Sunday, December 24, 2006

Want to change the system? Educate females!

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights. Over many thousand loans they've found that the most effective and wide-reaching in their successes have been those loaned to women.

Another example written up by Nicholas Kristof in today's NY Times is about an elementary school in rural Cambodia initiated with American funds raised from an elementary school in Redmond, Washington. In addition to the initial funding, they regularly carry on e-mail communication with the students at both schools. Without schooling, Cambodian girls are ripe to be kidnapped and placed into the sex trade. Kristof bought two such prostitutes out of their brothels only to follow up and find that one returned and the other was pregnant and a ward of her village.
Building schools doesn't solve the immediate problem of girls currently enslaved inside brothels - that requires more rigorous law enforcement, crackdowns on corruption and outspoken diplomacy. But in the long run no investment in poor countries gets more bang for the buck than educating girls. Literate girls not only are in less danger of being trafficked, but later they have fewer children, care for their children better and are much better able to earn a decent living.
Every study shows that female literacy has a direct coorelation with fertility rates. Girls' educational achievements have a direct influence on the timing and number of their children: educated women have fewer children, and have them later. Today, some 400 million adolescent girls stand on the brink of adulthood. If many choose to delay childbearing, even for a few years, they will enhance their health, education and employment prospects.

Here comes the rant. There are so many areas in our lives where a bit of investment in strategic areas can have such a great impact on the future that it's almost criminal to NOT make those investments. For sure it's immoral! Instead we are wasting our resources in Iraq and through governmental inefficiencies and corruption. We have to change our priorities to focus on reducing poverty, fighting rampant diseases (like Altzheimer's and AIDS), educating females, attempting to curb environmental crises, providing fair and equal health care, and expanding communication everywhere. We're all in the same boat!

Manipulation Is Manipulation No Matter How You Spin It

Where do you all those political consultants go when the election cycle is over?

They do commercial work for large corporations. Although they have to moderate their techniques, manipulation is manipulation no matter where or how you spin it.

Consider CEO salaries. During the Clinton years a law was passed attempting to put a ceiling on the disparity between CEO and the average employee salary difference and make salaries more performance-based. It also put the burden of monitoring and officiating on the board of directors. But shortly after the law was passed (1993) so many loopholes were found that, for a paltry $5,000 consulting fee, any tax lawyer or accountant could document how a particular corporation and their board of directors met the requirements of the law (but not the moral implied law that was intended). So the serious disparities have continued undeterred. The anecdotes of seemingly ludicrous CEO pay never stop; every week a fresh batch of fat cats parade as examples of capitalism run amok.

When the head of a company gets $200 million for his severance package but was fired for lack of performance there is a riple effect throughout the corporation and the business world. Loyalties diminish; schisms widen; paranoia increases; profits are wrongly used (in this case $200 million of profits); and hopes for a better life working within that corporation are dashed. By the way, you and I are paying a good portion of that $200 million because it's tax deductible to the corporation.

Call in the spin masters to try and mitigate the damage. Release the information around Christmas time when no one is paying attention; release information slowly and in confusing terms; obfuscate. One form of obfuscation is to commission an economic analysis of how CEO's (and their top-5 team of similar highly paid executives) enhance corporate performance and support their outrageous pay. There are a lot of non-profit economic think tanks and universities that can use the commission money AND, if you don't like what they write, trash it and find another one that reports what you need it to say. Release those studies around the same time as the damaging information is released. Now THAT'S obfuscation!

It's sad and shameful that things aren't improving and that spinmasters are exacerbating the situation by clouding the facts. It's immoral that this year's top paid CEO got $254 million (Forbes). That's 7,000 times greater than the average salary for his corporation! SEVEN THOUSAND TIMES!

I think it naive that the new Democrat Congress will make any inroads in this area but I'm forwarding a copy of this blog to my congresswoman and two senators just in case.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Let's Take Annihilation Out of the Equation

In reviewing candidates and issues for the 2008 Presidential Election, the Iraq situation - as distinguished from the fight against international terrorism - is and will be the leading topic, even if it's in hindsight. Here's my thinking:
  • Nothing dramatic is going to happen in Iraq except a steady slide downward.

  • Democrats and Republicans will go along with the Iraq Study Group's 79 proposals and negotiate with President Bush and new Secretary of Defense Gates some semi-satisfactory actions that will slowly take effect.

  • As Senator Feingold recently said: "Unfortunately, while the Iraq Study Group's report recognizes that the Administration's policy is not working, it doesn't correct the myopic focus on Iraq that has so dangerously weakened our national security."

  • Israel is likely to continue it's paranoid policy of self-preservation at any cost, periodically signaling their neighbors to seriously worry about being attacked.

  • Iran is getting a free ride (and it's fervent wish to merge all Shiites into one region) while all of this is going on and making the most of it by outrageous provocations, threats and proclamations.

  • Hezbollah is progressively taking over (and likely to succeed at taking over) the entire government of Lebanon.

  • No leader anywhere - within the U.S., at the UN, or worldwide - is passionately proposing a solution... any solution.

  • There's no chance of Congress withholding funding of additional Iraq expenditures so the saga will continue, properly funded. Perhaps with more attention to veteran's costs and benefits.

  • The King of Saudi Arabia is worriedly saying that the region is ready to blow up. What he didn't say is that in addition to Wahhabism being the State Religion of Saudi Arabia, it was he and the previous King that started, funded and provided instructors for the 15,000 +/- religious Madrases schools that populate the Muslim world and provide a breeding ground for worldwide radical fundamentalists.
Everyone is threatening everyone with annihilation, often nuclear annihilation. So... what would happen if we took annihilation out of the equation? What if some passionate statesman somewhere - perhaps at the UN, perhaps here in the US - were to make a comprehensive suggestion that Iran AND Israel get rid of their nuclear weapons and that the UN not only verifies the removal but also promises to secure and protect both countries and the surrounding region? Imagine an Al Gore-type statesman presenting and proposing his Iraq solution with similar passion, data and clout.

If the nuclear alternative were eliminated, would people then have no choice but to sit down at the table and honestly talk?

Every candidate for president, Rep, Dem or whatever, I look for that passion, that plan, that suggestion or set of ideas, that intensity and strength of character to pursue this goal until it or something better actually happens. Senator Feingold has dropped out of the race; Howard Dean isn't going to run either... I've got to admit that nobody thus far qualifies. But I'm hopeful. Perhaps naively so.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Democrats Didn't Win The Mid-Term Elections

Instead, the Republicans lost them.

