Saturday, April 30, 2005

It's Our Fault?

You've got to love their consistency. From Fox News, via Media Matters we have this gem of "fair and balanced" reporting:

That's right, boys and girls. It's all us Liberals who drive our Prius' and Civics and were so very much against a war of choice that are at fault here. It's obviously our fault and not that of the Republican controlled congress, or Right Wing conservative President who got all his "facts" wrong in his rush to a war that would destabilize the oil supply flowing from his good friends in the Middle East; a war resulting in tens of thousands of deaths of innocent civilians; a war that fanned the flames of increased anti-American sentiment costing our country it's position of moral leadership in the world; a war that caused a sharp increase in world wide terrorist incidents...

Fools! Imbeciles! Don't believe the Liberal media. What do they know. We've been duped. It all our fault. All those damn world wide protests showed that we hated America so much that the Saudis raised the price of oil just to punish us godless Commie Liberal scum. We've brought these terror filled days of $100-a-tank for our American made SUV's upon the good hard working people of America. Oh, our shame is unbearable!

Or not. How do the people at FOX breath with their heads so far up their asses?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Am I This Old?

I can't stand it anymore. I'm watching TV trying to relax and recover from my political addiction. Then I see it. Then I keep seeing it. Over and over. Again and again. It's like a bad dream that won't go away, mocking me and my proud history of the guitar gods of my youth. Buick has commandeered one of the best Rock and Roll songs of all time. There, amid pictures of some ugly as hell bulbous mini-van-like Buick abomination I am treated to the visual of said abomination accompanied by Aerosmith's classic "Dream On."

Just for the record: Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, WTF?!?

I mean, it's bad enough Led Zeppelin is now hawking Cadillacs. But at least Cadillacs have some class and their cars have some design aesthetics to them. At least I can console myself that Zeppelin held out for the king of Detroit. It's a moral victory to be certain, but at least I know Zep sold out for the high end.

But "Dream On" selling Buick mini-van like "luxury SUV" things? You've got to be kidding me. Why not just rip out my musical soul and stomp all over it while you dress me in a cheap suit, stick me in cubicle, and play 52-card pick up with all my old album classics on the freeway.

Again, WTF?! "Dream on, dream until your dreams come true." Ya. When I dream of a car, I'm dreaming of a flipping ugly ass Buick SUV. Are you kidding me?

What's next? Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" to sell Prozac, or Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" to sell Depends undergarments? To paraphrase The Who: I hope I die before I get that old.

Dream on = Buick.

You've got to be kidding. What has the world come to when Bush can be President and Aerosmith would sell Buicks?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This Gives Me Gas.

So tonight we were treated to the first news conference in over a year by President Bush. He had this to say about the high cost of gas at the pumps:
"There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America," he said.
Well, then how does he explain this:
The first quarter profits for the big oil companies were recently released. What a shock - the refining and marketing profits of the big four oil companies have increased by a staggering amount over one year ago!

BP – up 165%
Chevron-Texaco - up 294%
Conoco-Phillips - up 44%
ExxonMobil - up 125%

And major California refineries owned by Valero and Tesoro that supply the Las Vegas and Reno area have reported “record” profits and project even bigger gains in the months ahead.

Record profits for big oil … and record prices for American families.
And the bad news. This is from Harry Reid speaking on the Senate floor one year ago. How about today:
LONDON -- BP Group PLC, one of the world's largest oil companies, said Tuesday that quarterly profits rose by 35 percent, boosted by higher oil prices and a small increase in production that outweighed lower retail marketing margins.

BP said that net profit was $6.66 billion for the three months to March 31, up from $4.95 billion in the first quarter of 2004. Revenue jumped to $79.8 billion, from $68.9 billion.

BP chief executive John Browne said that high oil prices had "generated substantial additional cash flow." Brent crude traded on the International Petroleum Exchange averaged $47.62 over the three months -- more than $3.77 a barrel higher than in the fourth quarter.
So if the price of crude oil is up, that means making gas must cost more, so naturally this cost gets passed on to you and me as consumers. But why then are Big Oil profits up 35% if the increase in crude prices are passed along in the form of record gasoline prices? Could it be that record prices might generate record profits?

Ah, Mr. President, I think that's called price gouging.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Dem Bashing DLC in IL-06

Another Democratic candidate for Hyde's congressional seat in IL-06 has now announced his intention to challenge Christine Cegelis in the Democratic primary. What's great about this is the way Peter O'Malley entered the campaign:
“42% was not good enough; it was a moral victory and we can’t have those” said by Jim Reynolds, Vice Chair of the Democratic Party who introduced O’Malley today.
That's right Ms. Cegelis. Nice job you did there holding the fort for us Democrats. Now run along and play.

