Saturday, December 24, 2005

Polar bears Losing Their Living to Global Warming

Dubya may not believe in it, but global warming is real, and it's presenting a real and present danger to, among others, polar bears. According to the December 2005 issue of The National Geographic (read an excerpt online), not only is the ice the bears depend on breaking up earlier every year, but the deficit in nutrition caused by this earlier breakup leads to reduced weight and fat reserves as well as to higher mortality among cubs.

Polar bears depend entirely on sea-ice to survive. Many are stranded on land during the summer months, where they await the return of sea-ice strong enough for them to travel and hunt upon. But as the sea ice retreats sooner and returns later, the bears are facing prolonged fasts before the hunts start again.

If this ice free period gets any longer, it will be most problematic for female bears who need to store enough fat to last throughout a pregnancy, as indeed it is already in the southern part of their range. An ever-decreasing feeding season could seriously damage the bear's reproduction.

In the last two decades, Arctic ice cover has retreated 5 percent and the ice that has left has lost at least 30 percent of its thickness; and an average of two weeks have been lost from the bear's hunting season.

During this lost period the bears are reduced to scavenging through bins in built up areas and are seen as nuisances by local communities such as Churchill in Manitoba. Here almost every winter they have to 'arrest' the polar bears and either keep them contained until the snow comes or airlift them further north so that they can start their hunt again.

Search Results for Polar Bear at

Unfortunately for the bears and all the other species, including humans of Native tribes, who depend on the Arctic winter remaining cold, Dubya has powerful allies. While it is true that some powerful petroleum and auto industry leaders such as Shell, BP, and Ford have dropped their opposition to the notion of human fueled climate change, some very powerful corporations and their shills, some of them in Congress and the admin., continue to proclaim that the science on which the concept of global warming is based is suspect, unproven, or downright incorrect.

Consider attacks by friends of ExxonMobil on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). A landmark international study that combined the work of some 300 scientists, the ACIA, released last November, had been four years in the making. Commissioned by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that includes the United States, the study warned that the Arctic is warming "at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world," and that early impacts of climate change, such as melting sea ice and glaciers, are already apparent and "will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction." Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was so troubled by the report that he called for a Senate hearing.

Industry defenders shelled the study, and, with a dearth of science to marshal to their side, used opinion pieces and press releases instead. "Polar Bear Scare on Thin Ice," blared columnist Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute ($75,000 from ExxonMobil) who also publishes the website Two days later the conservative Washington Times published the same column. Neither outlet disclosed that Milloy, who debunks global warming concerns regularly, runs two organizations that receive money from ExxonMobil. Between 2000 and 2003, the company gave $40,000 to the Advancement of Sound Science Center, which is registered to Milloy's home address in Potomac, Maryland, according to IRS documents. ExxonMobil gave another $50,000 to the Free Enterprise Action Institute-also registered to Milloy's residence. Under the auspices of the intriguingly like-named Free Enterprise Education Institute, Milloy publishes, a site that attacks the corporate social responsibility movement. Milloy did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article; a Fox News spokesman stated that Milloy is "affiliated with several not-for-profit groups that possibly may receive funding from Exxon, but he certainly does not receive funding directly from Exxon."

Setting aside any questions about Milloy's journalistic ethics, on a purely scientific level, his attack on the ACIA was comically inept. Citing a single graph from a 146-page overview of a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced report, Milloy claimed that the document "pretty much debunks itself" because high Arctic temperatures "around 1940" suggest that the current temperature spike could be chalked up to natural variability. "In order to take that position," counters Harvard biological oceanographer James McCarthy, a lead author of the report, "you have to refute what are hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle."

Nevertheless, Milloy's charges were quickly echoed by other groups. published a letter to Senator McCain from 11 "climate experts," who asserted that recent Arctic warming was not at all unusual in comparison to "natural variability in centuries past." Meanwhile, the conservative George C. Marshall Institute ($310,000) issued a press release asserting that the Arctic report was based on "unvalidated climate models and scenarios...that bear little resemblance to reality and how the future is likely to evolve." In response, McCain said, "General Marshall was a great American. I think he might be very embarrassed to know that his name was being used in this disgraceful fashion."

"Some Like It Hot" from Mother Jones, May/June 2005 via TruthOut

Sen. McCain is a doughty advocate for climate science and the creatures it aims to protect. But, with the weight of the U.S. admin. And several reps and senators behind the anti-climate change disinformation campaign, not to mention Exon/Mobile and their army of institutes, journalists and other assorted mouthpieces, the polar bears and their friends may be fighting a losing battle.

Open Thread

Happy Christmas Eve. Talk amongst yourselves, night owls.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

12 Steps of Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 Margaritas
11 Bloody Marys
10 Jagermeisters
9 Jello Shooters
8 Gin & Tonics
7 Kamikazes
6 Whiskey Sours
5 Martinis
4 Screwdrivers
3 Gins Fizz
2 Fuzzy Navels
And some mind-blowing Sex On The Beach!

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

'Happy Holidays' link to the comments

In Honor of the Dean Brothers

Teri Mills is a longtime Democracy For America community member. Her guest column on health care appears on Blog for America on Fridays and she blogs at

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to honor two brothers, Chairman Howard Dean and Chairman Jim Dean, both who are trying to invigorate the Americans by telling the truth and empowering them to stand up for democracy and the Democratic values of honest government, a balanced budget, healthcare for all, jobs with a living wage, a strong education system, security at home and abroad, and protection of our environment. When you consider what this administration and Congress have done to our country in achieving these goals, you will realize how much we have regressed and how poorly we are doing.

Chairman Howard Dean says, "We can do better." Under his leadership as DNC Chair, Dean has made sure that the infrastructure of the Democratic Party has been built in all 50 states by giving the necessary dollars and manpower to build each state party. We are beginning to see results, with the Democratic victories in the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia last month. We also saw all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot measures go down in defeat. Howard Dean understands the power of individuals and communities, thus he introduced a program called Democracy Bonds. Buying a democracy bond will help to reform the political process by building a political party beholden only to the people, not the special interests; build the Democratic Party from the ground up in every precinct so that we can compete everywhere; and help us to win elections in every state and territory of the United States, at every level of office.

Like his brother, Chairman Jim Dean also spends a great deal of time on the road, working to train individuals the mechanics of running a successful campaign and encouraging all to run for office. The
mission of Democracy for America that Jim Dean has dedicated himself to is strengthening grassroots participation, and the recruitment and election of fiscally responsible and socially progressive candidates to all levels of government. Democracy for America is committed to finding ways for every one of us to participate, be it through this blog, hitting an occasional bat, signing petitions, and joining DFA-Link. Again to keep our organization strong, we must be willing to contribute, and DFA has put a holiday card online to help us encourage others to do just that.

Many of us remain committed to the ideals of the DNC and DFA and one special person, Renee in Ohio, has initiated a website. The website is an online group of Dean inspired activists and we invite you to join us.

This holiday season, please take action and think of Howard and Jim Dean when you are making those last 2005 contributions. Remember that even in its darkest days, this country belongs to all of us and it is up each one of us to make it better.

Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

For Justice, Day 12: Presidential Powers

Tonight the last of the 12 Days of Justice diaries, an interblog (cross-blog?) effort led by some diarists at Booman Tribune, went online. We here at Howard-Empowered People joined in on Day 6, and since then I have kept a graphic link to the daily action diary on the left hand side of this page. A few minutes ago, I posted the Day 12 graphic and link.

For Justice Day 12: Presidential Powers

The following is from CabinGirl's Day 12 diary...
Today's focus for the Twelve Days for Justice Protest centers on Judge Alito's views regarding presidential powers, in light of the recent admission of George W. Bush that he has violated the 4th Amendment by authorizing unwarranted wire-tapping on U.S. citizens.

If you've been following along with us so far, you already know that Judge Alito's record on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals clearly shows that he subscribes to a far right-wing judicial philosophy: he holds a very narrow and harmful view of the role of the federal government in protecting our health and safety; he believes in restricting a women's right to obtain an abortion; he is hostile to disability rights; he has belonged to groups supportive of gender discrimination; and he regularly sides with big corporations against workers and environmental protections, even when his mainstream colleagues do not. The nomination of a judge with such extreme ideological views to the Supreme Court is a threat to our long-standing constitutional rights and legal protections, one that we must do everything in our power to oppose.

Links to previous diaries, today's sample form letter to send to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and contact information for the Senators below the fold...

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What I Want For Christmas

By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on December 22, 2005, Printed on December 22, 2005

Dear Santa: There are so many toys I'd love to find under my tree this year! All kinds of new kitchen gizmos have caught my eye, and a bunch of CDs have caught my ear. Oh, I love gardening stuff, too. Plus, I hear there's a little robot that goes to the fridge and gets a beer for you -- could I have one of those? Pleeeeeze. There are so many things, and I know I can't be greedy and ask for them all, so I've been making a list of my very top favorites.

But last night as I was looking over my list ... I suddenly tore it up! Ripped the whole thing to bits and trashed it. I still like toys, mind you, but well, we live in a weird time, don't we Santa?

Even if I got everything on my list, by Christmas afternoon I'd be asking myself: Is that all there is? I don't mean I'd want more stuff. Stuff is the problem! Stuff is an insidious diversion, and it's so ... so ... so unsatisfying.

I need -- we need, our country needs something much bigger to strive for than mere possessions. There's a widespread hunger for a sense of national commitment and purpose. We need a connection to a common effort that'll enlist us to stop Washington's and Wall Street's abandonment of our egalitarian values, that'll reverse the growing sense most of us have that our America is headed in the wrong direction, that'll rekindle our democratic idealism.

So, Santa, bring me no stuff. Instead, the one and only thing I want is this: A REAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, ALIVE AND KICKING!

It's not enough to wail about what the Bushites are doing to our country. Yes, it's awful they're brazenly ransacking our public treasury and giving the loot to the rich, they have us mired in a macho-maniacal war to make the world safe for Halliburton, they're sawing the rungs off the ladder of upward mobility for the poor and the middle class, they're defoliating our environmental and safety protections, they're gutting labor and consumer laws, they're deliberately defunding our public infrastructure, they're militarizing both the federal budget and our society, they're supplanting our basic liberties with executive autocracy, they're enthroning corporate supremacy through trade scams and stacked courts, they're ... well, the list goes on and on.

But what did we expect? As I wrote when Bush first began to run for president in 1999, "George W is an absolute corporate wet dream" and an ardent "practitioner of crony capitalism." Throughout their careers, BushCheney&Company have always been loyal corporate servants and always will be. That's why they were put there. Santa, here's the question people ask me everywhere I go: "Where the hell are the Democrats?"

Lost in Washington

With no strong national voice, Democratic officials in Congress now proclaim themselves to be the leaders and conscience of the party. God help us.

These people dwell in selfimposed exile inside the Beltway, operating under the sad delusion that they're actually a part of the government. In most cases, their backbones have been drained of any populist commitment they might once have had and filled with both corporate cash and the corporate agenda (from the Iraq war to the anticonsumer bankruptcy bill, most of the Bushite horrors have been abetted either actively or passively by congressional Democrats). They seem incapable of standing tall for the vast constituency that desperately needs them, instead slinking behind the skirts of clueless consultants and fundraisers who keep advising them to put forth only the meekest, corporate-approved, don't-rock-the-boat proposals. At a time when we should be setting off big caliber ideas, Democratic leaders are firing pea shooters.

A fellow named Doyle, who is a Lowdowner from Kansas, put it well in an email to me: "I've pretty well gone blind looking for leadership from my party these days. How come my yellow dog has strayed so far from home?"

The American public is looking for an honest answer to that, Doyle. It's fun to watch Tom DeLay get pinched and Karl Rove get squeezed, and it puts a big grin on every Democrat's face to see George W's poll numbers sink like a Mafia corpse in the East River. But the party's old guard and in-house operatives can forget trying to skate by on a campaign slogan of "We're Not Them."

First of all, they are them. Congressional Democrats are mired in the same swamp of corporate money that has sucked up the Republican party, and Democrats have shown (with some notable and encouraging exceptions) that they cannot be trusted to vote for the people's interest over corporate power. This is why voter esteem for Democrats has not risen as the GOP's numbers have fallen.

Second, and most important, people are not shopping for the best of the worst. Folks are yearning for integrity, for deep change in how the system operates ... and for whom. Being the "anti" party not only is a loser, but it's also fundamentally dishonest and a craven abandonment of the Democratic party's essential democratic role in our nation's history. Americans don't want merely to be "aginners," but to be FOR a party -- to be for it because it is clearly for the people, and better yet, is the people.

What I want

Santa, a lot of people are drawing up lists of issues and tinkering with language to clarify what the Democratic party should be for. That's good, but I think there's another, more important starting point: First, send me a party that knows WHO it is for.

"Everyone" is not an answer. As we've learned from recent experience, a party can't be "for" working families if it doesn't have the guts to declare war on the corporate thieves who're stealing the middle-class possibilities of those families. It can't be "for" the poor if it constantly caves in to the wishes of the bankers, Wal-Marters, developers and others who keep running over the poor. It can't be for small farmers if it lacks the stomach to con front the middleman giants that are squeezing the life out of those farm families. A party has to choose sides.

My wish is for a Democratic party that chooses to reconnect with its populist roots, recognizing that its only real reason for existence is to be the unabashed, unequivocal, unrelenting representative of its core populist constituency, including America's working stiffs, the middle class (this means the 60% of the country who have incomes of less than $55,000 a year), the poor (a fast-growing constituency, unfortunately), small farmers and local business, old folks and children, grunts and veterans, and proponents of clean air and water.

Corporations and the millionaire class already have a party -- and notice that it is relentless in its devotion to their interests, including the open raid the GOP is presently making on our public treasury to grab another $146 billion for tax giveaways, 97% of which will go to the wealthiest 4% of Americans (more than half goes to the richest one-tenth of one percent). These fortunate few are doing fine; they don't need another party's help.