Republicans shot themselves in their own feet with their corruption, business favoritism, lock-step voting and party-line talking points, arrogance and outright lies, religious righteousness, and gross missmanagement of the situations in Iraq and with Katrina. And the people came to know that these things are true. And they sent the word that change was (and is) needed. It didn't take Bob Woodward's thorough expose "State of Denial" to prove it; rather, it was just felt and seen. Seen in the everyday behaviors and comments of the Bush leadership; felt by the ferocity of their hackles being raised over normal questioning and limited criticisms. Seen by the extent of the corruption and scandals. And felt and seen by the growing numbers of cynical warriors and seriously wounded young Americans returning from Iraq and then having to go back again. Everybody has plainly seen the diminution of our standing in the world community; has felt embarrassment over Bush's crude and simple remarks; has begun to see how missmanaged and misshandled our DOD really is and how it has been forking over fistfuls of money to business friends of the Bush administration and to sheer corruption and incompetence. And we've slowly come to learn how extensive the lieing and cherry-picking of intelligence information was manipulated to enable a foregone but unnecessary war. And we're all seeing how half a trillion dollars has been taken from our economy because it's starting to show and be felt everywhere.

Worse Is Yet To Come
Secret U.S. government report: Insurgency in Iraq now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, fake charities and other crimes...
It would be VERY wrong for the Democrats to think that they won the elections. It would be VERY right of the Democrats to show their feminine side in the next many months and stick to an agenda of social and leadership readjustment along a more altruistic line rather than one of self-interest.

Rhetoric generally gets toned down after an election. The Democratic leadership has to make sure that it stays down, matter-of-fact, productive, and socially sensitive. No bickering or excessive partisanship. I'm rooting for our team (but then, I'm the naive one).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hurry Up and Wait

From now until February 1st, 2007 we're in a funny state of limbo. Remember the line from your service days that went "Hurry Up and Wait (Huaw)?" Well it's true today as we wait for the new 110th Congress to come online, elect new speakers, pick committees, and actually go to work and do something.

Kos reminded his readers of all the puzzle pieces that came together to make the mid-term election outcome as it was:
  • Senate: 51 Dems; 49 Reps; +6 Dems
  • House: 229 Dems; 196 Reps; +29 Dems
  • Governors: 28 Dems; 22 Reps; +6 Dems
Kos also admonished everyone who thinks that they single-handedly won the election that they didn't, couldn't, and shouldn't think of themselves as the source of all good for the party, government and the world.
  • It wasn't the DNC and Howard Dean (although Dean's 50-state program played a significant role).
  • Nor was it the DCCC andd Rahm Emanual.
  • Nor the DSCC and Chuck Schumer.
  • Nor the 527s and unions and allied organizations that ran all those independent campaigns (the VoteVets ads were awesome).
  • Nor the grassroots and Internet crowd (although the technology is improving and more and more are participating and contributing).
  • Nor the big dollar donors.
  • Nor the new campaigning technologies.
Kos reminds us that we were all (including Bush and his cronies) part of a glorious puzzle, working together, not always harmoniously to effect the election. Also, it might be said that part of the success was because we mostly ignored the pundits and middle-of-the-roaders who advocated a Democrat-swing-to-moderate-Republicanism approach.

The people spoke in a rush and flurry of exclamation points. And now we have to wait until February for their wishes to come to fruition... if they do. Huah.

[Many terrible things have happened in this waiting period in the past; it's not a time to hibernate.]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

GOTV, Campaign Money, Rush Limbaugh and our Do-Nothing Congress

  • Republican get-out-the-vote (GOTV) programs are set and ready to roll. They track people who've been identifed as saying they intend to vote right up until they actually do vote. If they vote early or absentee, they are purged so that the resulting target list is up-to-date and refined. Democrats have a similar capability but not a system for doing it everywhere; they do it where and if they have the money. The result is that the Reps get some votes that would otherwise fall through the cracks. And this election cycle, many Reps are seriously considering not voting, thus this GOTV program will get many of them back in the fold.

  • My opinion: a fair portion of moderate Reps that either didn't plan to vote, or were planning to vote moderately, will be guilt-driven back into voting solidly Republican. Dems just don't have the same mechanism or mentality. And if Dems are apathetic, as many are, they don't get goaded back into the fold.
Campaign Money
  • In targeted races, the money is coming in evenly albeit late for the Dems. But late money means more costly expenditures, in effect, less for more. Early money gets lower rates and the effect of repetition, a necessary requirement for name recognition in the less popular races. In organizational money for party and party organizations, the Reps are far ahead of the Dems. That money goes to GOTV, database development and maintenance, volunteer recruitment and voter registration.

  • My opinion: Coupled with the Rep many-year investment in a national database and their seriously greater party-building monies, wherever organization and technique play a role in the outcome of an election, the Reps win.

Rush Limbaugh
  • Time Magazine asked whether Limbaugh was good for America and the answer seems to be "No." Especially as he has stretched our tolerance and amusement levels with his caustic and slimeball remarks about Michael J. Fox, the feeling de jure seems to be less noise; more brotherhood.

  • My opinion: The Fox fiasco may not play out as well as the Foley one, but it adds to the consensus that false bravado, "staying the course," "cut and run," and all the other phrases Reps have used and Limbaugh has repeated are nothing more than that - harsh, insensitive, slimey, PR phrases.
Our Do-nothing Congress
  • The only breath of fresh air in Congress today is Nancy Pelosi's statement about not tolerating impeachment diversions but instead, focusing on a progressive agenda of very necessary action items should the Dems win the House and she gets the leadership post (Reid has said that he intends to pass it on to her). This truly has been our worst and most unproductive Congress. A recent mass e-mailer making the rounds shows that although Congress has been lackluster in terms of passing laws, they have been wonderful at breaking them!

    3 have done time for assault
    7 have been arrested for fraud
    8 have been arrested for shoplifting
    14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
    19 have been accused of writing bad checks
    21 currently are defendants in lawsuits
    36 have been accused of spousal abuse
    71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
    84 have been arrested for drunk driving within the last year

  • My opinion: A pox on both houses. But a (naive) hope for a less politicized leader, Nancy Pelosi, should the Dems win the House.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Kos vs Stephanopoulos

When George Stephanopoulos was in the White House I admired him greatly for sticking to his guns. But in his recent interview with President Bush on Sunday's ABC This Week, he didn't blink an eye when Bush lied. But Kos came to the rescue with his Monday blog "Stay the course"? Whoever said such a thing?

Kos embedded a YouTube video montage showing all the times Bush specifically said "Stay the course" in his speeches. Bush made such a blatent lie in that TV interview that it's well worth our effort to send this video to every news editor everywhere in the country. Certainly John Stewart could run it as is on his Daily Show.

In relation to Stephanopoulos, he might benefit from a quote from Martin Luther King: "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

In relation to whoever prepared the video on YouTube, BRAVO!

In relation to Kos who incorporated the video into his diary entry, you are showing why your blog is supplementing the major news outlets and is so well read. Keep up the good work!

And in relation to those of you that read my blog, consider taking a few moments to forward the link to this YouTube video to every news person you know. Let's see what happens. I hope something does.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Second City's "I'm A Democrat" Ad

This ad is one of a few that will NOT appear on mainstream TV.

It's a parody of the PC/Mac Bill Gates/cool Apple guy ads that are so popular and are working so well for Apple. It uses comedy to say why I'm a Democrat and why I send some of my money to support Democratic candidates like Jack Carter for Senate in Nevada.