First, let's get the facts straight here guys. She got 44.2%, not 42%. Don't give me that crap about her benefiting from Kerry and riding the Dem wave. Kerry got around 47%. In 2000 Gore and Nader got the same 47%. But in 2000 Hyde's Democratic challenger only go 41% and spent WAY more money than Cegelis did in 2004. Yet Cegelis got 44.2%. She did better than anyone against Hyde, and she has a better organization and better head start against a no-name GOP candidate this time. Gee, I wonder what would have happened if the DCCC had backed her? Melissa Bean, anyone?

Where was O'Malley and his DLC friends in 2004? Recovering from running for a county board seat - and losing. Now Mr. O'Malley we can't have any more such "moral victories" such as these:
Debra Olson(R) 33,150
John Noel(R) 29,615
Grant Eckhoff(R) 27,873
Peter O'Malley(D) 21,092
From the Sun Times:
O'Malley heaped praise on Cegelis, saying "Christine has done a tremendous job." But he portrayed himself as better able to win in the Republican congressional district.


He declined to discuss his position on guns beyond saying he supports "gun owners' rights" and "reasonable gun safety laws."

"I'm not in a position to get into specifics at this point," he said.
So this is what being better able to win looks like? He doesn't have specifics? Hell, he doesn't even have a donation system set up on his flipping website! Where's his blog? Marching in a bunch of local parades doesn't really constitute an real calendar of events. But he's better able to win?

So what's he got? DLC connections. State Party connections. And he's rich. I'm tired of big money and the good old boy network determining who goes to Washington. From his website:
Peter O'Malley understands that keeping our families safe and secure should always be our ultimate priority. He understands that we live in an increasingly dangerous world, and that the threats to our way of life are many and all too real....
What is this guy? A Republican? This pisses me off. This is why there are NO elected Democrats in DuPage. None. It's time the party supported candidates like Cegelis who have the boots on the ground, an open ear to the Blogosphere, and the organization in place to win.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Hyde's GOP Payback

Henry Hyde is retiring. The man who led the impeachment of President Clinton for doing far less than his own years long "youthful indiscretion" of infidelity to Mrs. Hyde, is now not so sure he would do it again. So was impeaching Clinton payback for Nixon's impeachment? From Hyde himself:
The veteran republican is also admitting for the first time that the impeachment of Clinton may have been in part political revenge against the democrats for the impeachment proceedings against GOP President Richard Nixon 25 years earlier. *

"Was this pay back?" asked Andy Shaw.

"I can't say it wasn't. But I also thought that the Republican Party should stand for something, and if we walked away from this, no matter how difficult, we could be accused of shirking our duty," said Hyde.
You've got to love those Republicans. One man cheats on his wife. Another breaks several federal laws to spy on his political enemies. But in their eyes the wife cheater is equal to the crook.

Republicans. Hypocrisy without limits.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Donnybrook in DuPage!

I love a good fight. Especially when it's the other side beating themselves up!

In this corner, you've got the Republican Candidate and DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. "Rick" Carney bashing the Republican Majority Leader that he will serve with if elected. In the other corner, the Republican State Senator Peter Roskam, Wingnut in waiting, who thinks Tom DeLay is a swell guy. It's a battle at the ballot. A donnybrook in DuPage. The fight for the GOP nomination for IL-06.

Ding! From the Sun Times:
"What I read in the paper, whether it's correct or not, just seems to be an embarrassment for the Republican Party," said former DuPage County Recorder of Deeds J.P. "Rick" Carney. "To stay in his leadership position seems arrogant to me."

But state Sen. Peter Roskam, who worked for DeLay 20 years ago, voiced support.

"Trotting out some of ... these old accusations that are two and three and four years old is a little bit tiresome," Roskam said. "I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt."
Carney comes out swinging! One Republican bashing the Republican leader in hopes of pandering to the middle. The other Republican shows his true Wingnut colors by siding with a guy who's embroiled in scandal after scandal and charges of ethic violations. Good strategy! Carney keeps up the pace:
Carney portrayed himself as more moderate on issues such as abortion, gun control and gay rights than Roskam, who is positioning himself as the ideological heir of the 16-term conservative icon. Carney even took a poke at Roskam for running in the neighboring 13th Congressional District in 1998.
Wow! Carney is running to the left of Roskam! I'm shocked. We haven't seen that since Reid ran to the right of Kennedy. But Roskam fights back with a quick conference call to the body:
In a conference call from Springfield, Roskam told reporters he did not expect his 1998 run to be a campaign issue because of his "long-standing ties" to the 6th Congressional District.