But the great majority of people whose incomes are not even keeping up with inflation, the families working three or more jobs trying to stay afloat, the folks who actually feel the squeeze of ripoff gasoline and heating prices, the young people who see college education priced beyond their reach while also seeing their middle-class opportunities being callously offshored to China and India, the growing number of families with either no health coverage or practically useless coverage -- these and so many more desperately need a party that is wholly theirs, not owned or leased by the monied elites.

It's reported that Democratic congressional leaders are scrambling to come up with a message and slogan to spiff up the party's image for next year's elections -- sort of like a corporate branding campaign. House leaders tried this last year with the clarion call "New Partnership for America's Future." You saw how well that worked out. Instead of turning to PR firms, how about just saying something genuine that'll go straight to the heart of the populist base, which now feels politically homeless? Here's my entry, free of charge: "WE'RE ON YOUR SIDE."

That's what people want to know by word and deed. Why not say it plainly to them and then show that the party means it?

Are Americans really conservative?

The second thing I really, really want, Santa, is a Democratic party that's not afraid of its own grassroots. The Washington cognoscenti the pundits and the politicos -- have decreed that America is a center-right country. Thus, they intone sonorously and ceaselessly, it is sheer folly for Democrats to base their appeal on anyone more progressive than middle- of-the-road, party-switching, SUVdriving, suburbanites whose chief concern is traffic gridlocks.

Astonishingly, party elders have bought this load of bunkum , in large part because they mostly huddle with their consultants, big campaign donors, and others who peddle the bunkum. If they were instead to venture outside the Beltway, outside the safe pods of the national fund-raising circuit, and outside the echo chambers of their orchestrated "town meetings" -- if they were to talk with and listen to regular workaday people -- they would be astonished to find a different America than they think they're in. Contrary to the contrived wisdom of the cognoscenti, the American majority is amazingly progressive ... and pissed off.

How progressive? It doesn't get covered by the corporate media (imagine that), but mainstream polls consistently find that big majorities of Americans are not meek centrists, but overt, tub-thumping, FDR progressives who are seeking far more populist gumption and governmental action than any Democratic congressional leader or presidential contender has dared to imagine. In recent polls by the Pew Research Group, the Opinion Research Corporation, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS News, the American majority has made clear how it feels. Look at how the majority feels about some of the issues that you'd think would be gospel to a real Democratic party:

1. 65 percent say the government should guarantee health insurance for everyone -- even if it means raising taxes.
2. 86 percent favor raising the minimum wage (including 79 percent of selfdescribed "social conservatives").
3. 60 percent favor repealing either all of Bush's tax cuts or at least those cuts that went to the rich.
4. 66 percent would reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
5. 77 percent believe the country should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment.
6. 87 percent think big oil corporations are gouging consumers, and 80 percent (including 76 percent of Republicans) would support a windfall profits tax on the oil giants if the revenues went for more research on alternative fuels.
7. 69 percent agree that corporate offshoring of jobs is bad for the U.S. economy (78 percent of "disaffected" voters think this), and only 22% believe offshoring is good because "it keeps costs down."
8. 69 percent believe America is on the wrong track, with only 26 percent saying it's headed in the right direction.

Americans might not call themselves progressive -- but there they are. On the populist, pocketbook issues that are rooted in our nation's core values of fairness and justice, there's a progressive super-majority. It flourishes in red states as well as blue, cutting through the establishment's false dichotomy of liberal/ conservative.

It's also a pissed-off super-majority, for its views are treated with infuriating disdain by the whole political system -- including corporatized Democrats who minimize and trivialize the grassroots populist fervor. By routinely dismissing the boldly progressive views of the people as unworthy of consideration, much less action, the political elites are coldly dismissing the people themselves and saying, "You don't matter."

Knock, knock

Hello ... Democrats. That knocking sound you hear echoing across America's political landscape is the BAM-BAM-BAM of opportunity pounding at your door, demanding an answer. So, Santa, this brings me to the third wonderful present I'd like to find under the tree: A Democratic party that will open its ears to the insistent knocking, recognize it for what it is, and (dare we hope?) lift its butt from the easy chair and open the damn door!

The simmering anger of a scorned majority offers a transforming opportunity in American politics, and it's there for the Democrats' taking if -- and only if -- the party is willing to stand forthrightly for workaday people, presenting a clear, uncompromised choice between the Common Good and Corporate Greed.

If the party knows, with clarity and conviction, who it stands for, then it will know what it stands for. The people themselves know the basics of what they want, so that would become the party's defining agenda. It would include:

Healthcare for all, taking on drug-company price gougers, insurance leeches, HMOs, etc.

Good jobs at good pay, going up against the low-wage economy, union bashers, job exporters, etc., to rebuild middle- class opportunities.

Put America to work rebuilding America, providing middle-class jobs to restore our nation's vital infrastructure, refurbish our parks, develop energy independence through renewable resources and conservation, etc.

Strength through education, making a full national commitment to having the most educated citizenry in the world, including assuring small classroom size, recruiting and retaining top teachers, providing free computers to every student, and extending the concept of free high school upward to college and higher technical training for all who want it.

Restore democracy, providing public funding for all campaigns, requiring national standards and funding to make it easy for everyone to vote (and have their votes count), cracking down on cronyism and corruption between lobbyists and office holders, providing Instant Runoff Voting, etc.

Make America strong, rebuilding our government's ability to cope competently with disasters, restoring our nation's commitment to civil liberties and the highest moral standards, reinvesting in clean air and water, assuring retirement security for all, etc.

There is no shortage of particular tasks to take on, from war to tax reform, but the common theme for a revived Democratic party is that it would unite the great majority of people around America's historic ethic of the Common Good. In stark contrast to the Bushites' laissez-faire ethic -- all of us on our own, let the strongest thrive, goodbye and good luck -- Democrats should spread the democratic gospel that our country is always strongest when all of us truly believe that we count, that we're all in this together, and that our society's policies are firmly rooted in America's egalitarian values of economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all. That's a Democratic party that ordinary folks could call their own again. And it's a party that would matter in the big scheme of things.


So, Santa, wouldn't this be a better project for all of your elves to work on than another sack of toys? I know that a lot of people would say to me, "Gosh, Jimbo, you know Santa doesn't really exist. You're setting yourself up for a big disappointment."

I disagree. I think there's a little Santa within all of us. So our job is not just to make a wish list and hope that some party "leaders" will magically deliver it to us, but to become elves ourselves and build this party that we want, piece by piece. It's a daunting challenge -- but it's worth the prize, and worthy of our efforts.

From The Hightower Lowdown, edited by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, December 2005.

Jim Hightower is the author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush" (Viking Press). He publishes the monthly Hightower Lowdown; for more information about Jim, visit

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Patriot Act update from Feingold

Senator Russ Feingold has posted his recent statement on the Patriot Act as a diary over at Kos. I will include an excerpt here and provide a link for the rest. I should also mention that with more and more of our regular posters beginning their holiday travel and/or preparations, updates on *this* site will be more sparse, and things like the comics roundup may be on hiatus for a while. If any of our readers would like to submit guest entries, as always, you are more than welcome to send them to howardempowered at, and I will post them when I have the opportunity.

