Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Do I Really Care About???

I focus most of my attention on the political dog fighting in this country and so it occasionally is necessary for me to stop and ask myself why I even care. I believe that political operatives get so obsessed with the “game” that they stop caring about real issues. For example, I doubt Karl Rove cares at all about the substance of the Republican agenda. Not that he necessarily should -- his actual job is to get R’s elected. So, until the Democrats hire me to shape party strategy and messaging, I’ll continue to remind myself to care about actual substantive issues. Here are my top 5:

Read on....

"Old" Friday Night Entertainment

Sandwiched inbetween WWE Smackdown (which I would sit through if Hacksaw Jim Dugan was still around) and something like QVC (on the Philly area Comcast lineup) was Washington Week. This time (8/18/06) it was an all female lineup - great (I mean that) - they should have it more. It is a good way to hear as close to objective reporting (excluding the bias of the paper or station the guests work for) as you can get. I like the cut-to-the-chase (no pundit bs) reporting - although it is definitely scripted with the prepared expert on a topic answering rehearsed questions from the rest of the panel (but at least it is not as annoying as the scripted remarks on Discovery Channel or TLC "reality" shows).

Read on....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not Ready to Back Down

For the record, the Dixie Chicks are the shit. They came out against Bush and the Iraq War at the height of his and the war's popularity, and they've taken a ton of crap for it. But they've never apologized for it, and they've been right the whole time. The Democratic party could take a lesson here: when you're right, stand by your principles, and don't be cowed into submission.

They're out of the country after tomorrow night's show in Minneapolis, but they'll be back in the States beginning November 9 in Portland. Check out the tour schedule here. By all accounts they're pumpin' shows.


George Will is My Favorite Conservative

2 reasons why I'm very high on George Will right now:

1. He recently said that John Kerry's approach to fighting terror, as put forth in 2004, was the correct one. What makes this so ironic is how severly Kerry got blasted for his comments in 2004. He basically said that fighting terror requires, as much as anything else, a focus on prevention. I remember being really disheartened that Kerry took a hit for the what was clearly the smartest position on the biggest issue. I think it would inspire a lot of hope in Americans to be led by someone who thinks the terror fight doesn't require "wars" at all...literal or figurative.

2. I got a mass mail from the CATO institute yesterday. The letter's text was divided into sections by various George Will quotes. The tone of the letter (angry at outrageous spending) was just further indication that a significant portion of the conservative base is not motivated at all to support the status quo in the upcoming election. They probably won't vote 'D' -- but they're pissed and may just stay home. According to a story in today's Washington Post, the fellas at K Street already seem to be hedging their bets. All good news.

I gotta go now, I'm missing the Al Franken Show.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Doing the Minimum

As I discussed previously, an overwhelming majority of Americans support an increase in the federally-mandated minimum wage. While the corporate-sponsored Republican Congress continues to fight any such increase, some states are ahead of the curve. 18 states currently have minimum wages higher than the $5.15 per hour mandated federally. Other states, including Ohio, Arizona and Colorado, have minimum wage increases on the ballot this November.

While the proposed new minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would be a huge improvement over the current $5.15, it would still leave a full-time worker an annual income of only $15,080, barely above the poverty line. Interestingly, the living wage is an issue that has been garnering more and more attention recently, and is something that some municipalities are exploring. The idea behind a living wage is that people who work in a community should be able to live decently and raise their families wherever they live. This requires a wage and benefits package that takes into account the area-specific cost of living, as well as the basic expenses involved in supporting a family. In July, Chicago mandated that Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers pay its workers in the city a living wage. After approving a living wage for the 200 full-time city employees that became effective July 1, my hometown of Memphis is currently debating whether or not to extend the living wage to part-time city workers, employees of companies that receive tax breaks and businesses that provide contract services to the city. Other cities with living-wage laws include Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico; San Francisco, California; and Washington, D.C..

This is a progressive cause that can work. Americans believe in it. The minimum wage has been discussed on the floors of both the House and Senate, and the living wage is a reality in many cities, so the issue is already in the mainstream consciousness. Support the ballot referendums in Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, and elsewhere. Support the people in Memphis working to make a living wage a reality throughout the city. Find out if there are people where you live working on this issue. And if not, think about starting yourself. There have been victories in this battle already. But we have to build on these successes, and we must continue to fight.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Domestic (War) To-Do List

I'll join my fellow Js here and add a list. I almost called it the "doo-doo" list instead of the "to-do" list since it is made up of a bunch of crap that no one usually wants to deal with in America because of the difficulty of making progress on the related issues. With that said, someone did think that spreading democracy in the Middle East was not going to be a bunch of crap - and look how dirty our trunks are now! We make choices and pay the price (and the price is usually not right under W).