I hope you enjoy the sentiment (and will also send some of your money to support your candidates (and perhaps Jack Carter's Nevada US Senate campaign)).

PS: You can see the other YouTube ads from the guys at Second City by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I just spent 12-1/2 minutes with ex-president Jimmy Carter!

I was driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara when a woman called my cell phone and asked whether I would like to talk with ex-president Jimmy Carter. I said that if it was a recording, I didn’t want to. She said that it was the real thing. So we scheduled a phone appointment for 12:35 today.

I was in the process of pulling over at 12:34 when the lady called again. She waited for me to get parked and then put him on… and it was really Jimmy Carter!

He was asking me to contribute to his son’s senate campaign in Nevada.

So I told him that I already had. That I had already sent the maximum $2,100 contribution to the Jack Carter for Senate campaign. He was surprised about that and then we talked about how to contribute even more through the state party. He gave me the name of the lady at the state party and their mailing address.

And then, since I figured the phone call was almost over, I told him that I appreciated his being outspoken about today’s issues – particularly about North Korea and in his August Der Spiegel interview where he said:
  • Israel had no moral or legal justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon.

  • The Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous.

  • The major news media in our country were complicit in this subservience to the Bush administration out of fear that they would be accused of being disloyal.

  • And that we've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.
He told me that he had received a lot of flack about that interview and that he appreciated my comments.

Then we talked about various campaigning techniques. He said that he and his family really knew about low-budget campaigns and that all 22 of his family were going to work for Jack from next Monday until the election.

I told him that I had a group of friends that pretty much had decided to pass this race by because it was losing race and that our money would be better spent in Montana or elsewhere.

He said that the most recent polls from the WSJ showing Jack down 6% which was within the area of chance for a win. His honesty showed through in that he didn’t say that Jack was a winner; rather he said that he was a long shot but a worthwhile long shot.

Jimmy Carter said it best when he said that he and his family knew low-budget campaigning with long odds. And that it was the personal touch that won elections.

All the while – as we were talking – I was watching my car clock tick away. Overall, our conversation lasted 12-1/2 minutes.

I felt very sad afterwards. Sad because I had talked with an American hero and that the conversation was real and personal and friendly and open-ended.

As a result, I heartily recommend that you too contribute the maximum to Jack Carter’s senate campaign. And also to the group’s Nevada campaign. And to the Nevada Democratic State Party with an earmarked contribution to the Jack Carter campaign.

Here are the links:Please do contribute.

The Rep Slice and Dice Advantage

When I first started working campaigns, part of the thrill was the giant disparity between Rep and Dem funding. The interest income from the Rep warchest was what the Dems hoped to get. The Dems had 1/12 of the funds that the Reps had.

So the Dems used technology to counter the Reps money. The Dems invented micro-targeting versus the Reps blanketing. The Dems developed and coded sliceable databases while the Reps advertised to everyone, blanketing whole areas with their materials and TV.

Often the latter paid off: in California the Reps mailed every Rep household and asked whether the recipients wanted to vote absentee. This was the first time that anyone took advantage of the loophole that you didn't have to be out of the country or state to vote absentee. The result was that a dull Governor won over a popular Black candidate who actually won the non-absentee vote.

But things changed then as they have now. Dems picked up the bandwagon on absentee voting and the machinery to solicit and then advertise this group of voters. The absentee vote now breaks evenly in most areas although it is continually growing because of its convenience.

The larger problem is that micro-targeting has become the ballywick of the Reps mainly because they have had the funds and organization to preserve the data from one election to the next and from all layers within the database -- from statewide to the smallest city/county office, board or commission. On the Dem side, each cycle has started fresh until Dean came into office. Now things are changing BUT it's going to take a few cycles before the database on the Dem side becomes as powerful and useful as the one on the Rep side. Two particular areas where Dems are behind is in poll results and contribution history. Every polled voter on the Rep side is in the database encoded with his or her answers. And every Rep donation is in there as well. Dems post this info from public and traded files each cycle but are missing the historical advantage that the Reps have.

As repugnant as Rove is in his public statements, this is his background and expertise: efficient and effective micro-targeting. This is where he started (developing the national, enhanced database) and this is his forte (using that enhanced data to target and concisely advertise thousands of very precise and meaningful messages to thousands of like-minded recipient groups).

And this election is where Rove's expertise is going to meet its first real challenge. I'm rooting for the Dems. But I'm naive.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hypocrisy Begets Immorality: Similarities Between Foley and "State of Denial"

And can cause wars! And people’s deaths!

Isn’t it hypocritical to be Co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives whilst writing sexually explicit e-mails to an underage congressional page?
  • He publicly crusaded against the very activities that he appears to have done himself. By definition, doesn’t that make him a hypocrite? And a corrupt one at that?

  • This is very similar to what happened with evangelist Jimmy Swaggart who advocated moral and marital purity but was caught with a prostitute.

  • There’s a psychological component in play here: contradictory actions such as these are consistent with those of a person struggling with an internal moral battle. “The righteous, fervent crusading against something often may represent an attempt to keep one’s own impulses under control,” said Dr. Jon Shaw , director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the U of Miami(i).
Isn’t it hypocritical to be President of the United States and be so stubbornly arrogant as to close his ears to the many voices who warned (and continue to warn) of the impending dangers?
  • Despite the reports and warnings of the worsening situation in Iraq, Bush, Rumsfeld and other key figures insist "repeatedly in public" that "things are better(ii)."

  • Amid the escalating violence in Nov. 2003, Woodward quotes Bush as saying "I don't want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don't think we are there yet(iii)."

  • And in May 2005, Woodward says Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN that the insurgency was in "the last throes" when Bush knew it was, in fact, worsening(iii).

  • 'State of Denial' recounts disturbing anecdotes about administration pettiness on a level with high school(iii).

  • Rumsfeld cut others out of Iraq decisions and planning and would not even return the phone calls of then-National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice until ordered to do so by Bush, the author claims(iii).

  • Rumsfeld also "bleached out independent military advice and got too many generals and people in the upper reaches of the system who were not strong, who were not independent, who would not come and say, 'hey, look, this is the way I look at it.'(iii)"

  • Rumsfeld rejected recommendations that it would take about 450,000 troops to secure Iraq and instead sent one-third that number(iii).

  • The defense secretary also ignored a State Department blueprint that could have prevented the looting of arms depots by future insurgents, Woodward claims(iii).
So how does President Bush respond?
  • On Wednesday he claimed Democrats can't be trusted to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. "Vote Republican for the safety of the United States," he said(iii).
  • Isn’t this very similar to VP Cheney’s 2004 comment that Sen. John Kerry would risk another terror attack?