"It was a great race," Roskam said of the 1998 contest. "I learned a lot, and I think it actually places me at an advantage."
That's right, boys and girls: running a race in IL-13 places Roskam at an advantage in IL-06. After all, he did all that campaigning to raise his name awareness... in the other district!?! But look out, Carey is back with the knockout quote:
"Do we want a congressman to serve the 6th District who is ultra-conservative, or are we going to go in the direction that all America is taking, a more moderate stance?" Carney asked. "I am for freedom. I'm for America being the home of the free."
He's for freedom! America as the home of the free! The crowd goes wild! I wish I thought of that. Now if he would just come out for hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet I'd switch parties right here and now and vote for the guy.

But wait a minute. The referee is informing Mr. Carney that he might want to check with his Republican leadership about that whole America wants "a more moderate stance" business. Seems that's dirty politics to the Republican base, especially the Radical Right of which Mr. DeLay is a leading member.

This could get ugly folks...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Reality Based Politics

When was the last time a politician did something to change your life for the better? I don't mean passing some corporate loophole or nebulous rule change. I mean really changed your life, inspired you, made you want, or have, to be a better person.

I can't remember any offhand in my adult lifetime.

This is the crux of the problem as summed up in a great post today at MyDD by Thresholder. In his post, "Reality. Credibility. For Chris and for everyone" he argues that what the Democrats are missing is not framing, their own set of Rovian tricks, or better partisan politics, but reality. From Thresholder:
BOTH PARTIES have been ignoring reality. We know the Thugs reject reality. But Dems have been living out of touch with reality for years. They have been scheming about how to win elections without standing up and making a difference in people's real lives. The credibility gap I talk about IS NOT ABOUT FRAMING! IT'S ABOUT FIGHTING AND WINNING POLITICAL BATTLES THAT MATTER TO PEOPLE!
To me, the thought that politics should be about taking risks in order to change people lives for the better is key to regaining the majority. But instead the Democratic party has become so fearful of losing, it has become out of touch with what is real in people's lives, focusing primarily on getting better at the process of running elections. This has come at the expense of taking risks and fighting real battles for real people.

What's missing in all this risk averse focus on the electoral process? Real issues. No not abortion, gay marriage, or Terri Shavio's feeding tube. Real issues that matter to real Americans. Health Care. Jobs. Equal rights for women and minorities. Formerly staples of Democratic agendas, where are they now? Where have they been in the past 20 years? Where have Democratic core values gone?

The former champion of the oppressed, Democrats are now in congress voting with the GOP to repeal the Estate Tax that "afflicts" 2% of the population. They are voting with the GOP to "toughen" bankruptcy laws that do nothing to curb predatory abuses by the credit card industry while rewarding it with windfall profits taken largely at the expense of debtors with catastrophic medical problems, divorce or being shipped over to Iraq. We as a party have grown too risk averse, instead focusing on the technique of electioneering and forgoing risk taking as our elected leaders merrily vote in "bipartisan" fashion with the GOP rather than fighting for the needs of real people.

All the talk we see now on framing and politics as advertising has its rightful place, and I do not mean to dismiss this important aspect of the process. But I think the core argument we need to demonstrate to voters is that we are the party that has stood and fought for them historically, and will stand and fight for them now. We can only do this by standing and fighting for what we as a party believe in and have always fought for.

For too long the centrist view that we need to compromise or get along with the GOP because we can't win or will get bloodied if we put up a fight has driven us down the path of credibility loss as Democrats shied away from one fight after another. How many people respect someone who compromises their values? How many people hold as credible anyone who will do nothing to fight for what he believes in? How many people will follow a leader who will not stand up to a bully? This is where the Democrats lost their credibility in my opinion. Their willingness to run from the word "partisan" or "liberal" or even object to being called the "Democrat Party" and focus instead on compromising their every core value has cost the party deeply. We've let the bully win. We've played his game. The Democratic Party as a whole has stopped playing to win, and instead has begun playing not to lose.

