his boys will have to pay quite handsomely for breaking the existing lease three years early.

Thinking aloud: I wonder if they'll be serving Starbucks at the new OKC arena...

Posted by shoephone on August 13, 2007 at 01:03 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 11, 2007

Katrina Survivors Still Drowning...

...in poverty and despair in the Great River of Abandonment that rushes by as the second anniversary of the hurricane approaches, less than three weeks from today. They are lost and forgotten by George Bush and his useful tool, Joe Lieberman, who chairs the committee charged with overseeing the reconstruction of that unmitigated national disaster. Lieberman has been too busy of late selling out his former colleagues in the Democratic Party and betraying the American people with pledges of fealty to Bush's presidency and all its attendant debacles: unprecedented but premeditated assaults on the U.S. Constitution, the calamitous illegal war and occupation in Iraq, and an overall Middle East foreign policy so botched that no one really knows who's minding the store, but we can assume it's Dick Cheney, the man who deftly straddles both the executive and legislative branches of government -- a feat which, fantastically, formulates a newer, fourth branch operating out of his secure but undisclosed location down in the bowels of Washington D.C... Maybe.

Meanwhile, back in the flood zone...

NOLA resident and blogger b.rox (Bart) relates a neighbor's experience of the national "Night Out" last week. It was very different from the Seattle experience, where a group of activists went downtown to perform a block watch around 3rd and Pine, and where police and firefighters routinely join in on the Neighbors Night Out parties. In New Orleans these days, the cops are quite a bit more hesistant to protect and serve:

At a Night out against crime gathering tonight an NOPD officer was asked by a neighbor… Why didn’t the police come out when I called after being woken up by a house alarm at 3am? The officer’s reply… “Call and say there is a naked woman on your porch.” He proceeded to go into greater detail about this scenario. He seemed pretty amused with himself. He agreed at some point that the neighbor should get a gun which underscores the fact that we are on our own.

So as far as I can tell from our night out against crime… we are willing to come together as a neighborhood, however the NOPD would rather respond to a report of a peep show than do their damn job and make an appearance at our outing because they have to. He promised 250 officers would show up if someone calling the police claimed there was a naked woman on the porch. He even boasted what he claimed to be a true scenario where this happened, and hell he told my neighbors that police even showed up on horseback for a call like that!

Not only was this an inappropriate scenario which amused the officer for quite a few minutes, there were children and elderly neighbors at this gathering along with the worried neighbor who could not get the NOPD to respond to their calls just a few nights ago — it clearly explains why crime is so high in this city. I had hoped that this was an isolated incident, but after a night out against crime, I feel less convinced that we are safe in our neighborhoods.

At least Bart still has a home and a neighborhood (even though his insurance company threatened to drop his and his wife's coverage). There are still thousands and thousands of Americans living in FEMA camps, trailer parks that have begun to feel more like prisons, where crime and emotional despair are the order of the day. Suicides and suicide attempts have become commonplace. And FEMA -- after two years! -- still can't figure out what the words "emergency" and "management" mean and get people out of the trailer parks and into real homes and apartments. Residences that were destroyed were either not rebuilt, or they were replaced by much more upscale buildings now renting and selling for jacked-up prices. Rents that were $417 a month pre-Katrina are now nearly $1,000 a month. Some of these folks cannot find jobs, but many have jobs and qualify as "working poor", walking one, two, or even five miles to work and back each day. Yes, Virginia, really.

NPR's piece last Wednesday told of one such scenario in Hancock County, Mississippi, where 51,000 Katrina survivors are still living in trailers, and mental illness and despair holds many of them in its grip. Listen to the audio, titled "Part II: What Can Be Done?" and you'll notice the contrast between the man looking down on and practically spitting on the victims, the FEMA worker whose job description includes "total denial", and the residents who are trapped in a cycle of degradation and poverty -- one of whom begs us to not forget, to at least "peek in every once in a while" as she dissolves into tears. Anyone who can walk away unaffected by that piece must have a cold, steel heart inside their chest. Or maybe they have some kind of blood relationship to Barbara Bush, the Queen Mother, who famously characterized Katrina Survivors at the Houston Astrodome in 2005 this way:

"Almost everyone I've talked to said we're going to move to Houston. What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas" (said with concern.) "Everybody is so overwhelmed by all the hospitality. And so many of the peoples in the arena here, you know, they're underprivileged anyway, so this -- this" (she chuckles slightly) "is working very well for them."