Today is a victory for the American people and the bipartisan group of Senators who have been fighting against efforts to extend the Patriot Act permanently without protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. I am pleased that the Republican leadership backed down from their irresponsible threat to let the Patriot Act expire and agreed to a 6-month extension of the provisions that would have sunset at the end of this year. This will allow more time to finally agree on a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while preserving important tools for fighting terrorism. Those of us who stood up to demand modest and reasonable protections of our liberties never wanted to stop Patriot Act reauthorization. We just want to get it right this time around.

The rest of Senator Feingold's statement can be found here.

Hope you all enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Festivus (or is that another time of year--I'm not cool enough to know this) and whatever else you might be celebrating.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Bumper Sticker War

A few days ago a woman came up to me and told me how glad she was to read the bumper stickers on my truck. I have a lot of them. On magnets. "Hatred is not a family value", "Born okay the first time", "If Conservatives are so patriotic, why do they keep sending our jobs overseas?" and many more.

She epitomized the reason I have those stickers on my truck. Living in Ohio, a state that has been ruled and trashed by Republicans, can make a non-Republican feel alone and invisible. When you feel alone and invisible you're less inclined to take action. Who would notice? What good would it do?

That woman (and several others who've spoken to me) now know they are *not* alone. Isn't that the very thing that drew most of us to Howard Dean? Hearing someone articulate what we had privately thought? Knowing we weren't alone after all?

I've been broken windows, not keyed yet....mainly, I think, because I'm a small senior citizen. People see me driving that great big truck and figure it must belong to my radical husband. Maybe they even feel sorry for me.

Any action you take, no matter how small, has its effect. You may not always get feedback, but keep fighting. If nothing else, it will make you feel better. I feel like an amazon warrior driving that truck! In your face, neocons!


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The New York City Transit Strike

by Subway Serenade

I followed the negotiations for six, three year transit union contracts since I entered the subway stage. Six contracts ago, the Union, TWU 100 was essentially a rubber stamp for the Metropolitan Transit Authority and was universally resented by the rank and file. They felt that the Union management was as out of touch with reality and had no use for any input from it's membership.

During this time the MTA became a bloated beauracracy. Where there once was a manager for every 25 or so workers in previous decades, that number had declined to 12 or less. Mta developed a Station Manager program during this time. In Union speak they were called "Level Twos" and were commonly seen as $68,000 a year walking clipboards that went around writing up the slightest infraction, with some going so far as to consider the three or four stations under their control as their own fiefdoms.

It was a long running joke that the MTA could fire 1/3 of it's management and the system wouldn't even blink. That bloat remains to this day.

When NYC introduced the Metrocard automated fare system, service rose to 50% above pre-card levels, and continues to increase modestly every year. However, increases in wages and benefits have not kept pace with inflation.

Three contracts ago, a good union man named Roger Toussaint led a revolt against TWU 100. In my opinion, his upstart rank and file campaign very closely resembles Howard Dean's Presidential bid. He brought the Union to within a hair's breath of a strike that destroyed the credibility of the Union leadership. Toussaint was elected President by a wide margin shortly thereafter.

You may be hearing shrill talk to the effect of "Even the national TWU doesn't support the strike. I'll tell you all right now that the TWU did everything it could to defeat Toussaint. They have behaved in pretty much the same manner as the relationship of the DLC and Dean.

In my opinion, this strike comes down to two insults.

Bringing NYC Transit back after 9/11 was a herculean effort on the part of the Union. Every station underneath Ground Zero was rebuilt in under 2 years. Nearly every line was operational within days. For months, every station south of 14th St was thick from the dust and ash from the towers. The Union never wavered. Many of them can now be counted among the walking dead of 9/11.

At this time, the Union, under Toussaint, agreed to a belt tightening contract for the good of the city. Near the end of the negotiations, the TA announced that it was spending $750,000,000 on new (and really unneeded) executive office space. This was really egg on the face of Toussaint.

The second insult, was that due largely to productivity increases, this year, the TA ran a budget surplus of over $1 billion. It then offered 3% annual raises in exchange for Union givebacks in health care and pensions. It doesn't take a street musician to see that offer was a slap in the face.

As it stands now, the matter has gone to a mediator, and binding arbitration will begin shortly. Hopefully this will be over soon.

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subway riders - You can
make the holiday a little
brighter by being a
virtual listener/contributor

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Howard Dean filing FOIA Request

From the DNC web site:

George Bush is using the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance on American citizens without the consent of any court. After initially refusing to confirm the story, the President has admitted to personally overseeing this domestic spying program for years.

These actions are explicitly against the law. But the administration says that other laws somehow allow for this unprecedented use of a foreign intelligence agency to spy on Americans right here in the United States. According to reports, political appointees in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel wrote still-classified legal opinions laying out the supposed justification for this program.

Governor Howard Dean is filing a formal demand that they release these documents.

There is a place for you to add your own name to the request here.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Winter Solstice

I asked Diana in northern Virginia to share some thoughts on Winter Solstice with us, and she kindly (and promptly, given the short notice!) sent me the following.

In the western hemisphere winter solstice marks the beginning of the winter season. Even in our busy lives, distant as we now are from the rhythm of the natural world, we acknowledge the shortest day of the year as a turning point. "Good," we say to ourselves, "from now on the days will get longer and longer; in a couple of months we'll be driving home from work in daylight."

To most of us, ruled by the demands of the modern workplace, winter is simply a nuisance to be endured: snowy streets, muddy gardens, the need for boots and scarves and gloves, heating costs that dent bank accounts, coughs and sniffles and other assorted miseries. But there was a time when winter solstice heralded a season of introspection and quiet enjoyment.

When the earth sleeps under a blanket of snow the human mind can take pleasure in winter stillness. To contemplate a winter sunset--to look at the black silhouettes of trees against a red-streaked sky--is to appreciate their essence without the distraction of spring and summer's green finery. In winter, trees reveal their secrets: birds' nests, squirrels' nests, scars, and fissures. We see their true nature.

In some Pagan traditions the winter solstice marked the division between the old year and the new. It was a time to bid farewell to old regrets, bad habits, discarded plans, and welcome a season of new possibilities.

Our short winter days are filled with work, errands, and distractions, but the long winter nights give us time to gaze into the flames of our own hearths; to dream, perhaps, at our desks or even at the kitchen table, of plans for the coming year. We examine our hearts and souls and resolve to continue on a given path or to do things differently. We have, at long last, time to simply *be*.

One could say the Winter Solstice is a seasonal marker for all of us, whatever our traditions or beliefs. It is our time to step back, draw a deep breath, and catch up with ourselves.

The End

D.M. Read
Author of Layoffs

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Barbara Boxer on The Situation Room

Transcript of Barbara Boxer's appearance on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, with occasional snarky commentary when it just couldn't be avoided.

Blitzer: Where do you stand on this very sensitive issue of impeachment?