  • Bush also said his pro-growth economic policies have helped working Americans, and called on Congress to make his administration's tax cuts permanent. "If the other bunch gets elected," he said of Democrats, "they're going to raise your taxes.(iii)"

  • Hugo Chavez recently ridiculed these characteristics in Bush when he said: “He walks like this cowboy John Wayne. He doesn't have the slightest idea of politics. He got where he is because he is the son of his father. He was an alcoholic, an ex-alcoholic. He's a sick man, full of complexes, but very dangerous now because he has a lot of power.(iv)”
There's a psychological component in play with Bush also, in relation to his being an ex-alcoholic/addict.
  • He exhibits arrogance and aggressive behavior. His intellectual level is severely limited. On first blush, you would think him quite competent, but on closer examination and close attention to his speech, you find that he uses words he doesn't understand and uses them completely out of context, while pretending to know exactly what he is talking about. When challenged that there is a problem with what he says, he responds with "That's my way of putting it" or "That's my way of doing it."(v)
Mistakes are inevitable. But the common theme presented here is the addictive display of ideology and arrogance over the pragmatism that is needed to be President of the United States and to adjust to changing conditions.

Even more disturbing is the portrait of a man who seems unable to come to terms with the damaging and dangerous situation he has helped create -- much less imagine a way out of it.

(i) ABC News: What Could Explain the Two Faces of Mark Foley? by Siri Nilsson, 10/2/06
(ii ) Bush Raises Volume on Campaign Charge by Deb Riechmann, 10/4/06
(iii) ibid
(iv) Chavez: Bush 'devil'; U.S. 'on the way down,' 9/21/06
(v) PA Health System excerpt "True Nature of Alcoholism," 1/30/06

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How an Attack [on Iran] Would Unfold

I was in San Francisco for the weekend and opened up the Sunday Chronicle to find this full-page story. It scared me beyond imagine.

Numerous rumors abound about what President Bush might do in his lame duck years. One particularly fearsome report came from an Israeli press interview with the head of their IDF that their military command thought it likely that either they or the U.S. would knock out Iran's nuclear program before the 2008 U.S. elections. And then I saw this article which never did say why an attack such as the one described would occur; it only talked about the mechanics of the attack itself. And the anticipated responses from Iran and other countries in that region.

It's unclear how many targets U.S. bombs would need to hit, and how often. "Could very well be 2,000, 2,500, 3,000 after you begin to add in all the other things like air bases, missile storage sites," he said. "The nonnuclear part is expanding." Cordesman estimates the number of sorties by bombers and cruise missiles would range from several hundred over a week's period for strikes focused on nuclear and missile sites to as many as 2,500 over a period of months for wider strikes including those targeting Iran's retaliatory military capability.
Holy shit! That's like the air war in Bosnia.

In the section discussing the aftermath of attacking Iran, every conceivable reaction was discussed: cutting off oil production and otherwise withholding oil getting to Western clients and America; sinking oil transports in the Gulf; bombing and shutting down oil production in Iraq; attacking Israel; funding surrogates in the Middle East and in America to harm American, Israeli and European interests; etc.

Jeez! This is hardly calm Sunday morning bedroom reading. One reader was quoted as saying:
Go for it George! As a former owner of a major league baseball team, you know the importance of this end-of-season "Axis of Evil" three-game series. A swift win over Iran will not only offset the devastating, poorly played loss to Iraq, but will give you much-needed momentum going into the big game with North Korea. But don't forget you still have that make-up game with Afghanistan.
I'm more freightened than amused. Some have said that in Bush's State of Denial (pun intended) he's getting progressively mentally deranged and might really do something this shocking and destructive. And unless we - all of us voters - effect a change in the makeup of the cadre around him, it's likely that something dramatic - if not an attack on Iran than something else - is going to happen shortly after the November elections. At the least, increased troops to Iraq.

Personally, I've never thought that Bush was a mental case. Rather, I've believed that he was and is an underrated quick-study on most subjects related to campaigns and politics and the nuances of power - but with an unethical slant. He's not a good speaker nor a policy wonk. But he's mastered a lot of the other tasks of the politics of the presidency. His training came from harsh and cynical experts like Atwater and Rove. And the influence of their ideas and practices have matured into some formidable problems for Democrats in the forthcoming elections amongst them is his aggressive and stubborn mind-set.

In "One Party Country," by Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, both of the LA Times, the effects of chipping away at Democratic strongholds like what used to be the block vote of African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews, and the effects of jerrymandering the electoral redistricting have had, and will have, significant negative effects for Dems. These and the systematic and targeted funneling of taxpayer dollars into faith-based entities where reciprocity rules, and investing in database development so far beyond what Democrats have funded thus far have enabled Reps to have the advantage in turning out small targeted and targetable segments of the electorate that, when turnout is low, can win elections.

And turnout has been low thus far this year. Perhaps we on the Internet, the bloggers, the Daily Kos readers, all of us, can channel our efforts and effect a change on the turnout figures for November. But we haven't thus far in the primary elections and we'll need to do something more effective.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Long-Term Solution to Ethnic Strife

Excerpted from The Origins of Ethnic Strife by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D.

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.
You’ve got to be taught from year to year....
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate.
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

The words of this song from the musical South Pacific pertain to one aspect of a powerful psychological defense mechanism that reifies the family, shrouding it and other forms of group identification in a fantasy bond that assures immortality in the face of the conscious and unconscious anxiety associated with death.

Psychological defenses that minimize or shut out psychological pain are collectively expressed in restrictive, dehumanizing cultural patterns that people feel must be protected at all costs. Ernest Becker suggests that aggression stems from frustration and fear rather than from instinct:
It is one thing to say that man is not human because he is a vicious animal, and another to say that it is because he is a frightened creature who tries to secure a victory over his limitations.
This explanation not only provides a clear perspective concerning the underlying meaning of prejudice, racism, and war, but is also more positive, pragmatic, and action-oriented. It offers hope for the future, whereas the deterministic conception of man’s essential savagery may well provide a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed, pessimistic forecasting generally precludes constructive action and people tend to feel progressively more demoralized and helpless.

The lack of an immediate, obvious course of action or definitive pragmatic program should not be interpreted as cause for pessimism or devalued on those grounds. Psychological guidelines explaining human aggression can lead to an effective program of education that may enable men and women to come to know themselves in a manner that could effectively alter destructive child-rearing practices and social processes that foster aggression. Freud declared that people might benefit from an awareness rather than a denial of their mortality:
Would it not be better to give death the place in reality and in our thoughts which is its due, and to give a little more prominence to the unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully suppressed?
In order to find peace, we must face up to existential issues, overcome our personal upbringing, and learn to live without soothing psychological defenses. In some sense we must continually mourn our own end in order to fully accept and value our life. There is no way to banish painful memories and feelings from consciousness without losing our sense of humanity and feeling of compassion for others. An individual can overcome personal limitations and embrace life in the face of death anxiety. Such a person would find no need for ethnic hatred or insidious warfare.

Robert W. Firestone
Click to see a video clip from an interview of Dr. Firestone with Salon's Fred Branfman

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"If you don't vote, you don't matter!"