I have worked for and with non-profits of all sizes and state and local govs who combat the issues listed below, but they usually scrape up resources versus easily getting the focus and funds they need - so I ask, when do our wars at home become our priorities? Maybe if we can relate some of them to terror, Rovey-pops would change direction. Walking to work has already shown me NJ's #1 enemy.

To-Do What's In The Way?
  • Fear, Underfunded Police
  • Commercial Food Lobbyists
  • Misplaced Priorities
  • Communications Industry Lobbysits
  • Create Good Schools Everywhere
  • Misplaced Priorities
  • Class Issues
  • American Warming
  • Justice in the Courts
  • Class Issues, Subjectivity
  • Affordable Health Care for All
  • Severe Capitalism
  • Not Turning Red into Blue

Monday, August 14, 2006

5 Progressive Ideas to Put America Back On Track

1) Begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq: At the risk of stating the obvious, I believe that the Iraq War was a huge mistake. Begun under false pretenses, mismanaged by an incompetent Secretary of Defense, the war has cost more in American blood and treasure (and innocent Iraqi lives, for that matter) than anyone ever thought it could. We are spending $6 billion per month in Iraq. Let me repeat: SIX BILLION DOLLLARS A MONTH in Iraq. Determining what that could pay for in terms of real homeland security (e.g., securing our ports, fighting the people who actually attacked us on 9/11) or other places where it’s needed here at home is best left for another time. Needless to say, however, that I believe that that money could be much better spent. The continued presence of our troops in Iraq not only precludes the Iraqi Army from standing on its own two feet, but also further inflames the insurgency and sectarian violence that are simultaneously raging in that country. A majority of Americans believe it’s time for us to bring the troops home. I believe that the Murtha/Kerry “phased withdrawal” plan, in which we remove most of our forces from the region, leaving some on the periphery, is the best strategy. It is time we stopped throwing good money after bad, so to speak, and realize that “staying the course” is not a plan of action. I think it bears repeating: It’s time to bring the troops home.

2) Increase the federal minimum wage: A full-time, 40-hour/week worker, working 2,080 hours per year, earning the federal minimum wage of $5.15/hour, would earn $10,712 a year. That is well below the 2005 federal poverty line of $15,735 for a family of three. So, with the current minimum wage, you’re effectively telling someone that he/she can work a full-time job and still be about 33% below the poverty line. Frankly, that is outrageous. Check the link for a multitude of facts about the minimum wage. Suffice it to say that an increase, from $5.15 to $7.25 by 2008, would benefit a tremendous amount of people. And, contrary to many conservative economists, minimum wage increases do not cause job loss. In fact, in states where they have mandated a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, more jobs have been created than in states that only adhere to federal guidelines. The Republicans attempt to link an increase in the minimum wage with the repeal of the Paris Hilton tax was a cynical ploy that no one believed. When you’re on the wrong side of 83% of Americans, I think you’ve outfoxed yourself.

3) Improve the public education system: This is another obvious one. Admittedly though, I’m not knowledgeable enough to offer a lot of concrete solutions. I think it’s fair to say, however, that when more than thirty states, including a garishly red state like Utah, are objecting to the No Child Left Behind Act, something’s not right with what W’s offering. I think it starts with raising teacher pay, recruiting more top-flight teachers, and incentivizing the best and the brightest to teach in the most troubled schools. There are good public schools in America. They do exist. Unfortunately, they’re mostly in suburban, white neighborhoods, and they get a lion’s share of the resources. That’s got to change.

4) Universal healthcare: In the most prosperous nation on the planet, it is an embarrassment that there are millions of people without health insurance. In 2004, 15.7% of the country’s population did not have health insurance. That’s astounding. The healthcare system in this country is a labyrinth of regulations, red tape, and bureaucracy, and the healthcare industry makes too much money to be interested in fixing it. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and Americans support and want change on this issue. Senator Russ Feingold is calling for a pilot program, in which states apply to receive federal aid to implement their own, state-specific plans to provide all of their citizens with at least a base level of health coverage. I think this is a great jumping off point, and I commend Senator Feingold for being on the forefront of this issue.