Boxer: Well, I stand on this ground. I was at an event with John Dean, and I think your viewers remember him, or at least they've read about him. He was, of course, the White House counsel when Richard Nixon faced impeachment hearings, and of course he resigned before them. It had to do with abuse of power, and we were both asked about this question of surveillance on American citizens without a warrant, and I was very cautious in what I said. I said, "Look, it's worrisome to me, I don't see where he has the right in the law to do this" and then I called for hearings, and I said it was great that Arlen Specter said we would have hearings. John Dean said it was the first time he had heard a president admit to an impeachable offense. And, it took me back, because I think he is one of the most knowledgeable people on executive abuse of power. So what I did was, I took his statement and got permission from him to use it, and I sent it off to four scholars- constitutional scholars - to see what they think, and I'm calling for hearings on this.

Wolf: So, you're not ready at this point to say that he should be impeached?

Boxer: Oh, no. But I do have tremendous respect for John Dean on this question, and he felt very strongly. The other thing I've done is I've spoken for example to Senator Joe Biden, who wrote the very law that is supposed to be followed here. He's very very concerned. You know, all this talk by the president and the vice president, "Oh, we don't have time to go to a court. There's emergencies here!" Well, I'm sure it's true, but that's why our law allows a president to go right away and apply for those warrants retroactively within 72 hours. There is no excuse why they can't subject themselves to checks and balances on behalf of the American people. To protect us, of course, from any threat, but also to protect our liberties and our freedoms.

Blitzer: The Democratic Minority Leaders in the Senate and the House, as well as the ranking Democrats on the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate were all informed by the White House, specifically by Vice President Cheney about what was going on. Do you feel that they were negligent in not reacting more vocally or aggressively, behind the scenes, under a classified nature, to try to stop this? (Excuse me, mister so-called journalist, but shouldn't you say "The Vice President CLAIMS this" rather than repeating White House talking points as though they were indisputable facts?)

Boxer: Well, that's the point, they did. If you saw today, Jay Rockafeller, one of the people who was "informed" was very concerned about this, and happily - I am so glad he did this - he caught the Vice President in another, if I might say, untruth. (I am NEVER going to understand this taboo against using the word "lie", and the contortions people must go to NOT to use that word. Somehow it's "uncouth" or something, but I would think not nearly as unspeakable as the ease and consistency with which this president lies to the American people.) The Vice President said, "Oh, no one said a word about this. Everyone essentially agreed." Jay Rockafeller wrote a letter, in his own handwriting, because he was prohibited from telling ANYONE about this, he wrote a letter to the Vice President and put it in a safe in the Intelligence Committee room. And he brought it out--where he's telling the Vice President, I have SERIOUS concerns about this. I'm very worried about this. So, that's another fact that just is not in evidence. They're saying people agreed with this, but they didn't.

Blitzer: Well, on that point, Senator Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of that Intelligence Committee, disputes that point. He says that Rockafeller, who was the vice-chairman, he said, "I never have heard from him any objection about this valuable program" Roberts goes on to say, "Now, when it appears to be politically advantageous, Senator Rockafeller has chosen to release his two and a half-year-old letter. Forgive me if I find this to be inconsistent, and a bit disingenuous."

Boxer: Well, that is just tragic, because if Senator Rockafeller had come out with this before, he could have been kicked out of the United States Senate. This was highly classified--

Blitzer: But he could have spoken to Senator Roberts about it.

Boxer: Well, no--you don't talk to ANYONE--

Blitzer: But Roberts was informed also--

Boxer: Wolf, Wolf--let's get to the facts here. If Senator Roberts has a problem with Senator Rockafeller, fine. But the bottom line is, Dick Cheney said everyone who was briefed just went along with this. "They were told, no one complained." That is a falsehood on its face. It's absolutely a falsehood. (Some might even call it a lie.) And then the President last year, in April of 05, talks, and it looked to me like it was off the cuff, reassures the American people, "Don't worry, when we spy on you, we always get a warrant." So, you know, this is a very serious situation here, and the facts will speak for themselves. You know, the greatest thing about America is, the truth always comes out. And, especially when there's lots of people who are after the truth. Lots of people are after the truth, and I think we will find out exactly why they couldn't take time, to get a check and balance on their work, go to the court. Again, the court has a history of always granting these warrants exept in the MOST unusual circumstances. They even had a way to do it retroactively, and yet they didn't do that.

Blitzer: Senator Boxer, thank you for spending a few moments with us. This subject, not going to go away, I'm sure you're not going to let it go away, and a lot of others aren't going to let it go away either. Appreciate it very much.

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Howard Dean speaks out about domestic spying

Thank you, Corinne, for pointing out that the man who should be our president has released a statement about Bush's recent admission that he has used NSA to spy on Americans without a court order. It says, in part:

From paying journalists to write positive stories, to allowing lobbyists like Jack Abramoff to peddle influence, to leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative in a time of war, the Republican Party's culture of corruption has to end now. The President claims Congress had the same intelligence in the run up to the Iraq War, but that turned out not to be true. The President claims that leaders in Congress were briefed about the program to spy on the American people, but that turned out not to be true either.

Its time for the President to be truthful with the American people. And while the President yesterday called the leak of his secret program to spy on the American people shameful he hasn't applied the same standards to denounce the leaking of a CIA Agent's identity in a time of war. How can President Bush call the spy program leak shameful, while Karl Rove is still on the White House payroll, and still has his top secret security clearance. What's really shameful is the double standard. This is an abuse of power.

It's un-American, and it's unacceptable. Americans need a President who will keep them safe and enforce the law, we don't need a big brother. Americans know we don't have to sacrifice our basic liberties in order to fight the terrorists. Together, America can do better.

Visit the DNC web site for the full statement and a link to the audio (which also includes audio of the Bush statements Howard Dean is referring to). The site also indicates that a video is coming soon.

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Tuesday Comics

Can you Hear me Now!

In The Bubble of The White House
Excuses, Excuses
Intelligent Design
The President Who "Listens"
Congress Try's to Cut Spending
Advice From Nixon
McCain Gets Bushed
Iran on Crack

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Red Rover, Red Rover: No ID in Dover

Courtesy of MLDB over at Kos, teaching Intelligent Design in Dover, Pennsylvania, schools has been struck down as violating the Establishment Clause:

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote. "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

The judge even anticipated charges about 'activist judges':

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Wanna bet that O'Falafel will add this to his evidence of a War on Christmas?

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Bush Tried to Kill NYT Story on 'Snoopgate'

Update: has feedback from current and former signal intelligence professionals to the NSA story.

Thanks, Renee, for posting the link to this story in Newsweek via AmericaBlog. John Aravosis was right: It is that good. So good that I thought I'd front-page it this morning so no one misses it.

Jonathan Alter pulls no punches, saying

Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate--he made it seem as if those who didn't agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda--but it will not work. We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

No wonder Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president's desperation.

Desperation because Bush knew that what he had ordered NSA to do was clearly illegal. Bush hid behind the rationale, Alter says, that "he had 'legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.' " However

the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force" in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

As usual, the Bush Administration's M.O. is to count on the average American's unfamiliarity with the relevant law, in this case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA):

In fact, the law allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact. Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slow--as the president seemed to claim in his press conference--or in any way required extra-constitutional action.