There is no passion in this. There is no inspiration in this. There is only the perpetuation of the status quo with a gradual erosion of one's self respect and values. If a man trades one of his values for a short term benefit today, what will he trade tomorrow when the stakes rise? To paraphrase the advertising cliché from the comments, we've forgotten the steak altogether, and done nothing but try to sell the sizzle. From Thresholder in the comments:
What it means is simply that we have forgotten how to fight battles except by advertising proxy. We have utterly forgotten the battles that were won in the 60s, the 30s, the 20s. Those battles were fought with leaders standing up to defend union interests and facing the clubs and bullets of national guards wielded by corporate bosses. Those battles were not fought with sizzle.
If the Democrats ever hope to regain the majority again and repair the damage done to the nation by the Republican Party and the Right, they must again risk the fight. Too often I see comments on the blogs about battles not being "winnable." In the primaries we were treated to "electability." This is the middle road. The "centrist" view. The vanilla option. It is often the most palatable; the alternative that offends the least; the safer route. Although this may win an election, secure a re-election, or go along with the polls, it is, like conventional wisdom, often wrong.

I often wonder how well the idea of desegregation polled in the South before its enactment. I find myself wondering if the political climate of today was in place, with the spin machine and MSM we now have, if the Democratic Party would have supported the Civil Rights bill as it did. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That was so popular look what happened to him. But all of these examples earned credibility in the eyes of the people for whom these battles were fought. Credibility the Democratic party is losing rapidly due to its insistence on taking the middle path, the safe compromise, the GOP offered bipartisan approach, instead of fighting to improve the lives of average people.

Average people who used to vote Democratic.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ethics Without Much Thought

A lot has been written about Mr. DeLay, Republican House Majority Leader, and his ethics problems (here, here, and here for example). This morning on the Sunday Funnies, there was again much talk about DeLay, and the changes made on his behalf to the House Ethics Committee.

The Republicans claim that ethics rules where too hard on the accused, opening them up to partisan driven investigations that hurt the accused political career. Since the Republicans are the majority party and can set the rules, they've changed those nasty rules so "bipartisan" action is now required to start any investigate into anyone accused, like their leader Tom DeLay, of a violation of ethics. To use a baseball analogy, this is like asking your 3rd baseman to publicly agree with charges of cheating made by the opposing team against your team's manager.

I just ain't gonna happen.

First a bit of background. Prior to the Republican rule change, from Representative Barney Frank, (D-Mass.) on today's MTP:
It used to be that if a serious complaint was lodged at the Ethics Committee, you would have to get a majority of the Ethics Committee to dismiss it, otherwise you went forward with an investigation.  In other words, you would have to get at least one member of the other party to say there's nothing there.  They have reversed that.  In baseball terms, the tie now goes to the runner not the fielder.
Before this latest Republican rule change, both teams had to have players that agreed a charge was most likely bogus to head off an investigation. So if there were doubts, potential violation were investigated then actions taken based on the facts discovered. But the Republicans don't like investigations or facts, so they changed the rules.

Now if Tom DeLay, Republican Majority Leader, is accused of ethics violations, one of his very own Republican colleagues, hand picked by the Republican leadership to sit on the House Ethics Committee, needs to agree that the charges merit investigation in order to even start an investigation. If not, the charges are automatically dismissed in 45 days. In other words, if no one on DeLay's team sides with the other team, then DeLay is automatically cleared of any wrongdoing with any investigation what so ever!

Now why would the Republicans want to change the rules in this way? From Representative Roy Blunt, (R-Mo.) who just happens to be the House Majority Whip:
Fifteen years ago--Barney mentioned 15 years ago--that's what the rule was 15 years ago:  It took somebody from the other party to decide to move forward.  Only in 1997 in a package of ethics changes, really without much thought, was it decided, "OK, we're going to have this one area where a majority doesn't have to make a decision and half of the committee can just keep a member perpetually under investigation."

Just remember, Tim, 45 days, then 90 days.  Ninety days is--that's an eighth of the time a person is elected to serve in Congress, and they're under this cloud, this interminable cloud, even with the current rule.  Under the old rule, you could be under this cloud the whole time you're in the Congress and nobody ever has to agree that this is enough of a problem to truly move forward and do anything but continue to investigate it.
Now here's the funny part. Who do you think created that old rule "without much thought"? Which party do you think cried about ethics reform and wanted a rule where it could keep people under a "cloud" of investigation? From Rep. Frank:
Mr. Blunt says that's the way the rules were until 1997, because there's a pattern here.  The Republicans took power in 1995 on the grounds that things were terribly corrupt and badly run and they were going to change things...


I must say, Mr. Blunt, that's rather dismissive of your Republican revolution.  You say that in 1997--the Republicans came to power in '95 and fairly shortly after that they changed the rule.
That's right, boys and girls. The Republicans changed the rules in 1997 after they ran on a platform of cleaning up Democratic corruption. Now that the Republicans are the majority, and their leader is being charged with corruption, the rule isn't so good anymore. So they are changing them back to the way they used to be. Just like they were when Republicans said such rules supported Democratic corruption. But now it's Republican corruption, so that make everything different.