"It's up to you to nail up any bastard that get's between you and the roads and the bridges and the schools and the food you need."
A timely message from the movie character Willy Stark (patterned after Huey Long) in the just-released remake of "All The King's Men" starring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins and lots of others.

$479,000,000,000 - that's right, four hundred sevety-nine billion - is standing between you and the roads and the bridges and the schools and the food you need. That's what we are spending (and have spent) for the Iraq war. That money is lost forever. It's not a valuable investment; it's the opposite... in fact it's going to cost us a lot more in the years to come. It's why Hugo Chavez got such resounding applause at the UN (reportedly the longest and loudest of any leader who spoke thus far this session). The people know of what he spoke. Of the lies and favoritism; of the corruption and misinformation. Of the hipocricy. And of the people dying for no real reason. Chavez gave voice to all those thoughts.

But Willy Stark said it best: "If you don't vote, you don't matter!"

Friday, September 22, 2006

You can always trust Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Kos (of the famous Daily Kos blog and colorful prose) is right once again:
I'll be shocked if we wake up on election day controlling either chamber of Congress. If we do, it'll be because enough candidates decide to give those DC consultants and staffers the middle finger and run the race they know they need to run to win.

My sentiments exactly. And my fear as well.

Kos puts the blame on DC consultants. I concur but also put it on the candidate integrity factor.

  • Lee Atwater put a variety of alternatives in front of Bush Sr. including the racially-pointed independently-run Willie Horton ads against Dukakis. Any candidate with integrity would have said: "Thanks but I can't do that. It's wrong."

  • Karl Rove puts a variety of alternatives in front of Bush Jr. daily. Like his father before him, Bush Jr. doesn't object on moral grounds; he just uses the information as recommended, regardless of the truth of the issue(s) involved.
The result is what we have today: a totally ineffective Congress, bribed officials everywhere, major MAJOR issues going unanswered, rampent fear and polarization, burgeoning REAL threats to our very existence, and a stubborn, belligerent and antagonistic executive branch.

Political consultants are recommending that the Dems focus on the economy in these last weeks of campaigning before the mid-term elections. Candidates can still shuck the chaff and choose what's right for them, as people, and as they see their electorate. Every election is a local election, no matter the national talking points.

People are hungry for a real leader to represent them. They've had enough lies and manipulation. They just want an honest person, with real feelings for their district and state, and an ethical passion to get necessary things to happen for their constituents. Voters are tired of the rhetoric; they just want a straight-talking representative with the integrity to do the job.

Me too.

Know anyone that fits the bill? Vote for them. Know anyone that doesn't? Vote against them.

That's the self-correcting feature of our system that ex-President Jimmy Carter recently talked about.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Submission to You [God] feels like self betrayal."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls herself "a dissident of Islam" because, given what Allah supposedly enjoins and what she knows is right, "the cognitive dissonance is, for me, too much." In the 11-minute film "Submission," for which she wrote the script, the main character says: "Faith in You, Submission to You [God] feels like self betrayal."

Now Ali is living as a dissident here in the US and the filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was killed by an Islamic extremist who slit his throat with a machete. The murderer (in whose room was found a disc containing videos of "enemies of Allah" being murdered, including a man having his head slowly sawed off) used another knife to pin a long letter to van Gogh's chest. The letter was to Hirsi Ali, calling her a "soldier of evil."

The film's title is a direct translation of the word "Islam." The film suggests the mistreatment of women born to Muslim families. The film was shown on the Dutch public broadcasting network (VPRO) on August 29, 2004. It portrays a Muslim woman as having been beaten and raped by a relative. The bodies are used in the film as a canvas for verses from the Qur'an.

George Will writes of her:
Slender, elegant, stylish and articulate (in English, Dutch and Swahili), she has found an intellectual home here at the American Enterprise Institute, where she is writing a book that imagines Muhammad meeting, in the New York Public Library, three thinkers -- John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper, each a hero of the unending struggle between (to take the title of Popper's 1945 masterpiece) "The Open Society and Its Enemies." Islamic extremists -- the sort who were unhinged by some Danish cartoons -- will be enraged. She is unperturbed.

Neither is she pessimistic about the West. It has, she says, "the drive to innovate." But Europe, she thinks, is invertebrate. After two generations without war, Europeans "have no idea what an enemy is." And they think, she says, that leadership is an antiquated notion because they believe that caring governments can socialize everyone to behave well, thereby erasing personal accountability and responsibility. "I can't even tell it without laughing," she says, laughing softly. Clearly she is where she belongs, at last.
The west has "the drive to innovate." But Europe is invertebrate. Great phrases for a desperate situation. But I ask again, who out there amongst our political candidates is willing to stand up and confront this issue intelligently? Perhaps Russ Feingold. Jimmy Carter [but he can't run again]? Madeleine Albright? Can you name somebody - anybody - who is willing to take the yoke and run with it? Who has the strength of character and intelligence to open and sustain the dialogue? The integrity to keep it up until something positive happens? And the charisma and ability to debate with humor and compassion?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

God, Elvis, Sam Harris, and George Bush.

The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.

Sam Harris, Ph.D., Letter to a Christian Nation, Random House, 2006

A person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying.

Sam Harris, Ph.D., Letter to a Christian Nation, Random House, 2006

I listened to Sam Harris talk about religion recently and couldn't help but worry for his safety. He's a 21st Century heretic. But he's basing his thesis on facts. He's saying that we are almost beyond rectifying our present confrontational situation and that conversation is the only way we're going to break the deadlock. Faith trumps rational argument. Common-sense ethical intuition is blinded by religious metaphysics. That's got to stop. And soon!
We have no reason to expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Faith is intrinsically divisive. We have a choice between conversation and war. It was conversation that ended slavery, not faith. Faith is a declaration of immunity to conversation. To make religious war unthinkable, we have to undermine the dogma of faith. The continuance of civilization requires not moderation, but reason.
Strong but timely stuff. Harris, Richard Dawkins, Madeleine Albright, psychologist Robert Firestone and others are discussing the topic. But who out there amongst our political candidates is willing to stand up and confront this issue intelligently? Perhaps Russ Feingold. Jimmy Carter [but he can't run again]? Madeleine Albright? Can you name somebody - anybody - who is willing to take the yoke and run with it? Who has the strength of character and intelligence to open and sustain the dialogue? The integrity to keep it up until something positive happens? And the charisma and ability to debate with humor and compassion?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's Really a Choice Between Life and Death

Yesterday I saw a comparison of Nixon and Bush when I watched the new movie/documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon. The movie begins with Lennon singing: "Nobody told me there'd be days like these" and was summed up by Gore Vidal who said:
Lennon represented life... and Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death.
The similarities between then and now are so evident: the misuse of the government to coerce, misdirect and scare; the purposeful misdirection of the media; the outright lies; the usurption of the Constitution and international law; and the specifically personal traits: the meanness, stubbornness and outright lies. Mario Cuomo said in the movie:
Their distortion of the Constitution was the greatest disloyalty to this country.
From a purely historical perspective the old axiom below has never been more true.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
From a personal point of view, many things affected me: seeing people in the film that I knew and admire(d) age; remembering myself back in the Beatle days - how I was defiantly against my own best interests and how I didn't become a Beatles fan - or a more socially conscious independent person until much later; understanding how I, like many others, chose painkillers instead of integrity when confronted with the meanspiritedness of what we thought and hoped to be our representative government.