2006 will be an important year for the Democrats in more ways than one.

This will all play out eventually in congressional committees and in the United States Supreme Court. If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.

In the meantime, it is unlikely that Bush will echo President Kennedy in 1961. After JFK managed to tone down a New York Times story by Tad Szulc on the Bay of Pigs invasion, he confided to Times editor Turner Catledge that he wished the paper had printed the whole story because it might have spared him such a stunning defeat in Cuba.

This time, the president knew publication would cause him great embarrassment and trouble for the rest of his presidency. It was for that reason--and less out of genuine concern about national security--that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story.

Here is how Richard Nixon justified his approval of the Huston Plan (systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others), an approval that was later listed in the Articles of Impeachment as an alleged abuse of presidential power: "If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they're in an impossible position." In other words, "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

John Adams wrote in drafting the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men," a concept that has been repeated frequently by the Supreme Court and other courts. It is considered a prerequisite for democracy and is therefore inconsistent with the concept that "when the president does something illegal, that means that it is not illegal." Those who make and enforce the law are also bound to adhere to it. There is nothing in the Constitution that makes the president sovreign and above the law.

Like Nixon, Bush is also relying on a comparison to Abraham Lincoln's actions during the Civil War. It's an easy claim to make: Nixon claimed that the Vietnam War was dividing the country ideologically instead of physically, as during the Civil War. But there is no comparison; there is no North and South and even the division between Red and Blue states couldn't justify what has taken place.

Although I would love to see Bush humiliated during an impeachment hearing, if he is forced to resign, we would be facing a presidency under Dick Cheney, who still behaves as though the Cold War hasn't ended. As I continue to read new revelations about this horrific abuse of power and subversion of the Constitution, I'm continually reminded of two sayings: "May you live in interesting times" and "Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it."

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Click the graphic below to read the diary at My Left Wing


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Monday, December 19, 2005

MViMV Guest Blog

Tonight's interactive guest blogger at the My Vote is My Voice Blog will be Quintus Jett.

Quintus is Director of the Mosaic Project, a resource for the recovery of New Orleans. His topic will be Rights, Recovery, and Renaissance, which will update happenings since his last MViMV guest blog on Halloween. He will discuss the Katrina/Rita summit on November 19 that he organized with DFA and the LA NAACP, and will answer questions in the comments section from 8pm-9pm EST.

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No, Mr. Bush, it is NOT okay

I just saw this headline on CNN
Bush: Secret wiretaps will continue

Below that is another headline that reads Democrats want probe of wiretaps

It should NOT be Democrats who are pushing for that--it should be ALL AMERICANS. At this point no one should be willing to accept that Bush has a blank check to do whatever he wants because "we're at war". In that case, it would be in his interest to keep us at war forever, wouldn't it?

As a society, I think most of us think kids should be raised to respect authority, but we don't teach them to do so unquestioningly. We tell kids that their bodies are their own and no one, not even grownups, has a right to touch them in the places that their underwear or swimsuit covers. There are some things that may not be violated, even by an "important grownup", and you have a right to say no to those things, even if you're a little kid.

Letters to Washington, letters to the editor--NOW.

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A Government of Laws (Flabbergasted Part 2)

The following is only a part of the second installment of the Operation Flabbergasted diary from yesterday. Hopefully it's enough to give you the general idea, then you can click to read the rest, (and recommend, if you're a Booman Tribune member) and do what you can to spread the word. You can also recommend the diary at Kos and MyDD.

GOALS (slightly modified from yesterday to take account of comments)

As far as possible, our declared goals must be as clear, straightforward, plausible, and uncontroversial as possible. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve these goals; George Bush and friends stonewall almost as a matter of course. But our declared goals must throw into stark relief the illegality of the administration's policies and the nature of the constitutional crisis.

I propose that we ask each U.S. Senator on Monday to demand that President Bush:

* immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying

* promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans

* cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy

* release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on

* immediately petition the FISA court to grant warrants for all such surveillance conducted by this administration since 2001

* identify the number of residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional surveillance between 2001 and 2005, and report to all appropriate Senate committees the name of any of those residents for whom the FISA court refuses now to grant a warrant

I think it would help to have something eye-catching and succinct to hand out in the offline world. I checked with Demetrius to see if I could volunteer him to design something we could make available for people to download and print. Because of the crazy schedule right before Christmas, he can only do this if someone else provides the copy. But he's thinking it could maybe be 3 to a page, with a simple graphic like a magnifying glass. I figure it needs to state simply what is happening--without "ranting" or partisan sounding language, and give people a simple action item.

FYI, here is some of his previous printable work

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Open Thread

I really like this picture. But then I've got a soft spot for mastiffs. (And, of course, for the warmer weather evident in this picture.)

Mainly, I wanted an open thread with a picture that's nicer to look at than Furious George. Take a look at the sidebar, I've got the Day 8 For Justice link up now. And click here for the most recent update to the "Flabbergasted" diary I mentioned in an earlier thread.

Sweet ones, everyone.

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Pure history, man--a talking monkey!

(More parody pics here)

Bush is going to talk about Iraq tonight, and how we're winning this thing. I would have thought he'd talk to us about his high crimes and misdemeanors, but I guess he figures he covered that in his radio address. If you want to find out what Bush says without having to see Bush's smug simean face, Think Progress has an embargoed copy of the speech (There's an editor's note saying "We'll start respecting embargoes when they start telling the truth.")

tdsmac, in a diary at Kos, gives the heads-up that Keith Olbermann rather than Chris "Tweety" Matthews will be giving the analysis after the speech.

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Operation Flabbergasted: Let's Watergate Bush

I have posted a link to this diary in the comments of a previous thread, and was getting ready to add a link to this diary as an action item in the sidebar, when I came across this exhange between the author, smintheus, and wander indiana:

wander indiana: I'd like to cross-post this (front-paged) at the ePluribus Media Community site, as well. Saw your comment calling for action in BenGoshi's diary earlier today, and now see this call to action--I'd like to do my part.

smintheus: Yes, please do crosspost it and that goes for anybody who is able to post it, flog it, or send it. Just do it, and if possible post a link back to this site.

There will be another diary Sunday afternoon here, and a third on Monday morning, talking about the actual campaign to contact Senators and journalists.

But for now, it is just a matter of establishing a network to support the campaign once it begins.

So below I am going to reproduce a large piece of the diary, with a link to the rest, so that you all know what this effort is about and can help spread the word. I will also add a link to the sidebar in the "action item" area.

smitheus writes:

This cannot stand. In ordering the NSA to spy secretly on America, George Bush has: overturned United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which prohibits domestic spying by the NSA; violated the federal act which created the FISA court to oversee covert domestic investigations; and trampled upon the Fourth Amendment guarantee against warrantless searches. It cannot stand for a day, much less a month while Congress is in recess.

On Friday, when Sen. Specter said he'd make investigating the allegations a top priority in January, it was barely possible to pretend that they might be false. But by Saturday's radio address, when Bush defended his policy and insisted it would continue, we had entered a full-blown constitutional crisis. George Bush would love for Congress to back down from a fight next week, to go home grumbling "Wait until next year."