And when it comes to the thousands still stuck in poverty and despair all over the flood zone, I can bet that her son, the accidental dictator, thinks that it's working very well for them too. When he bothers to think of them at all.

Let's not forget. Over the next few weeks the airwaves will be filled with Katrina anniversary stories, but those will give way to the *General Petraeus Magical Month of September Iraq Report* and then we'll get all the 9-11 anniversary coverage and so on and so on... there will always be some other news story coming down the pike to take our attention away from those who still suffer every single day and night from our nation's neglect. Katrina was the loudest wake-up call we've had, and I'm not sure we've heard it, even yet.

So, don't forget them. At least peek in every once in a while.

Posted by shoephone on August 11, 2007 at 12:48 AM in National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 10, 2007

Seattle's Violence Problem Has Hit the Karaoke Bars!

A woman at the Wallingford bar Changes had, um... a meltdown of sorts when a guy took the karaoke stage to sing Coldplay's "Yellow":

Witnesses said her distaste for Coldplay quickly took a violent turn, and she leaped at the would-be crooner, shouting expletives and telling him that his singing "sucked," while expressing the same opinion of the song, according to a Seattle police report.

She pushed the man and punched him, all in an effort to stop his singing.

Other patrons went to the singer's aid and hauled the 21-year-old woman outside.

"It took three or four of us to hold her down," said Robert Willmette, one of the bartenders at Changes.

Thank goodness she wasn't brandishing a weapon. Seattle has seen so much gun violence in the past few weeks it's started to make me wonder what town I'm actually living in but, considering the city's difficulty to maintain an adequate police force and the brazen in-your-face pimping and drug dealing on our streets, it's not too much of a leap into the Wild West. Where there are drugs, there are often guns. I had the (cough) pleasure of watching a 50-something boomer sucking on his crack pipe as I walked into the 3rd and Union post office at 11:00 a.m. yesterday morning.

The female aggressor at Changes, reportedly, wasn't even drinking alcohol at the bar, so it looks, at first glance, to simply be a matter of fists over falsettos. It's long been my contention that karaoke either brings out the best or the worst in people, but this response to the annoyingly overplayed overplayed overplayed -- sorry was I repeating myself? -- radio hit "Yellow" may be the real canary in the coalmine, if you take my meaning. Maybe it is the final tipping point in Seattle's demise. It ain't like the old days. When my friend Alex and I sang "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" at karaoke a few years ago, the crowd loved his charisma and gave me polite encouragement (I can never seem to get the lyrics in the right order and don't like looking at the prompter). But the overwhelming familiarity of the song that exemplified Motown's dominance in AM radio didn't set the crowd into a raving frenzy.

We got out alive. Someone even bought us a beer.

Coldplay's "Yellow" really IS annoying, for so many reasons, and if that's all it takes anymore to burst the city's nightlife into flames than Mayor Nickels is going to have to reorder all his priorities regarding the city's clubs and bars. I've heard that the Mayor really digs on the smooth-jazz. As much as I can't tolerate Coldplay, I truly fear the day we will all be forced to listen, repeatedly, to the excruciating 1980's hits of bands like Spyro Gyra.

'Cause that's a situation that could really make me go ballistic!

Posted by shoephone on August 10, 2007 at 12:35 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 09, 2007

YearlyKos Coverage - The Next Wave of Feminism

After years of seeing little active public awareness of feminism, I can report that another wave is coming and it is thrilling and inspiring.  The young women writers I heard talk on panels and later met were of another, newer age – completely confident that they get to talk about the importance of equality and reproductive justice and willing to take on injustice both to them and to their sisters of color. 

They are on the early side of creating a movement and still figuring out what their version will look like.  I am so looking forward to seeing what it is and connecting as appropriate.

Women Not Included in the 2006 Blue Wave

Several weeks ago, Chris Bowers wrote a disturbing piece on the fate of women candidates that had stuck in my mind and caused the entire issue of feminism to come front and center after many years of quietude.  It was quite simple.  In what was called the “Red to Blue” program, the DCCC provided assistance to promising candidates in districts held by Republicans in an effort to move those districts to the Democratic column. 

