Monday, January 30, 2006

Sending Tweety Back to School

In case you didn't know, "Tweety" is what many in the blogosphere call Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, although given how Matthews spits when he gets excited, "Sylvester" might have been a more accurate and understandable nickname.

All sides of the political spectrum do it (give nicknames to the object of their affection or ire), but I find it can be very confusing when I'm reading a blog if I'm not up on the latest nickname coined for some new person in the news. I swore that if I ever had a blog, I wouldn't do it. So this is the first and last time you'll see me doing it. It won't prevent me, however, from calling Matthews (or anybody else) a whore, or an ass, or any other derogatory expletive that leaps into my mind as I witness the dismantling of America's democratic republic.

Chris Matthews (and just about every mainstream media journalist and on-air personality I can think of) is an ass. When he isn't being a whore. Then there are the days when he's both an ass and a whore.

Whew. I've spoken my mind and the republic is still standing.

Free expression is good, I think it's healthy and necessary in a functioning democracy, and I support and encourage it. But it's not enough to just carp and complain about the sorry state of corporate media's news and political reporting. Criticizing on-air personalities isn't going to change anything: We have to show them what it is that we want and teach them how to do it.

The Norman Lear Center at USC's Annenberg Center for Communication has a website, "to develop and distribute tools to help local and network television provide informative and creative political coverage."

They've got a tip sheet for political reporters and news managers on How to Improve Television Political Coverage - Tips on making your political coverage more engaging and meaningful.

Send a copy to Chris Matthews at Hardball today. Send one to Tucker, too. And Joe Scarborough. Oh, and don't forget Russert.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

VandeHei Wants a Piece of This, Does He?

No longer content pretending to be an unbiased journalist, Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post has entered the fray.

If there's one thing that conservatives have in excess, it's testosterone and the inability (or disinterest) in restraining the aggressive behavior that their excitable personalities stimulate. The same is true for women conservatives. The question now is, who is VandeHei carrying water for? His wife or Bush?

VandeHei's wife, Autumn Hanna, apparently comes to the Republican Party with credentials from just about all of their different interest groups, not the least of which is as a true believer from the Christian Right. When she worked for Tom Delay, Mrs. VandeHei was Delay's "go to" aide for the GOP's family policies' legislation. Mrs. VandeHei appears to have signed on to the fundamentalist agenda which believes that faith-based organizations, and not the government, should be the providers of aid and assistance to citizens in need. From an interview she did with the Home School Legal Defense Association:

I believe firmly that the church has abdicated its role in terms of its involvement in social issues—addressing the needs of the poor and helpless—the “widows and orphans.” One of my goals for the future is to work to reconcile the church with their responsibility in terms of society’s disadvantaged, so that the private sector can reclaim what we’ve left in the hands of the government.

Mrs. VandeHei is on the board of "Horton's Kids," non-profit organization that provides tutoring and mentoring to the children of Anacostia in D.C., by raising money Tom Delay-style.
Charitable acts are laudable, except when one hand giveth and the other hand pulls the rug out from under you. Republicans talk a good game about self-reliance and individual responsibility, but if they meant it they wouldn't be preventing the citizens who live in D.C. from having representation in Congress. As howardpark reminds us:

Every so often I like to point out that there are 550,000 or so taxpaying citizens who live in the District of Columbia who don't have Senators. Also, it's not well known that the very first action of the Republicans, when they gained control of the House in January 1995, was to strip our Representative of her right to vote on the House floor.

Mrs. VandeHei's conservative political activism extends beyond family issues into tax and budget cuts, environmental and energy policies.

The question that needs to be asked in order to determine journalists' impartiality isn't "Could Jim VandeHei remain objective reporting for a national newspaper of record and be married to a political zealot?", but rather "Would a political zealot such as Mrs. VandeHei marry someone who wasn't also a zealot?"

Friday, January 27, 2006

What are you doing Tuesday night?

From the DNC:

In hundreds of communities across the country, people won't be sitting back when George Bush delivers his State of the Union address on January 31st. That's because in each of those communities someone decided to host a Watch Party -- a simple event to bring people together to get the facts and take action.
There's still time to invite people over to watch together, react together, and -- most importantly -- decide together what you will do to work for change on the ground in your community this year.

There will also be a Watch Party Conference Call immediately following the official Democratic response. You'll be able to join Governor Dean and other Democratic leaders for immediate reaction and opportunities for rapid response.

You can set up your own Watch Party and start sending invitations using this simple tool on our web site:

From Anchorage to Wichita to Brooklyn people have already created Watch Parties. Everyone attending will receive background information before the speech, and the opportunity to hear directly from our party's leaders immediately after.

You can search by zip code for an event in your area:

Where will you be next Tuesday night?