5) Create “Manhattan Projects” for stem cell research and alternative energy: Stem cell research holds the key to unlocking cures and treatments for many of the human body’s worst diseases. Alternative energy provides America an opportunity to both protect the environment and wean itself off of foreign oil, much of which comes from terrorist sponsors. Just like it was with the internet, the U.S. should be at the forefront of both of these cutting-edge ideas, and the government needs to step up and provide a platform for Americans to proceed (or, in the case of stem cell research, at the very least not be an obstacle). Americans agree.

These are but five progressive ideas for fixing America. There are many other problematic issues in this country, including the byzantine tax system and governmental corruption. These are big problems, and the solutions are not easy. But we’ve got to start talking about them, getting the ideas out into the mainstream consciousness. Americans want us out of Iraq. Americans believe in an increase in the minimum wage, better education for our children, universal healthcare, and stem cell research. These ideas are not “radical,” “out of the mainstream,” or “extremist.” It’s the people opposed to these progressive ideas (read: Republicans) who are out of step with America, and it’s up to us to make sure that Americans aren’t convinced that their ideas are out of the mainstream, when in fact they are the mainstream. Change can happen, but it can’t happen without catalysts. And that’s why we’re here.


Sunday, August 13, 2006


In trying to make sense of the last week in the
geo-political world I realized I've entered obsession again. On
Wednesday night I had a dream about Ned Lamont. In the dream I was
advising his campaign. In reality, my life lacks its ordinary balance
because I've again become preoccupied with things beyond my control –
like how America will ever rebound from being led by an administration
so blatantly and entirely motivated by political gain.
Out of my ruminative cesspool have come the following 10 observations:
1. Joe Lieberman is a terrible candidate, regardless of party
affiliation. After closing his primary campaign by running back to
the left by finally criticizing the handling of the war, he's now
forced to play to the right. He did this in the wake of the terror
news by somehow equating Iraq with a plot by British citizens to blow
up airplanes. This kind of opportunist-logic is, I think, annoying
and sad.
2. I don't advocate a conspiracy theory. I think the terror plot is
real. I also think it's over hyped by the administration for
political gain – these people will politicize anything. I think the
cable news media is complicit in dishing fear to its viewers.
3. I think the administration proved its tendency to think only along
political and ideological lines this week when Dick Cheney called a
press conference to discuss the Connecticut Democratic primary. A
sitting Vice President offering extended commentary on a primary
election in the opposing party infuriates me.
4. I can only hope the administration's credibility is so shot that
the fear machine no longer works. I hope the average American is
tired of listening to these guys sound authoritative when all
objective evidence points to their ineptitude at actually governing.
5. John Edwards is a strong candidate for 2008. I heard him on
Hardball this week. In contrast to 2004, he now strikes me as
credible on foreign policy. He was able to quickly and neatly
summarize the difference between pure fundamentalist hatred of the
U.S. (which he says will always be present and must be dealt with) and
the fact that our policies inflame otherwise reasonable people who
might be inclined to view us favorably.
6. I love Russ Feingold. He passes my smell test of genuineness. He
flatly stated on This Week, that McCain would beat him in a general
election. He even went so far as to say that McCain would probably
beat anyone in a general election. Honesty. Isn't it refreshing?
7. How in the hell did W. beat McCain in 2000? Rove's nastiness
aside, it still amazes me. But after hearing McCain on This Week, I
believe W. wouldn't have won in a post 9/11 world. I long for a
president, from either party, that displays a reasonable command of
vital issues. I disagree with McCain on Iraq, but at least he's
8. It will be interesting to see what happens in southern Lebanon
this week. I can't see a cease fire taking hold, and it feels
negligent to me that it's taken so long to put one in place. But as
Condi says, maybe we're seeing the "birth pangs" of a new reality in
the region. By the way, I find it annoying that she always has plenty
of time for interviews, even amidst crisis in the Middle East. I
guess that's the benefit of an anti-diplomacy administration.
9. The media will go a long way towards deciding the fall elections.
The terror plot being busted was as big a story as the media wanted it
to be. With the administration's political guns blazing, the only
equalizer in the coming months will be the news cycle. I wouldn't be
shocked in the least to see more Michael Chertoff press conferences.
It seems to be the only thing capable of pulling the yuks on cable
news away from American Idol and the Tomcat baby.
10. I'm ready for the election to be over so that I can shift my
obsessive mind away from politics for a few months. College
Basketball will be going full tilt at that point, which will then take
me right up to the start of the Presidential primary cycle (and even
closer to the long awaited end of the W. presidency).