The Republican leadership is now so corrupt that it is attempting to justify Republican Ethics Committee rule changes by arguing against the very rule changes Republicans made to the rules in the first place.

This is a gift to every Democrat running in 2006.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

DeLay on the, Whatever...

I know what Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader for the Republican Party, thinks of the Democrats. I know he's a wingnut. I know he has contempt for the rule of law and ethics in general. I know I shouldn't be surprised about what he says. But this one just floors me:

Mr. Dinan:You've been talking about going after activist judges since at least 1997. The [Terri] Schiavo case gives you a chance to do that, but you've recently said you blame Congress for not being zealous in oversight.

Mr. DeLay: Not zealous. I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

Separation of church and state. Judicial review. Right to privacy. To Tom DeLay, Republican Majority Leader, these should have been stopped. But it just gets better: (emphasis mine)

Mr. Dinan: Are you going to pursue impeaching judges?

Mr. DeLay: I'm not going to answer that. I have asked the Judiciary Committee to look at this. They're going to start holding hearings on different issues. They are more capable than me to look at this issue and take responsibility, given the, whatever, the Constitution.

The whatever. The extreme Right is in control of the country and the Republican party. It's time people wake up and notice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cegelis Blogger Conference Call

Tonight I was privileged to be a part of a conference call with several bloggers known throughout the Blogosphere and Christine Cegelis. Unfortunately, my lack of a working headset slowed my typing greatly and I missed the introductions of everyone. So apologies to everyone else blogging this. I'm sure there will be more of these pieces from those more competent than I, but here's my notes from our chat with Christine...

Christine started out with some background on herself and her campaign. She noted he ability to bring in the highest vote total ever gained by a Democrat against Henry Hyde, and her excitement at running again.

When asked about fundraising, she passed on that she had hired the fundraiser from the Barack Obama campaign. She addressed her shortcomings in fundraising in her first run, and explained that much of this was due to her late start in the primary. She noted that she is currently putting the team together now for either a special election or the 2006 election which ever comes to pass, and is in far better condition to vastly exceed her last race.

When asked about her possible GOP opponent, Illinois State Senator Peter Roskam, she commented that it did look like he was the current GOP candidate should there be a special election, but that other names have been put forth in the media every other week. She noted that he was a DeLay aide, a right wing extremist, and would give the voters of IL-06 a real choice.  She also noted, something  I didn't realize, that he was appointed to his State Senate position, not elected. He then ran unopposed in his second term as is not uncommon in this GOP controlled area.

Commenting on the possibility of a special election, Christine commented on  rumors of Henry Hyde being offered an ambassadorship to the Vatican, but that nothing was known for certain. If a special election happened, it would happen quickly - in 120 days. Knowing this is possible, she has her team in place. She noted the GOP will fight hard for this seat as they will not want to be embarrassed by losing Hyde's seat, especially to a pro-choice woman.

When asked how the Blogosphere could help her, she noted of course fundraising, but focused mostly on the blogs helping get her story out and most importantly "getting troops on the ground to knock on doors in the district." She viewed the blogs as a way to conduct a two way conversation and maintain two way communication between her campaign and those in the district. She noted that she will have a campaign blog, and is currently having her website redesigned (by some guy named michael) and looks forward to the community aspects it will allow.

A question was raised about whether she anticipated any competition in the primary or special election from other Democrats. She felt there would be not other Democratic candidate in a special election situation. She felt there probably would be some other candidate in a general election, but noted this was normal and cited Melissa Bean's primary as an example. But it was noted by many on the call that Christine is the only Democrat from the district with name recognition in the district, the only candidate from either side to have campaigned district wide, and the only real name in Democratic circles in DuPage as there are NO Democrats in elected positions there.

Other discussions ensued on the use of blogs in the campaign and how these might be used to get her story out. Opposition research and national media/blogosphere vs. local bloggers were discussed and many ideas generated that the campaign will follow up on. Thanks to the great suggestions here by Carl Nyberg, Bob Brigham and others who I missed their names.

A discussion about talking with the Illinois State Democratic party and the DCCC was also undertaken. It was noted that Christine has been working with state legislators, but less with the state party as a whole. Several on the call noted that this was standard procedure, at least for now, in Illinois. Christine noted that Gov. Dean would probably like to see more work with the state party, but right now that wasn't the way the system worked, and although she agrees with him, she was working with the state legislators directly. Most agreed on the call that this was the best for now.