Of the 30 candidates, 19 were men, 11 were women.  Eighteen of the 19 men won; only one of the eleven women won.

Now, you tell me if there is anything outside of sexism that can account for that huge a discrepancy.  Plus, we saw the nasty, sexist ads that Darcy was targeted with here in this district. 

Where Did Feminism Go?

So, I’d been wondering what the heck was going on in the world when women’s issues – equal pay, choice, the lack of public support for parenting – don’t get discussed in the public arena; when pharmacists could get away with refusing to dispense pills for women, when women candidates lose in a blue wave year. 

I talked to several national women bloggers at YearlyKos about why they don’t write about women’s issues.  Across the board they said, “We won’t be taken seriously.”

What is it with this?

Outrageous Young YearlyKos Panelists

So, I went to two panels about women’s issues.  One was called “Women Bloggers” and the second was called “Blogging While Female”.  In both cases, the panelists were quite young; they were pretty much the cream of the feminist blogging community and the women’s movement of our age – Jessica Valenti of “Feministing.com”, Gwenn Cassidy of “Real Hot 100”, Latifa Lyles of NOW, Joan Blades of both MoveOn.org and MomsRising.com, Aimee Thorne-Thompson of the Pro-Choice Education Project, Garance Franke-Ruta of the American Prospect, Amanda Marcotte of “Pandagon.com”, and Gina Cooper of YearlyKos.

The rest is over the fold.

For starters, these women are doing amazing things in the world.  Jessica has a very robust blog with a ton of front-pagers, writing about issues of concern to women, particularly young women.  When she spoke, she kept reminding folks that we are not including women of color sufficiently and we need to do that.  Gwenn created a site and a list of “The Real Hot 100”, young women from around the country doing incredible things in their every day lives as a way to offset the image the public and young girls get about the importance of appearance. 

Aimee works on what she calls reproductive justice for women 18-14, a nice, new term, far more descriptive than pro-choice.  Joan, one of the founders of MoveOn.org, is now working with Northwesterner Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner to spread the word about how badly women with children fare in this country and how important it is to redress that.  Latifa, membership director for NOW, is focused on a new round of consciousness-raising, using the massive powers of the Internet to get women to take action on issues of concern to them. 

Garance, senior editor of the American Prospect, is one of the intellectual powerhouses of our time.  Amanda is a primary writer at another of the key new women’s blogs, Pandagon.  And Gina is the person who had the foresight and persistence to bring YearlyKos into being. 

It was inspiring.  These women, several of whom I’d heard of but none of whom I really knew much about, are connected to each other and are starting to build a movement that we will be hearing a lot more about. 

They talked about how they together got 60,000 people to write emails asking that Don Imus be fired for his outrageous comments about women and people of color.  They worked with the older, more established women in NOW who talked with the owners of the station.  I hadn’t realized how concerted that effort had been.  It was a relatively new effort for this new wave and it worked.

What Happened?

I’m mulling over something Gina said on the panel that helped me clarify how we had lost so much ground as feminists over these last three decades.  She said something about “the cultural backlash against the whole PC thing.”   I had been aware that there had been something that had consistently squashed the focus on feminism and racism and class issues between the time I had been active in the late sixties and early seventies and now – when it is considered passé to bring up such quaint, old-fashioned ideas. 

That comment (and I don’t really know how she meant it) made me realize how they did it.  We know that the right funded conservative “intellectuals” and placed them in “think tanks” and then got the media to take them seriously.  No question now in my mind that the entire frame of “politically correct” came out of that systematic effort. 

What Next?

So there I am, jumping up and down, thinking about how we can connect this wave of feminists with the previous generation, about how they can get organized enough to be able to rally to the defense of the women candidates facing huge amounts of overt and covert sexism in their campaigns. 

Above all, I was aware of how robust and solid these women are.  I don’t see much obvious vulnerability.  They are riding on our shoulders and we can be proud of what we accomplished and the paths it has laid down for this new generation of feminists.  And I believe they will kick butt and I, for one, intend to help them in whatever ways I can.