All that and more came up as I watched this movie. It is very timely even for those of you young enough not to have known who he was on a day to day basis. The message throughout, however, wasn't really about the US versus Lennon. It was about what he lived and preached: Give peace a chance.

PS: John Lennon's songs like "Imagine," "Nobody Told Me," "Instant Karma (We All Shine On)," "Happy Xmas (War is Over)," and "Power to the People," and the chants "Give Peace a Chance," and the Beatles' "Revolution" were all included in the film including two previously unreleased songs -- "Attica State," recorded live at 1971's John Sinclair freedom rally, and an instrumental version of "How Do You Sleep." It'll be a great soundtrack when it comes out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What's It Gonna Take? Words from Mario Cuomo.

What is it going to take to counter voter apathy - to rally Democrats to vote - to inspire Democrats to support their candidates with their dollars, their energy and their votes. What came to mind was a person that could persuade me. So I listened to Mario Cuomo's speech at the 1984 Convention in San Francisco.

I was in tears. He was passionate, exuded honesty, and made clear sense -- with a poet's sense of integration, timing and color.

His speech had great one-liners (for which I'm quite jealous):
  • "The lucky and the left out" referring to rich Republicans and the trickle-down (or supply-side) theory of economics for the rest of us.

  • "Divide and cajole" about their campaigning tactics. Certainly Rowe and Bush are graduates of this one.
I excerpted three of his comments from that speech which are as relevant today as they were then.
  • About Iraq and our relationship with our allies.
    Click the arrow to listen.      

  • About what it means to be a Democrat.
    Click the arrow to listen.      

  • And finally, the question that I think should become the question asked from every podium during this campaign cycle.
    Click the arrow to listen.      

Let's all ask that question: Are we safer, stronger or better off than we were before George W. Bush became president?

No? Than let's change the players, election by election, candidate by candidate.

This has been, truly, the do-nothing Congress of all time!

Neither side deserves to be reelected.

Great quotes from Dick Morris. [I wish I had the knack for one-liners like that!]

Turnout is the key to this fall's elections -- and the low, apathetic turnout in yesterday's primaries suggests that, unless there's some real meat in the runup to the November elections, the results will favor the Republicans.

Why? Because low turnouts favor the passionate few that do vote... and they tend to be the rightious, religious, conservative, issue-based, homophobic portion of the Rep registered voter base. Dems just don't have those types of groups. Moderate Reps and across-the-board Dems who feel embarrassed by their government, their president, their foreign policy, their legislators, just pull up their collars and avoid the whole process. They don't vote, thus, in low turnout races they lose.

DNC Chair Howard Dean is right (and courageous) to run a 50-state program to drum up new voters, include and encourage past voters, and provide issues and reasons to vote. These efforts don't fully show up in the primary elections because the DNC doesn't support particular primary candidates. But they will show up in the Fall but it may all be for naught if voters - particularly swing Reps and loyal Dems - see it like Dick Morris does: that Congress did nothing and why should they think that new players will do any better? Low turnout figures for yesterday's primaries seem to indicate that this attitude is prevalent.

My fear is that public awareness doesn't coorelate with the DNC's (and the other campaign committee's) efforts.
  • A third of Californians vote 5-15 days before the peak of the advertising campaign. That's true in every state that has absentee voting. Since people gather most of their information from TV, and don't really pay attention until just before the election, absentee voters fall into a catch-22 of missing information (and the rising passion for change) yet voting nevertheless.

  • Bush and Rove have formulated an articulate argument for the Iraq war being an integral part of the war on terror. There's no arguing with them because every Rep speaker is in lock-step. The result, as they've planned, stirs fear and apathy to a place where the fervent vote and the frustrated shrink thereby echoing my turnout predictions.

  • No Dem speaker to date has controlled the news and people's interests with a poignant plea for honesty, integrity and a willingness to negotiate and get things done. Nobody has come to the forefront to lead the debate and say why we need to change the makeup of the House and Senate. Nobody has made the case that six more years of obstructionism will be in the way when a new Dem president takes over in 2009.

  • Worse yet is today's news that the RNC, RSCC and RCCC plan to outspend the Dems five-to-one. They plan to spend $60 million versus the Dems $12 million.

Still, even with all this bad news, elections are won one race at a time and every one is a local one. For me, I'll not shrink either from the rhetoric or from doing my duty to fund, discuss and vote for the candidates of my choice.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Self-Corrective Feature Of Our Country

Instutionalized corruption. Rampant temptations. Plutocratic tendencies. The coalition between Christian fundamentalists and the Republican Party. The creation of a class system. A congressional favorability rating lower than that for used car salespeople.

The 2006 mid-term elections are likely to reflect all of these perceptions with marching orders for incumbents and a sweep of new Democrat freshmen (hopefully).

I say hopefully because we Democrats shot ourselves in the feet often and at the worst of times (think no farther than Dukakis and Gore).

But besides electing new players who are more likely to steer clear of the many temptations and begin a severe housecleaning process, there are bigger issues that are making it neigh on impossible to effect meaningful change:
  • We don't have a vocal moral compass like Mario Cuomo or Jesse Jackson used to offer. Critics have poked so many holes in them personally that their words no longer make us cry out with passion and committment.
  • Our own social tendencies have been so verbally corrupted that we are fearful to even utter our desires for fear of indignant rebuttals (perhaps even harrassing reactions) from almost every front along with the distortion of our language, word by word, into meanings that we didn't intend.
  • In addition to this language disconnect, there is also a disconnect between overall economic growth and the growing squeeze on many working Americans. Like his father (and the barcode incident in the grocery store), our current President seems equally out of touch as he claims that the economy is doing well. This angers people who are suffering the truth: that the rich are doing well and the rest of us aren't. And it's that anger, along with our discontent with the situation in Iraq and the Middle East, that is propelling voters this fall to vote for anyone but the incumbent.
  • There's a disconnect in what we think is right and what we are offered as right. Health care is one such case in point. For the last 20 years or so, employers have slowly cut back benefits, passed on costs, limited coverage and generally made a mockery of employer-paid health insurance. Retirement plans are another case in point. More and more we're becoming convinced that we're on our own - without goverment or employer assistance.
  • Cagey and cynical aides to the President and his father before him, have changed campaigns and political discourse into adversarial, rightious trials with only one winner: the faithful, and only one way: their way. Altruism and brotherhood are nowhere to be seen. Gray isn't negotiable because it's neither black nor white.
Rather than cry wolf and feel ineffectual, we can correct today's situation by getting involved in this November's mid-term elections. And we can also do as georgia10 writes on Daily Kos:
Millions of us wait around for the 247 Democrats in Congress to speak up and stand up. Brilliant articles are penned about exactly what Democrats should say, and how they should say it. Other editorials rightly rail on "spineless" Dems who shrink from confrontation.