Finally a discussion took place on DuPage county, where IL-06 is primarily located. There are NO Democrats in elected office in the whole county. The demographics are changing greatly though, and will reach parity in the near term, maybe as soon as 2008. At this point we had to bring the call to a close, but as  a resident of IL-06 I wanted to add that DuPage county is seen as a GOP stronghold. This is the reputation. This reputation is also propped up by the local GOP party and local media. Ask many residents who are not tuned into politics and they will tell you that it is hopeless as the GOP are in control. This is contrary to the actual registration numbers and changing demographics. I feel part of our challenge here is to get the public exposed to the reality that DuPage is ripe for the Democrats to make wide inroads. The public in general needs to be informed of the changes in registration and demographics, and these people need to realize that their votes are needed and not just a waste of their time. The GOP will not always win anymore as they have done in the past.

Look for some of the other bloggers to post on this call in the near future. It is a great effort to support an exciting candidate.

To lean more, go to Christine's website.

The Vilification of Teachers

I'm a designer/blogger by night and a teacher by day. I worked for a decade in the corporate world prior to being a teacher, and often question whether I made the right choice to take a pay cut an enter teaching. I love design. But I love the classroom too. Based on students' response to my efforts, although there's always room for improvement, I think I'm a good teacher. I know I've made a difference in some of my student's lives, and as a teacher, this gives me the greatest satisfaction. For example, one of my students from my first year teaching is now student teaching in my school. Besides making me feel old, it makes me feel good that I was a big enough influence on him that he is considering joining the teaching profession.

But I'm troubled. Not because my students wear clothes I find objectionable or because I don't get their music anymore. That just means I'm getting older. What troubles me is the vilification of teachers. To name just a few: We are "out to get" our students. We are lazy. We are entrenched. We are ridged. We are freeloaders. We are overpaid. We only work 8a.m. to 3p.m. We only work nine months a year. The teachers' unions don't care about kids. Did I miss any stereotypes? And in case you missed it, these are all overwhelmingly untrue.

So I get home and read in the local paper a story about the referendum that was just voted down. What do I see on the front page? Teachers should open up their contract and give up their raises. Never mind that the teachers have given over $1.5 million in concessions when they negotiated this contract. Hey it was a huge raise: 1% on top of inflation. But that one percent is just too much for some people (from the Glen Ellyn News, V103 No.2 E9):

"If teachers were to forego that raise, it would be enough to rehire the 40 teachers (dismissed last month) and would go a long way toward engendering good will in the community and silencing the critics of the referendum," Glen Ellyn resident Kathy Olsen said. "Reopening the teachers' contract may be unprecedented, but so is the financial crisis this district is in."

There you have it straight from the community: The district is in crisis and it's all those over paid teachers' fault. Yet why do people move to this community? Ask any realtor and they'll tell you school districts attract buyers. What makes up the majority of the school district? The teaching staff.

Whenever a school district does well, it has nothing to do with the teachers. Whenever a school district does poorly, it's the teachers' fault. When a school district has plenty of funds, it builds up reserves, builds buildings, and pays superintendents outrageous piles of money. When a school district has to dip into those savings, it's time to cut teachers, and cut teacher benefits. When a school district goes into genuine deficit, its the teachers' fault and time to cut teachers' jobs, their pay, their benefits, and ask them to teach more classes with more students. And don't get me started on those coaches. They should work an extra 10-15 hours a week after working their full time job for free. After all, that stuff is just extra curricular.

If people think teaching is such an easy job, then by all means, they should go to school, get their BA in Education, pass that 8-hour test in general studies and their field of study, get that easy teaching job for maybe $38K a year, then work 70 hours a week all year, only to have to take and pay for more graduate classes during their summer "vacation". During the school year they'll never get a break during the day, learn to control their bowels like an animal, eat lunch in 10 minutes flat, take abuse from administrators, parents and 14-year old kids, then eventually get their Masters degree and earn $10K less than their friends and every other professional that has their masters degree but doesn't teach. If they do all this and keep teaching for more than five years they'll be stronger than the 50% of their peers who leave teaching by this stage of their careers because teaching is just that easy.

I'm tired of being treated like the hired help and blamed for all the ills of public education in this country. It's time we start realizing that teachers are heroes too. While we might not save people's lives the way police and fire fighters might, we influence the lives of millions for the better everyday. It's time to communities acknowledged this rather than demanding more pay cuts.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Is Lieberman Really Unbeatable?