Making Yourself Irrelevant

Open Letter to Senators Feinstein, Landrieu, and Salazar:

I am a democrat, but I do not live in your state. Whereas I cannot vote for you, as I am not a resident of your states, you can (and do) vote on many things that affect citizens like me who do not reside in Louisiana. Justices for the Supreme Court is the one I’m writing to you about tonight, and your decision to vote against a filibuster.

Whereas I support your voting no on Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court, unless you filibuster, your vote against this nomination is worthless. I understand that you have already decided against filibuster and I urge you to change your mind. If not now, when will you filibuster?

I don’t know what deal was struck by the gang of 14, as it is called. I don’t know how the 14 of you decided to define “extraordinary circumstances,” or even if you bothered to define it before you all agreed to be bound together in an agreement. I assume that there was an agreement about that, because as a former mediator, I don’t know how a group of lawyers and lawmakers (Gang of 14) would ever enter into a contract without all of the terms of the contract being precisely defined. Maybe I’m wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time that I gave Democrats in Congress more credit than was their due for not letting themselves (and their constituents) get snookered by the Republicans.

I have become disgusted and disillusioned with the Democrats in Congress. Registered as a democrat and active politically for over 35 years, the Democratic Party that I joined was an honorable, ethical assembly of Americans with deeply held convictions rooted in reason and dedicated to improving the condition of people’s lives. To not buttress one’s convictions using all of the tools on hand is not any act of integrity. For Democrats in the Gang of 14 to vote no on Alito’s confirmation, but choke when they are capable of preventing his confirmation with a filibuster, when they know what Alito on the court means for the future of the country, isn’t a dilemma deserving of respect or understanding.

It’s an act that warrants firing.

If Democrats in the Senate don't filibuster this nomination, I will be leaving the Democratic Party and working to unseat every incumbent Democrat in office. If I performed as poorly on a job as Democrats in Congress have, I'd be out of work. Democrats in Congress seem to believe that losing gains and progress and ground at a slightly reduced rate equates success. Democrats have failed to deliver, and the excuse of "we're the minority, we have no power" is bogus on many levels.

When you are in the minority party, when the other side refuses to include you or work with you or consult with you, YOU MAKE NOISE! You scheme, you plot, you strategize, and you rework every argument that has failed to win over the citizens who voted for the Republicans. You do not rest on your past laurels, waiting for the time when Democrats might be the majority again. You do NOT, as Senator Barbara Boxer has done, go off and explore your talent for writing a book of fiction.

I watched the confirmation hearings and am furious about the Democrats' inept questioning of Alito. The lack of coordination was the least of it. [Didn't Democrats get the message before the Roberts' confirmation hearing that abortion and overturning Roe wasn't the battle cry issue to focus on? Kate Michelman said, at Alito's hearing, what anyone who isn't even paying attention knows about abortion in America - Democrats, by being reasonable, by working with Republicans, conceding to the anti-choice religious right the circumstances when women can't get abortions, brought us to the ironic conundrum that Roe won't be overturned AND women won't be able to get an abortion in America. "You can HAVE an abortion, but you just won't be able to GET an abortion." Whether Alito provides the fifth vote to overturn Roe is irrelevant at this point - for many women of limited means, living in places in the U.S. that have no abortion providers, getting an abortion is impossible NOW.]

By day two of the confirmation hearing it was obvious from watching the Democrats on the committee that none of hearts were in it. Not in the confirmation process, not up for the process of blocking what they know to be a disastrous choice for the highest court in the land. They were either delivering monologues during their time about what they already decided about Alito instead of actually questioning him in front of the cameras so that ordinary Americans who vote for Republicans could have seen Alito really isn't in their own best interests, OR, they were covering the same ground that one of the other Democrats on the committee had covered. By day two, from demeanor and tone, it was obvious that Democrats were just going through the motions and had no intention of trying to block the nomination. Oh, they might vote no, but "it seems certain that this nomination will go through," as "nobody has the stomach for a filibuster."

Senator, I don't think you have any idea how disheartening it is to watch a Republican on the public's air waves, in anticipation of some issue coming before Congress in the coming days, say that the outcome is already determined and see Democrats not even try to counter that meme.

This vote on a justice for the U.S. Supreme Court isn't a matter of an individual senator's conscience, as I've heard senators say these last few days. This vote, like every other one cast by Democrats in Congress should have been, is a matter of the ideals of citizenship in the U.S. and a vision of the future. Democrats have been yielding ground to Republicans for years, and against all warnings and road signs, I find myself in an America that I don't recognize anymore.

We have a President who claims rights not granted him in the Constitution, who admits (hell, he proudly proclaims) that he isn't bound by the law. This is a criminal administration and a fascist nation, with individuals' rights eroded to the point of non-existence. Suspension of habeas corpus, and our Congress abrogates its' own oversight responsibilities on what the Executive is up to. And the Senate is about to put a justice on the Supreme Court who not only doesn't recognize that there are three distinct and equal branches of government, he isn't committed to maintaining the equal power of the branch he's interviewing for.