But we must never forget, my friends, that we are also Democrats. And every time we let a wingnut email go unanswered, we are the spineless Dems. Everytime we hesitate to jump in when our family or friends complain about politics, we are the cowards.

We're the front lines of progressivism, a 50-state army composed of millions of articulate, informed, and fundamentally right soldiers of truth. We're armed with facts, that weapon that deals a deadly blow to any Republican propaganda. And yet, in the chambers of our daily lives, I think we don't use them enough.

For example, why is it that my inbox is cluttered with right-wing chain mail but rarely any liberal forwards? And why is it that upon reading yet another email about "staying the course", my tired self is tempted to just click "delete" instead of "reply all"?

Because it's easier to let it slide, of course. It's easier to ignore than instigate. Too often, we are so afraid of getting into political fights that we shy away from having political discussions. But if we don't defend liberalism and our party, who will?

So let us not shrink from educating the ill-informed, from converting the conned with logic, and from building a new Democrat majority, one voter at a time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tipping Point

There's often a tipping point where choices have more than a casual effect: they affect our lives. Sometimes, perhaps more often than we imagine, those decisions are made incorrectly, misguided or even purposely misdirected.

In a recent Newsweek article about Billy Graham, Jon Meacham wrote:
As he has grown older, Graham has come to an appreciation of complexity and a gentleness of spirit that sets him apart from many other high-profile popular religious figures. Graham prizes peace. He is a man of unwavering faith who refuses to be judgmental; a steady social conservative in private who actually does hate the sin but loves the sinner; a resolute Christian who declines to render absolute verdicts about who will get into heaven and who will not; a man concerned about traditional morality who will not be dragged into "hot-button issues" of the hour. Graham's tranquil voice, though growing fainter, has rarely been more relevant.

We are constantly being influenced to see and do things in ways that are often not our own choices: to buy, do, vote for or against, go places, etc. These temptations often tip our judgement and bend our personal ethics. When this happens in high places, it can affect our lives and livelihoods as has been the case with President Bush. We are tipping downward and wobbling out of control because of misguided or misdirected decisions he has made on our behalf.

Fortunately there is an election coming this November which can - if enough new and vocal congresspeople get elected - wobble us back up to a wavering tipping point once again - and this time we might be able to make the right choices.

Jon Meacham said it right (about Billy Graham) when he said that
Complexity should be appreciated and leadership should reflect and maintain a gentleness of spirit and a sense of brotherhood for all.
We've tipped away from that with polarizing "hot-button issues" like immigration, gay marriage, and mean-spirited aides to the President like Cheney and Rove. It's time to tip back toward fairness, gentleness, altruism and brotherhood.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Timely Indian Prayer

By Tom Whitecloud
Florida, circa 1700

Oh Father whose voice I hear in the woods
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.

I am a man before you; one of your many children.

I'm small and weak; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
the red and purple sunset.

Make me wise so that I may know the things you have taught my people;
the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

Make my hands respect the things you have made;
my ears sharp to hear your voice.

I seek strength Father; not to be superior to my brothers,
but to be able to fight my greatest enemy: myself.

Make me ever ready to come to you with clear hands and straight eye,
so that when life fades as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Legacy/Schmegacy! Ex-Pres. Carter Speaks Out.

As a followup to my open letter to Ex-President Clinton (and my response to a reporter friend's questions about Clinton's legacy issues), here's an example of how a legacy is being created, day-by-day, by another ex-president.

In an August 2nd interview with Der Spiegel, Ex-President Jimmy Carter said:
CARTER: Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis. Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state. This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this. The other principle is basic justice. We've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.
SPIEGEL: But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?

CARTER: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.
And most importantly:
SPIEGEL: One main point of your book is the rather strange coalition between Christian fundamentalists and the Republican Party. How can such a coalition of the pious lead to moral catastrophes like the Iraqi prison scandal in Abu Ghraib and torture in Guantanamo?

CARTER: The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God's ideas and God's premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases -- as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world -- it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history. And, of course, fundamentalists don't believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.

SPIEGEL: So how does this proximity to Christian fundamentalism manifest itself politically?

CARTER: Unfortunately, after September 11th, there was an outburst in America of intense suffering and patriotism, and the Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous. For three years, I'd say, the major news media in our country were complicit in this subservience to the Bush administration out of fear that they would be accused of being disloyal. I think in the last six months or so some of the media have now begun to be critical. But it's a long time coming.
To Ex-President Clinton: I rest my case for alltruism rather than concerns of legacy.

To Ex-President Carter: Bravo for saying clearly and boldly what needs to be said. 

And to all of the rest of us, here's one more thing Carter said that involves us directly:
CARTER: There is a self-corrective aspect to our country. And I think that the first step is going to be in the November election this year. This year, the Democrats have a good chance of capturing one of the houses of Congress. I think the Senate is going to be a very close decision. My oldest son is running for the US Senate in the state of Nevada. And if just he and a few others can be successful then you have the US Senate in Democratic hands and that will make a profound and immediate difference.
Let's help that self-corrective aspect affect change this November.  Campaign for who you believe will make the boldest contribution, back your beliefs with money and action, and vote. I'll be doing the same.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Was "Reutersgate" A Planned Manipulation?

Different angles of the same photo re-used on different dates. Photoshop manipulated clouds to emphasize smoke and bomb devastation. Non-existent rockets attacking a non-bomb-dropping jet.

The Los Angeles Times wrote:
"There are two problems here, and they're the reason this controversy shouldn't be allowed to sputter to its inglorious conclusion just yet:
  • One of these has to do with the scope of what strongly appears to be wider fabrication in the photojournalism Reuters and other news agencies are obtaining from their freelancers in Lebanon.

  • The other is the U.S. news media's grudging response to the revelation of Hajj's misconduct and its utter lack of interest in exploring whether his is a unique or representative case."
It seems obvious that some of the photojournalists involved are either intimidated by or sympathetic to the Hezbollah terrorists for them to fraudulently manipulate photos as they have done.

Or perhaps there are some bigger players involved. This could be just the sort of trick that Rolling Stone's James Bamford wrote about when he was describing the activities of John Rendon and his Rendon Group on behalf of the CIA and DoD. In that expose Bamford described a scene where a terrorist described an event that was going to happen but when he was given a lie-detector he failed completely.
The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

Rendon is a man who fills a need that few people even know exists. Two months before al-Haideri took the lie-detector test, the Pentagon had secretly awarded him a $16 million contract to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda.
If the shoe fits . . . ?

Perhaps we could eliminate from our governmental expenditures monies that pay for the Rendon Groups activities along with the blatently campaign activities being done from within the Whitehouse by Karl Rove. It might not save much in dollars but it could reduce tensions and false illusions by quantum leaps.