Last week, when this poll came out showing Lieberman with huge favorability numbers, I took a lot of heat for my comments that we should challenge Joe in the primary anyway. The counter argument to this was Joe was unbeatable with positive numbers like that, and challenging him was essentially eating our own while wasting valuable resources that could be used elsewhere. So the question remains: Is Joe Lieberman unbeatable to the point where challenging him would be a waste of time and resources?

Based on some research posted at Kos by DavidNYC and some new information from the CT Democratic party Kos posted last night, it looks to me like challenging Lieberman might have more than a little merit as he's is not as unbeatable as he might look.

First that poll. DavidNYC posted a comparison of Lieberman's poll with the same type of poll for Sen. Arlen Specter. From his post:
Lieberman job approval among CT Democrats:
Approve: 66
Disapprove: 23
Don't Know: 11

That looks pretty strong, no? [Liberman's] 66-23 approval rating doesn't exactly suggest vulnerability to a primary challenge. But check out these numbers from what I feel is a very closely analogous situation:

Specter job approval among PA Republicans:
Approve: 61
Disapprove: 20
Don't Know: 20

This poll was taken in February of 2003, a little over a year before the PA Senate primary in 2004 - in other words, roughly in the same timeframe as the Lieberman Q-Poll (the CT primary should take place in August of 2006, if I'm not mistaken). Again, those numbers certainly didn't make Arlen Specter look at-risk.
So the corollary is drawn that both Specter and Lieberman, over a year out from their primaries, looked unbeatable. But the comparison that David was drawing today took on another similarity. Lieberman, like Specter, is not exactly making the party faithful all that happy. From Myrna Watanabe, Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee member, via Swing State Project: (emphasis mine)
If the state Democratic convention were held right now, Lieberman wouldn't have the votes to get the nomination without doing some very, very, very serious arm twisting--and even then he might not have the votes. Maybe the population still likes Joe Lieberman, but his friends in the Democratic Party are having second or third thoughts about him. To some it's the votes, to others it's the war, to still others it's the Dem-bashing rhetoric, while others are concerned about the spectacle of Lieberman at Bush's elbow when Bush signs some particularly un-Democratic piece of legislation. But even more telling is that his good friends, people who've known him for 20 or 30 years and who came into politics with him or came up in the party with him, don't want to be associated with him. Months and months ago, many of them, independently, contacted Joe or his close associates and made it clear that Joe was doing himself and the party no good by kowtowing to the Bushies and by continuing his strong support of the war.
The unbeatable Lieberman wouldn't have the votes to get the nomination from his own party according to someone inside his own state party. Now back to David's comparison with Specter:
But he was seen as being out-of-step with his party faithful (indeed, like Joe, Arlen's approval among Dems was actually slightly higher than among GOPers). And he was indeed challenged vigorously. You could describe it as a "challenge from the right," but I think it's also valid to say that Pat Toomey represented those who wanted to challenge Specter for his perceived disloyalty to the GOP - in other words, for reasons not dissimilar to those many of us put forth for unseating Joe. And remember what happened:
PA GOP Senate Primary Results
Specter: 51
Toomey: 49
Phew! That was close! Specter won by just 17,000 votes out of over a million cast - when not long before the election, he had a 3-to-1 approval rating among his own party members. Pretty remarkable that Toomey came so incredibly close to unseating an incumbent senator in a primary - but perhaps not all that surprising.
It seems Joe is ticking off the base and not making friends at the state party level. So I'd argue that Lieberman isn't as unbeatable as he seems. It still remains to be seen as there are several problems with challenging him:

1. As of right now there is not strong challenger out there running.
2. The challenge from the Right against Specter had the benefit of the Right's organization. Will the Democratic challenger that faces Lieberman see the same level of organization from the progressive Democrats?

I see more of a problem with the lack of a challenger than the question of how much support a challenger might receive from Democrats, especially the grassroots. Find a quality challenger for Joe, and watch people come out of the wood work to support him or her.

But regardless, in my opinion, challenging Joe is still a good idea. Breaking ranks and undermining the party as Joe is so fond of doing should not be tolerated. Challenging Lieberman requires him to explain his support of GOP positions, gives him a reality check from his constituents and his state party, and provides the shot across the bow he needs to stop providing aide to the GOP.

Such a challenge may not be successful. It may open up the seat to a GOP challenger. But it may also result in a strong candidate who supports Democratic positions, the Democratic party and in general, and the grass and net roots movements. To me, this is worth it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Worst. Patriotic. Video. Ever.

Submitted for your approval, from Atrios, we find what is possibly the worst music video ever. You must see this to believe it. Now I've done my share of headbanging, worn spandex, and sported one hell of a mullet in my lead guitar days. I now look back on pictures of them and laugh. But this guy is damaging himself for life.