I realize that it's a chicken and egg dilemma, in Justice Alito's world, if the court rubberstamps the unitary executive theory, who really then is the all-powerful branch? The Executive or the Judiciary that just anointed Him? That's a conundrum for another day, when we can all afford the luxury of such hypothetical arguments when we know them to be (and remain) hypothetical. With the breathtaking change that this administration and Republicans have put this country through, I don't think allusions to the Nuremberg laws, and the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich are off base. Why Democrats in Washington aren't seeing it might be explained by the story of "The Boiled Frog":

If you drop a frog in boiling water, it quickly realizes the danger and hops out, saving its own life.

If, however, you put the frog in cold water and slowly heat it up to boil, the frog's nervous system will not react to the danger and the frog will die.

Senator, you wanted the job, now do the job. Take a stand.

Vote no on Alito AND filibuster.

What are you saving it for? Is there a poll somewhere that says that Democrats should only risk the nuclear option if they receive a specific number of letters supporting a filibuster? Is that how “extraordinary circumstances” got defined by the Gang of 14??

Republicans will trip the nuclear option anyway, when it suits them. Playing Neville Chamberlain to the Republican Reich won’t win Democrats anything. By refusing to use the filibuster, Democrats (and the whole country) lose anyway, but bigger. Capitulating to Republicans won’t get them to treat Democrats as anything but the enemy. Fawning all over Republicans on the floors of Congress have gotten Democrats nowhere. Their compliments and gracious acknowledgments are met with insults, bullying, threats and accusations. Republicans engage in politics as a contact sport, intent on drawing blood, and winning means complete and total annihilation of the opposition. No amount of Democrats ignoring that fact and treating Republicans in a gentlemanly manner is going to snap Republicans out of it. With each cave-in by the Democrats, the Democrats lose supporters. Democrats will never have more supporters than they have today unless they filibuster.

Senator Dianne Feinstein:
Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501

Senator Mary Landrieu:
Voice: (202)224-5824
Fax:(202) 224-9735

Senator Ken Salazar:
Phone: (202) 224-5852
Fax: (202) 228-5036

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lindsay Graham to Democrats: "We'll Clean Your Clock."

As Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee listed the problems that they had with Samuel Alito's answers at his confirmation hearing and why they were voting against his nomination leaving their committee, Republican Senators used their speaking time to attack the Democrats on the panel.

Graham cautioned the Democrats from making Bush's judicial nominations a campaign issue in the November midterm elections. "Our side would welcome that debate, and frankly we'll clean your clock," he said.

Senator Graham is a newcomer to the Senate, having taken Jesse Helms' seat upon his retirement. Graham's rise in politics stems from his role as a House manager in the Clinton impeachment. He brings with him the same low standards for debate in policy-making that he exercised as a congressman. Taunting, bullying speech may be tolerated in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is a more august body where heated ad hominem is not merely frowned on but severely rebuked.

When Thomas Jefferson returned from France where he'd served as ambassador while his colleagues were writing the Constitution, he purportedly met with George Washington, and he asked Washington why they had found it necessary to create the Senate.

Washington is said to have silently removed the saucer from his teacup and poured the tea into the saucer and told Jefferson that like the act he had just performed, the Senate would be designed to cool the passions of the moment.

Historically, the Senate has been a haven of sanity, balance, wisdom. Senators debated controversial issues which have been passionately felt with candor, with courage and civility. It remains unclear if Lindsay Graham can mature into the role of statesman that the job of Senator requires.

Democrats represent 50 million voting Americans, roughly half of the electorate. Democratic policies better address the problems in the lives of the other 100 million American who are eligible to vote but don't. The future of this country, of the world, depends on sober and thorough discussion of the issues we are facing, so if Lindsay Graham thinks it would benefit his side, then why the abrasive, fear-mongering posturing? If he so welcomes a thorough airing of the issues, why is he doing everything he can to try to scare Democrats into cutting off the debate?
"Bring it on!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Exactly How is This Guy a Democrat?

Senator Ben Nelson takes Bush's *new & improved* term for warrantless government spying on American citizens out for a spin.

(picture by pbinder)

In defending his intention to vote yes on Sam Alito's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court this morning on C-Span's Washington Journal, Ben Nelson, (D-Nebraska), uttered the Rove-approved term for the warrantless NSA spying on American citizens, "terrorist surveillance program."

Senator Nelson spoke of how the process has changed from the days when Senator Orrin Hatch and Republicans in the Senate voted for Clinton's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As if the change is that Republicans showed non-partisanship and generosity in not blocking (now) Justice Ginsburg's ascent to the court.

Nelson, apparently, has been living on an all-Kool-Aid diet, because his perspective on that history ignores some relevant facts: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a consensus candidate.