The Black Kettle* Has a Few Good Ideas

[* from the old saying "A pot calling the kettle black" which comes from old times when pots and pans were generally black and kettles were generally metallic and reflective. Therefore the pot sees its black reflection in the kettle and thinks that the kettle is black.]

"I am a politician," Rendon said in a 1998 speech to the National Security Conference (NSC), "and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior, and a perception manager. This is probably best described in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when he wrote 'When things turn weird, the weird turn pro.'"

At a recent lecture in San Francisco, John Rendon, owner of The Rendon Group, was booed and jeered and his speech intrerrupted - but he also made some suggestions that merit repeating.

Rendon used to be a Democrat player. He worked in big campaigns and as the Executive Director of the DNC. But in 1991 he branched away from Democratic politics and began providing public relations services for the CIA and DoD (amongst others). He became a disinformation provider and privy to more polling and survey data than any single campaign or party could ever muster. He began using his campaign skills to enable our foreign policy and psyops programs to operate more successfully by missusing those very tools and practices very similar to the way the Reuters and AP photo journalists are missusing their photos from Lebanon by using Photoshop image manipulation techniques.

At the San Francisco lecture he recited facts and figures that could only come from the CIA's resource database (at least I hope they were "facts"). You can listen to the complete lecture by downloading the podcast from iTunes.

The lecture was interesting to me because of the case Rendon made of how little we really know about what we're doing throughout the world. The information isn't flowing in because we don't want to hear it, because we are often misdirected, and because there are some (himself included) that are using psychological and manipulation tools to make us too fearful to want to know. Further, our resources for alternate and competing information (returning travelers, foreign news sources, international travel) is being limited by the polarization that we see increasing daily in our congress and state and local chambers.

He claimed that as polarization increases (often accelerated by his company's efforts), balanced views of the world disappear and are replaced by selective information that supports the particular polarized group that the viewer belongs to and that these two suggestions would help mitigate that effect. Rendon suggested that we could alter our centrist view of the world by bringing more of the world to our news sources:
  • Require every news agency that has a federal license to have at least 10% of their reportorial staff exchanged with a foreign news agency

  • Require that before any college degree is awarded that the student have at least two years of foreign travel under his or her belt
He said that these two suggestions were the least that we could do to tip back America's lack of balanced information needed for understanding, planning and governance - an imbalance that, in part, he helped tip.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Re: Open Letter to Bill Clinton

A reporter friend asked me to comment about a story he is writing about the tension between Clinton's two great desires:
  • To be a beloved post-partisan ex-president helpful in all the world statements-type responses to international events

  • To be the Democratic Party's unofficial leader and first-ever First Gentleman
I think that Bill Clinton’s legacy would be enhanced if his immediate political activities were more altruistic than helping his wife get elected.

The new president has a lot to repair both within and outside the US. He or she should have the best team and support with the least diversion of attention to scrapping and other shenanigans.

Hence my suggestion that Clinton draft (and craft) Gore and participate in the solutions rather than contributing to the problems. Insuring that a Democratic President gets elected and a get-things-done team of straight shooters is placed is far more important in this next cycle than electing Hillary (who, in my opinion, is not the right person for this particular time).

Gore has a passion to effect change regarding our immediate environmental problems and he has knowledge and experience with cleaning up our government and extricating all of the cancerous corruption, evil policies, poison pills and hateful and wrongheaded initiatives that the present administration has embedded. He’s not a corrupt man and has the integrity to remain so. With the Clintons onboard as UN Ambassador and Secretary of Health and Human Services (for example) everyone would see by their selfless example that repairing our country is far more important than any sense of entitlement or legacy building.

What better legacy than that?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Open Letter to President Bill Clinton

Hello President Clinton,

In the 2006 California governor's primary, Steve Westley said some things about Phil Angelides that the Reps are using in their ads against Angelides.

I'm sure that the same will be true in the CT senate race against Lieberman or Lamont because of the rhetoric that's been flying every which way there.

You said yourself the other week in Aspen that: "If we allow our differences over [whatever] to divide us instead of focusing on replacing Republicans [in Congress]; that's the nuttiest strategy I ever heard in my life."

I have a suggestion that you might find hard to swallow BUT might also think is the right thing to do:

  • Convince Hillary NOT to run for President in 2008 AND

  • Develop and manage (with Hillary) a Draft-Al-Gore campaign for President because:
All these points have public appeal, and with your support (and without the conflict of Hillary's candidacy) could make the difference in what portends to be a very close, costly and bitter race.

And count on me for support in money, effort, technology and whatever else is needed.

Thank you for your consideration.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Internet Privileged vs. Internet Resistant and the 2008 Election Cycle

Fellow bloggers, political browsers, and members of Daily Kos are the privileged ones. We can handle ourselves on the Internet; find what we want; view and listen and comment. We're not intimidated by blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. And when it comes to campaigning, we're more interested in getting the facts on our own rather than being told what they are through advertisements.

So who are the underprivileged; the resistant*? This group is equally important because they are also prime targets for the 2008 Election Cycle. If we don't find and identify this group they might miss the massive amount of real information, our candidate's information, and the pleasure of independent research.

People who were 12 or younger in 1992 were on the cusp of the Internet revolution. They learned it and took it for granted and are adept at navigating and searching for whatever they want. They gather information as they become interested; they participate when the feel like it; they buy confidently, contribute freely, and disseminate regularly. So the campaign pitch to those folks is to interest them in finding out more; doing more; thinking more; participating more; contributing more.

The older groups of 1992 contained many of the resisters, particularly in the 1992 age range of 40-65 who are now 55-80. Some of the seniors within that group have learned what it is and how to use it because it's their primary source of communication with their dispersed families, but they're not really at ease with all the capabilities and features. The remaining group of AARP-elegibles are prime targets for traditional advertising and also for sympathetic Internet training.

Segmenting the electorate into Internet saavy versus traditional and also by Internet resistance versus taking it for granted are necessary first steps toward making the 2008 Presidential Election our first real Internet-as-primary-media election.

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point when he hosted "The Charlie Rose Show" and interviewed Jonathan Alter of Newsweek a few weeks ago. He said:
Successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times.

  • The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio.

  • John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

  • And with an issue as eye-glazing as the deficit, a wacky, jug-eared Texan named Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote. He did it with "Larry King Live" and an 800 number.

Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of "early money" is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That's why all the talk of Hillary Clinton's "war chest" making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but "free media" shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all. Finally, since at least a quarter of the voting population voting early or absentee, traditional methods of advertising are diluted further still.

The 2008 presidential election cycle will begin shortly. I believe, like Schieffer, that he who masters the prevailing media will win. That media used to be TV but by 2008 it will be the Internet - and we are all players in this new drama.

Be sure to vote.

* Cartoonist Mike Reed became famous a few years ago because of a flame-out he had with a few people on a digital arts forum. He was silent for a few weeks and then came back with a dozen cartoons that expressed his anger. Appreciation of those cartoons led to a book called "Flame Warriors."