Worst. Patriotic. Video. Ever.

You really must see it to believe it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Another Reason Not to Shop Wal-Mart

Levana at MyDD has a great post today on her interaction with Wal-Mart customer service over its policy to allow its pharmacists to refuse to fill women's prescriptions for birth control if this violates the pharmacist's "personal convictions." From Wal-Mart Customer Service:
Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another
pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.
So even though the prescription is completely legal, and may be prescribed by a doctor to treat a variety of health related issues, the pharmacist can impose his or her religious beliefs with the full backing of Wal-Mart. Levana had a great response. Here's a part:
I was wondering, as a matter of principle, if Walmart pharmacists fill prescriptions for Viagra to unmarried men? Or, if Walmart sells condoms, spermicides, or other forms of birth control to unmarried men? I was also wondering if Walmart employees who are opposed to the individual right to bear arms are allowed to deny customers to purchase guns or other firearms?
Now for those of you who would note that birth control isn't really a necessity, Levana sites perfectly normal uses of contraceptives to prevent fibroids and endometriosis. She goes on to point out that Wal-Mart's policy is completely inconsistent and possibly illegal. To me, since it seems to be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner - related to any one employee's "personal beliefs" and only related to birth control for women - that I'd vote for a violation of rights and thereby illegal.

My wife and I were discussing several of the examples Levana poses. In some cases they are constitutional rights: the right to bear arms for example. Condoms may conflict with Catholic beliefs against artificial birth control, but are not abortive. But are spermicides abortive? What about condoms with spermicide? The question remains: who gets to make the call in these cases? Last I checked, this was a country that believed in the rule of law, and not a country that believed in one single set of religious beliefs. As much as the American Talaban (Activist Conservative Christians) like to spout that this nation was founded on Christian values, the question still remains: which Christian values are they? Catholic? Baptist? Methodist? Unitarian? And what about Jewish and Muslim values? Don't they count?

Birth control is completely legal, and as such a women's right should she chose it. It is only the religious beliefs of a minority of this country who view it as wrong. Their beliefs do not make birth control illegal. Nor should these individuals have the right to place their beliefs above the laws of this country, let alone the decision of the medical professionals who legally prescribe them.

Let's set aside the gun control and Viagra argument for a second, and just focus on the policy of religious belief as a person guide for behavior of one's employees. Many Muslims work at Wal-Mart. Islam believes the consumption of pork and alcohol are forbidden. Can a clerk at Wal-Mart refuse to sell these items? Is it Wal-Mart policy to allow Muslim employees to refuse to work in the liquor department based on their religious beliefs? If not, why then can a Catholic pharmacist refuse a legal prescription for birth control on the same grounds?

Wal-Mart and any other company who holds the inconsistent policy of allowing a pharmacist to refuse to fill legally prescribed contraceptives on religious beliefs should be sued for sanctioning discrimination against women and violation of their rights. Until then, it's just another reason not to shop at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Some Connection?

It's understandable that some wingnut might say this stuff. It's understandable that Rush or Hannity might say something this stupid. It's even understandable that some Shavio religious fanatic might say something like this. But a Senator? On the Senate floor? Just weeks after the murders of several judges?

That's not understandable. That's a resignation speech. From Think Progress, I give you the unbelievable speech of Senator John Cornyn, proud Republican from the state of Texas:
I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence."
That's right boys and girls. The violence is a natural reaction. Anybody who felt a judge's ruling was wrong would certainly make the jump to stabbing said offending judge to death. Don't like the verdict? Damn the judge. Blow him away. It's a natural connection to make. At least to Senator Cornyn, Republican from Texas.

It's also understandable that some people in some quarters on some occasions are calling for Senator Cornyn's resignation.

Friday, April 01, 2005

DeLay's Threats Illegal?

I hope you've all heard by now Tom DeLay's threats yesterday toward those "activist judges" like the very conservative Judge Greer who was appointed by Bush senior. If not, here's the quote:
Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today.
Well, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is calling him on this reckless abuse of his position. He sent Mr. DeLay a letter that was leaked to the media. Here's a bit from Raw Story:
"You should be aware that your comments yesterday may violate a Federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §115 (a)(1)(B). That law states:
“Whoever threatens to assault…. or murder, a United States judge… with intent to retaliate against such… judge…. on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison]”
"Threats against specific Federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress. In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice. Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well."
Not only does Mr. DeLay not understand ethics or the rule of law, he seems to also have a fundamental problem understanding Democracy.