Talk; share your thoughts.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 9, 2007 at 02:35 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2007

YearlyKos Coverage - Howard Dean Continues to Get It

Lest we forget, Howard Dean remains a huge star in the YearlyKos world.  These are his people; many came into the political world working on his campaign in 2003.  He knows how to appeal to us and we have enormous appreciation for what he is doing at the DNC.

I'll be writing about what I saw and heard and experienced at YearlyKos over the next few days.  It was a blast! 

In his keynote address on Friday, Howard Dean did not disappoint. 

The Watch the Vote Project

He used his time to let us know of a new project the DNC is doing in preparation for the 2008 election.*  Starting three weeks ago, the DNC will be putting people into every state to check into what is happening county by county with the integrity of voting machines and the stories of voting suppression that we’ve been hearing about.  Using the information gathered from investigating what is happening county by county, the DNC will put together a handbook that will enable every Democratic candidate to know where the trouble spots will be 10 months ahead of time.

It’s the Republicans, Stupid

Of course Dean also reminded us that we need to make it clear to the American people that it is the Republicans who are impeding their will in Iraq.  He said that the Democrats need to get Congress to vote on the war over and over again until the country gets out and gets that it is the Republicans who are keeping us there.

It is not an accident that every single Democrat running for President is for bringing the troops home and every single Republican, except the Libertarian in the mix, is against it.

The rest is over the fold.

Listening and Responding

Dean talked about another new focus for the DNC – listening to the American people across the board, not just the Democrats.  Just as we in the blogosphere have instituted a two-way communication between the people and the leaders, so too do Democratic leaders have to institute genuine two-way communication with real people.

It’s hard for me to imagine the DNC without Howard Dean.  I can’t think of how separate we would now be feeling from our national Democratic Party.  He just gets it. 

A Generational Shift

Listening has made clear there is a huge generational shift, everywhere, in every organization.  “The younger generation expects us to set aside those things that divide us and work together on those things that bring us together.  As an example, he said he’d recently been talking with Rick Warren and other new generation evangelicals about working together on issues like Darfur and poverty where we have common cause.

He noted that in 2004 the turnout of young people went up tremendously and they voted for Kerry.  While still not high, in 2006, young people’s turnout was 53% nationally, 20% higher than in 2002.  Overall, young people voted 61/39 for Democrats. 

The turnout was different by race and that difference is likely to help us over time.  It was a 8% increase for white young people, 15% for African-Americans and 23% for Hispanics.

He said we are paying the price today of not reaching out to young people in the 80’s.  Research shows that if a young person votes three times in a row, they will keep voting – and they will vote in the same pattern as they voted the first three times for the rest of their lives.  So, every election is important to the future.

For the Duration

Dean finished off by saying that impatience is a good thing.  And, what we are engaged in is not a one-day or a one-year struggle.  He was reminded recently of the dedication of Martin Luther King and his companions in the early Civil Rights movement.  It was 13 years between the first Montgomery march and the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Be in this effort of rebuilding our democracy for the long haul.

* The State Democratic Party released more information on this program via a Press Release a couple days ago.  In it they said:

Through the Democratic National Committee’s 50 State Strategy, the DNC Voting Rights Institute and the National Lawyers Council, Democrats across America are conducting an in-depth nationwide survey to collect critical data on the often confusing and complex sets of administrative practices and decisions governing our nation’s elections. With the help of DNC-funded staffers hired through the DNC’s State Party Partnership program, Washington State Democrats will work with election officials throughout the state to help identify potential issues so they can be resolved well in advance of the 2008 election.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 6, 2007 at 08:46 AM in National and International Politics, Policy, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 04, 2007

Reichert Votes to Demolish the Bill of Rights

Dave Reichert has sealed with a kiss his support for Bush's unconstitutional grab for authoritarian power by voting for the recklessly devised FISA bill. It is cynically titled the "Protect America Act", a chilling reminder of it's predecessor, the equally Orwellian named "Patriot Act", which was also rushed through the Congress with dire threats and fear-mongering as inducements. Sickeningly, 41 House Democrats voted for the bill, but none of them represent Washington State.