Operation Flabbergasted We cannot let that happen. We have to ensure that by Monday, all hell has broken loose in D.C.

Every Senator needs to know there'll be jolly hell back home if they don't demand Bush stop it now. The MSM needs to be discussing the `constitutional crisis.' There has to be a plan immediately to make this happen. I've got one.

We know that domestic spying by the NSA is Orwellian. We don't need to wait for panels of experts to declare the obvious, that Bush's policies violate the Fourth Amendment in the most fundamental way. Further, it is clear that the White House is panicking over the implications of this leak, very much as the Reagan White House panicked when the Iran Contra story broke and they thought impeachment might be looming. Bush's radio address manages to be both offensive and defensive at one and the same time (it reminds one of the cornered Richard Nixon).

We also know that significant numbers of Senators and journalists are utterly fed up with the Bush administration's record on civil liberties. Some are positively spoiling for a fight (if you don't believe me, check out the grilling Terry Moran gave Alberto Gonzales about torture on Nightline Thursday). So we also know that it's entirely possible for us, at this moment, to drive this issue home once and for all, if we can mount a worthy campaign.

The only campaign that would be worthy of this issue, in my opinion, will be one that produces the biggest fire-storm that Washington has ever seen. If we do not attempt to take back our country now, then when?

We need both coherent goals and effective methods to make this happen. There is little time to lose. Fortunately, as we've shown in the past with internet-based campaigns, things can be organized extremely quickly if people are willing to do their part.


As far as possible, our declared goals must be as clear, straightforward, plausible, and uncontroversial as possible. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve these goals; George Bush and friends stonewall almost as a matter of course. But our declared goals must throw into stark relief the illegality of the administration's policies and the nature of the constitutional crisis.

I propose that we ask each U.S. Senator to demand that President Bush:

* immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying

* promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans

* cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy

* release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on

* identify to the Senate all residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional spying


The most important things that need to be done are to

* build an ad hoc network to promote this campaign, to include blogs, activist groups, grassroot organizations, local and state Democratic Party organizations, and some media darlings like Randi Rhodes

* contact Senators to make the above requests

* contact journalists covering Washington to alert them to the campaign and to request full coverage of the constitutional crisis that the President has provoked

I've arranged them in the order that they need to be addressed. We will want to have the main outlines of a network in place by late Sunday, if we are to get the word out far and wide on Monday to inundate Senate offices with calls, emails, and faxes demanding action. We can easily wait until Sunday to begin advancing along the second and third prongs of this strategy. I'll post another diary Sunday afternoon on those subjects (and a third on Monday morning), once this one gets off the ground.

I'm dedicating this first diary to the issue of developing an internet-based network of support for this campaign. When I conceived my "Awaken the Mainstream Media" campaign back in May, it took me days of writing emails and phoning around to create such a network. It worked, but it took more time than we have in this instance. If Kosmopolitans want to see this work, then they'll have to step forward to volunteer to post about this on their own blogs, and to help to contact others who can be roped in to support us.

To reiterate: In this first diary, I'm asking people to step forward to take charge of some part of the bigger problem of getting the word out quickly and connecting people into the effort. You can do that in many ways. For example, start a thread (or a separate diary, linked in a thread) asking people to identify which blogs they'll contact; or which radio hosts; or local grassroots organizations; etc. Identify something that nobody has spoken for, and take charge of it. Above all, we need to make the jump beyond the internet to organized groups with their own membership lists.

I'll have a lot more to say in the second and third diaries about what kinds of arguments and evidence would be useful in calling/writing Senators and journalists.

So who do you know? Who do you read, or listen to? Whose email lists are you on? What local mailing/phone lists can you enlist to get the word out to put pressure on the Senate? What part of this can you help to organize by Sunday afternoon?

Seem like a lot of work? It is. Now keep your eye on the prize.

Click here for the diary at Daily Kos.

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The Truth About Alito

On the DNC web site, you can see an email that was sent out by DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon about Samuel Alito. It says, in part:

Here are the facts. When Alito was nominated for his present job on the Court of Appeals, he made a pledge to the U.S. Senate that he would recuse himself from cases where he had a personal interest. On multiple occasions Alito has broken that pledge.

He broke his pledge in 1995 when he ruled on a case that involved his sister's law firm. And he broke his pledge in 2002 when he ruled on a case involving an investment firm where he had a six-figure personal investment.

Still more disturbing has been the series of shifting excuses for these serious ethical lapses. In the case of the investment firm, Alito's sponsors in the White House first claimed that a computer glitch failed to alert Judge Alito of the conflict. When that excuse began to be scrutinized, the explanation suddenly shifted, with administration officials arguing on his behalf that Alito didn't need to recuse himself after all.

Read the rest here. It includes a link to a tool you can use to write letters to the editor opposing the confirmation of Samuel Alito.

As you can see in the left sidebar here, today is Day 7 in The Twelve Days of Justice, with a focus on freedom of religion. Click the sidebar graphic or this link to read more.

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Fight Fair

a.k.a. Word For The Week
Originally posted on The Underground Railroad

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:1-9

Have you ever noticed that in relationships it is the little things that seem to provoke the fiercest arguments? "You always leave the toilet seat up!" "Do you really need yet another pair of shoes?" Knowing how to fight fair is critical to the survival of any relationship, be it a marriage, friendship or business relationship. Conflict and misunderstandings are unavoidable - the key to the survival of your relationship is how do you manage conflicts and misunderstandings. We know that Satan is the author of confusion and the father of lies, and that he prowls like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. It is Satan who sows the seeds of stress in our situations, but we know that God is faithful - He will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can bear. Unfortunately, all too often, we let our true adversary get over on us with some pretty petty stuff, and that is often due to the accumulation of petty things - the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. That is why a good fight isn't necessarily a bad thing - you simply have to know how to fight fair in order to clear the air in your relationship. Conflict is the price that you pay for deepening intimacy. It's about open, honest communication.

There are four omens that your relationship is in trouble, four steps to destroying a marriage. They are sometimes called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," for as each horseman arrives, he paves the way for the next. These four disastrous ways of interacting are (1) criticism, (2) contempt, (3) defensiveness, and (4) stonewalling. You might want to check out Dr. John Gottman's book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1994) for more details.

Everyone has the right to complain - I've heard one woman call it a birthright. Complaining is a healthy marital activity (contrary to the testimony of billions of men over the ages) in that it attempts to communicate the feelings and desires of one person to the other. Open, honest communication is a good thing, even if it is not always a pleasant thing. There is a fine line however, a dangerous line, between complaining and criticizing. Criticism involves attacking someone's personality rather than their behavior. Complaints usually begin with the word "I", while criticisms usually begin with the word "You." Criticism: "You never take me anywhere." Complaint: "I wish we would go out more than we do." It may not seem like a big difference, but it is indeed huge, and you can feel the difference when you're on the receiving end - receiving criticism feels far worse than receiving a complaint.

Contempt will poison a relationship, regardless of how long a couple has been together. The difference between criticism and contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your mate. "You are a packrat!" Contempt is aimed directly at the heart of the spouse and it rarely misses, which is why it is lethal to marriages - blotting out every positive feeling spouses have for each other. Contempt manifests itself in many ways: name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, and many other ways, but the end result is always the same - the relationship goes from bad to worse.

Once contempt enters a relationship, defensiveness jumps right in behind it. If your heart has been attacked then the natural inclination is to defend it at all costs. The danger of defensiveness is that it easily, and quickly, becomes a reflex - the modus operandi for interacting in the relationship. The "victim" - reacting instinctively - usually doesn't see anything wrong with being defensive, but defensiveness tends to escalate rather than diffuse conflict, especially when both spouses feel like they've been attacked, as is often the case.

Overwhelmed by emotion (either his own or the spouse's), defensiveness having failed to mute the attacks/nagging of the spouse, the fourth step into the chasm is emotional withdrawal, erecting a stone wall between the hearts of the partners. The intentions are often noble - "I'm just trying not to make things worse" - but stonewalling itself is a very powerful act. It conveys disapproval and icy distance, even smugness and arrogance. This is, in effect, an emotional divorce. Most stonewallers are men - about 85% of the time according to Gottman. Stonewalling doesn't necessarily mark the end of a marriage, but once it becomes a regular pattern the relationship is in deep trouble and will require a significant amount of effort to save. Each of these harbingers of doom - criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling - can be exhibited in even healthy relationships on occasion. The problem is when they become patterns, when they become habits - that is when they will take a relationship to the pit.

Peter says that wives should be submissive to their own husbands and for husbands to love their wives in an understanding way, summarizing that all of us should be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. There are seven ways to fight a fair fight, seven steps to imparting information without injury:

Don't Run From Strife. There is a story about a genie who was locked in a bottle. During his first thousand years of captivity he said, "Whoever lets me out will get three wishes", but who in his second thousand years of captivity said, "Whoever lets me out I'm gonna kill." The longer we bottle up grievances the meaner and more dangerous we become. What's more is that sooner or later it's going to come up anyway, as will testify anyone who has had a loved one bring to your remembrance a wrong suffered decades ago. It is better to address the issue when it first comes up than to repress it and have it come up later dripping in bile. It may be uncomfortable, but it is better not to run from strife.

Choose Your Battles Carefully. If love is blind then marriage is a magnifying glass. The closer you get to someone, the clearer you see their warts - and the clearer they see your warts - but everything is not worth fighting over. Squeezing versus rolling the toothpaste is not an issue to take to the mat, nor is having the toilet paper roll over versus under. Couples must find a way of negotiating these minor issues so that they don't become major ones, as an avalanche can begin with one well-placed snowball. We are all familiar with the serenity prayer, and while it is now cliche it is also true - some things can be and need to be changed while others can't and won't - don't sweat the small stuff. We must discern the difference and choose our battles carefully.

Define The Issues Clearly. The stimulus for a disagreement is often lost in an argument as the tit-for-tat banter back and forth breaks new ground and takes a life of its own. The military calls this "Mission Creep" and it is anathema to open, honest communication. When tensions begin to rise, define exactly what is at issue until both partners clearly understand what the conflict is about. This avoids mission creep and the phrase, "And another thing..." This also keeps the fight centered on the issue as opposed to the individual - complaint vs. criticism. Before you fight, define the issues clearly.

State Your Feelings Directly. Women, generally, don't have a problem with this one. However, for us guys this is often a major issue. Here's a way to state feelings directly - from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les & Leslie Parrott (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), called the XYZ formulation, where you replace the variables with your particular gripe in mind: "In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z." For example, "Yesterday (X), when you failed to return my call (Y), I felt neglected (Z)" or, "When you leave (X) and don't hug me (Y) I feel unloved (Z)." Using this formulation will help you to avoid insults and character assassination which summon the four horsemen, instead focusing on the partner's behavior and how it affects you. This can be annoying for some of us, but the payoff in effectively communicating with our loved ones is worth the effort to state our feelings directly.

Rate The Intensity Of Your Feelings. This might sound corny but it is imperative if you want to communicate effectively. In virtually every relationship one partner is more expressive emotionally than the other, the effect of which is that the lack of sufficient expression from one partner may be construed as a lack of concern by the other when it is merely a lack of effective expression. When discussing these matters, rate your feelings on a scale of 1-10 as follows:
  1. I'm not enthusiastic, but it's no big deal to me.
  2. I don't see it the way you do, but I may be wrong.
  3. I don't agree, but I can live with it.
  4. I don't agree, but I'll let you have your way.
  5. I don't agree and cannot remain silent on this.
  6. I do not approve, and I need more time.
  7. I strongly disapprove and cannot go along with it.
  8. I will be so seriously upset I can't predict my reaction.
  9. No possible way! If you do, I quit.
  10. Over my dead body!
This might seem a little cheesy, but it will help when one partner is less expressive than the other. This is actually printed on cards and you can get them from Zondervan free by calling (800) 727-3480.

Give Up Put-Downs. Everybody has jokes these day, and cracking on folks is an integral part of our culture (have you seen Barbershop?), but they can be death to a marriage. Nobody knows you better than you spouse (hopefully), but that also means that they know your vulnerable spots, you Achilles' heel. Cracking on your partner's vulnerabilities is absolutely out of line and must never, ever be done. If your spouse confesses that he was ridiculed in high school as being an egghead then that nickname is absolutely off-limits. If she tells you that it really hurt her when she used to be called a tar-baby then that is not something that you can ever call her. There are a couple of areas that are mentioned so often that they are probably universally off-limits, specifically sexual performance and parents. "You're just like your no-good daddy" - never. "Well, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree" - can't do that either. "That's it?" - bad idea. "I've had better" - go directly to the curb, do not pass Go, do not collect alimony. No spouse should have to put up with put-downs, and the greatest gift you can give your mate is to give up put-downs.

Don't Dwell On Downers. We cannot get into runaway spleen-venting and piling negative on top of negative to prove, "You're worse than me" or "It's really your fault." We cannot focus on negatives - we must address issues. Another way of putting it is this: give up the mindset of winning or losing. Get to the issue and solve the problem. It's not about assigning blame; it's about coming up with a solution to a problem. The solution could be a better understanding or the solution could be some action(s) that needs to be done, but don't dwell on downers. When your partner brings a complaint, don't escalate the tension by redirecting the focus onto them. If they bring criticism instead of a complaint then redirect the focus onto the issue, but not onto them. We can easily get caught in one-upmanship where we have to get the last word in, but it's not about the last word, it's about the final solution to the problem that is raised - even if that solution is the realization that there really is no problem. We must avoid runaway spleen-venting, and the best way to do that is not to dwell on downers.

One final word on fighting fair comes from Paul - "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." We must always look for resolution to our differences with our loved ones since we are harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not ones returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but who give a blessing instead. Jesus said, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." We must always be willing to forgive and forget, always seeking to reconcile our differences with our mate, always being conformed into the image of Christ through the renewing of our mind. Don't let the sun go down without you having resolved any differences with your spouse. You'll sleep better, together.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to fight fair,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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