There should be no pretense that spying on American citizens through their phone calls, letters and email messages is some sort of imperative to keeping us safe from terrorist attacks. The bill gives the president (by dint of his consigliere, Abu Gonzales) wholesale power to eavesdrop. surveil and data-mine his way into every aspect of our personal lives without even having to show the most basic probable cause to a FISA court judge. The likelihood that Bush and Cheney and Rove will use the personal information gathered to smear, blackmail and destroy political opponents is quite strong. It will certainly be used to intimidate critics into silence and inaction. The primary intent is to create fear among politicians and the populace.

This grab for power is, in my opinion, an act of treason. And Dave Reichert is complicit in it. Up to his eyeballs.

Posted by shoephone on August 4, 2007 at 09:44 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

August 03, 2007

State Democratic Party Supports Public Financing of Campaigns

On July 23 Dwight Pelz, chair of the Washington State Democrats, wrote a letter to Marcella Stone, president of Washington Public Campaigns:

Dear President Stone,

At a recent meeting in Pasco, WA the Washington State Democratic Central Committee approved a resolution that merits your attention.

*Resolution on Campaign Finance Reform -- Resolution 346 stating that the Washington State Democratic Central Committee commits itself to the public financing of campaigns. The WSDCC calls on all local Democrats to join Washington Public Campaigns. To also support Governor Gregoire's proposals for public financing for judicial campaigns and request that she also consider supporting public campaign financing for legislative and statewide campaigns. The WSDCC also urges all state legislators to further educate themselves on public campaign financing for legislative, executive and judicial campaigns at the state level, and to consider supporting legislation to accomplish such reforms.

This is a big step in the right direction. Last legislative session saw the defeat of a campaign finance bill. Now that the state Democratic Party is lending its support the goal should be that much easier to reach. After all, If Maine and Arizona can make public campaign financing the standard so can Washington. All it takes is the political will.

h/t to Dinazina at Washblog.

Posted by shoephone on August 3, 2007 at 01:09 AM in Candidate Races, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 02, 2007

Cyclists Win Another One on Burke-Gilman, Still Protest About Stone Way

The City of Seattle has decided not to block off parts of the Burke-Gilman Trail flanking the north side of Lake Union. The previous plan had been for a detour lasting until summer 2008 so that one company, Fremont Dock Co., could embark on a construction project. For my money, that portion of the Burke-Gilman is one of the most scenic; I have nice memories of riding that strip when the Kalakala ferry was moored on the lake a few short years ago. Detouring it for an entire year would have been a stinging slap in the face to cyclists, skaters and pedestrians wanting to enjoy the trail. Michael Osterfelt, the vice-president of Fremont Dock Co., sees things differently:

"The reason why they're deciding to open it is because the city is trying to get out of the way of the bicycle lobby."

"Bicycle lobby"? Yeah, sure, the Cascade Bicycle Club is actually funded by the city's biggest corporate titans and, as with any powerful lobby, they have a stable of corporate attorneys doing their bidding and twisting arms at City Hall.

What is Osterfelt smoking, anyway? The fact is the bicycle club has more than 7,000 members and they've taken some real hits when it comes to needed bike paths and trails and trying to hold the mayor to his promise of making Seattle the #1 biking city in the nation. The real protest of late has been over bike paths on the lower section of Stone Way. First the City said "yes" to the paths, then, after getting hammered by businesses and landowners in the area, said "fahgeddaboudit". In other words, the City was for it before it was against it. Yesterday, cyclists swarmed the streets of Fremont to peacefully protest that move.

The primary reason for Wednesday's protest was to send a message to city officials that bike lanes should be installed on the south part of Stone Way North regardless of what area businesses think the lane reduction will do to traffic. For the time being, that stretch of street has been painted with "sharrows" -- symbols intended to encourage drivers to share the road -- and transportation officials will review the need for bike lanes again in six months.

"The city said a year ago they were committed to this, that they were not going to bow to any irrational complaints," said David Hiller, advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club. "And that's exactly what they did."

Memo to Michael Osterfelt: if you want to talk about "lobbies" and powerful forces in Fremont, please don't forget to mention people like Suzie Burke, who has gotten her way at just about every turn. When it comes to twisting arms at City Hall, the cyclists ain't got nothin' on her.

Posted by shoephone on August 2, 2007 at 01:41 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)