Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkenss of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Let's Start The New Year Right

One minute to midnight
One minute to go
One minute to say good-bye
Before we say hello

Let's start the new year right
Twelve o'clock tonight
When they dim the light
Let's begin
Kissing the old year out
Kissing the new year in

Let's watch the old year die
With a fond good-bye
And our hopes as high
As a kite

How can our love go wrong
If we start the new year right?

Irving Berlin

Here's to a happy, safe, peaceful, prosperous, and Bush/Cheney-free 2006!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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NYC NonNekkid Bloggers' Bash

NYC NonNekkid Bloggers' Bash took place last evening, on the Eve of New Year's Eve (AKA: Eve Eve).




This punch starts a party quickly, but becomes less potent as the evening proceeds. Feed guests late (eleven or twelve) and you'll send them home sober, and no hangovers the next morning! Been using this recipe for parties for thirty years ~~ and not one bad party, grin.

First Guest was Agatha, right on time, arriving with a lovely bottle of wine, later added to the punch. Then a long long time till Sylvie arrived. Then another pause till Subway and democat arrived, both with guitars! (note ~~ democat brought her new 12 string guitar. I've never been right next to one played solo before in my life, and the experience is awesome!)

After the later arrivals had their first glass of punch, dinner was served, buffet style around 11:30.


Potato skins
Ginger chicken wings
Spinach mushroom salad
Pasta lox salad

Subway played Feliz Navidad, and other activist songs, and democat folk and rock. Prolly my favorite song of the evening?

Sung by democat ~~

The Dutchman's not the kind of man
To keep his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in
But that's a secret only Margaret knows

When Amsterdam is golden in the morning
Margaret brings him breakfast
She believes him
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow
He's mad as he can be but Margaret only sees that sometimes
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuiderzee
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me

The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes
His cap and coat are patched with love
That Margaret sewed in
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam
He watches tugboats down canals
And calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain
'till Margaret comes to take him home again
Through unforgiving streets
That trip him though she holds his arm
Sometimes he thinks that he's alone and calls her name


The windmills whirl the winter in
She winds his muffler tighter,
They sit in the kitchen
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew
He sees her for a moment, calls her name
She makes the bed up humming some old love song
She learned it when the tune was very new
He hums a line or two, they hum together in the night
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out.


( )

This song is just gorgeous, and had a couple of us in tears.

Conversation, of course, after catching up with each other's lives, was mostly political: a true LIBLAB gathering, lol! Gathered in one room in the East Village were: a school teacher, an actor, a dollmaker, an anthropologist, a street musician and a folk singer. And every man Jack bright, informed, and politically astute.

At one point, I looked around and was just overwhelmed to the core of my soul by the level of intelligence, creativity, dedication, energy, and love in the room. It speaks volumes to the worth of Howard Dean that he has gathered such people together in support of him and his idears.

Subway was the first to leave at about 1:30, the others a little after two.

The hosts did a quick clean up, and then just sat back and traded favorite moments of the evening. Turned in at three thirty, tired and content.

A great ending for a tough year.


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Friday, December 30, 2005

Grassroots Retreat in Upstate, NY

My Vote is My Voice (MViMV) will be sponsoring a Grassroots Retreat in Lake George, NY on February 3rd-5th, 2006. The theme of the weekend will be Balancing Life (time, money, sanity, etc) With Activism, but other topics of discussion will certainly be welcome.

Single occupancy - $100 per person includes:
Lodging for Friday and Saturday night
6 meals: Friday Dinner through Sunday Lunch
Ride to/from Albany, NY Airport if needed

Double occupancy - $75 per person includes:
Lodging for Friday and Saturday night (1 Queen bed)
6 meals: Friday Dinner through Sunday Lunch
Ride to/from Albany, NY Airport if needed

Because the atmosphere for the weekend is meant to be relaxing, and not overwhelming, space at the retreat is limited to 14 people. Please purchase your ticket ASAP through PayPal to

For additional information, or if you would prefer to send a check, please email

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Health Care For All

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

America's resolution for the New Year should be health care for all. It's time for the United States to join every other industrialized and civilized country in the world and provide publicly financed, universal health care for its citizens and their families. Our "sick care" system is second to none. We boast some of the finest hospitals and clinics in the world. Many branches of government are connected and are dedicated to finding answers to leading killers including heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes.

Yet for all the good things happening in the United States with health care, there are many equally troubling facts. Newsday reports a Florida study that found children who enter a hospital without insurance are more than twice as likely to die as children with insurance. While the United States spends more than any other nation on health - $5,600 for every American - our system has the highest medically-related error rates.

The New York Times found that a third of American patients spend more than $1,000 a year out of pocket, and 68 percent of those who declared bankruptcy because of medical bills had insurance. Health Affairs, a publication from the Center for American Progress claims the United States has a lower life expectancy than 20 other countries, near epidemics of preventable conditions, and a rising infant mortality rate.

Achieving health care for all will not be easy. However, we may end up having no choice but to do just that. Eventually, health care will be so high priced that only the very rich in this country will be able to afford the luxury of seeing a doctor. When large manufacturers such as GM decide to cut thousands from their workforce, after agreeing to have their workers pay more out of pocket for their health insurance, alarm bells should start ringing inside every head in Congress. Perhaps a telephone should ring instead. A phone campaign may be just what is needed to demand legislation in 2006 to achieve health care for all.

Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chicago-land blogger party

When I saw on HEP blog that Denise and donna-in-evanston were working on a getting together, I knew it was something I could manage to put in my schedule. A two hour drive was not going to stop me from getting together with the real live people that I have spent hours with in a virtual reality.

With map-quest and a Chicago area map I headed out to Evanston. I was counting on vacation time to keep the traffic down. Driving in the dark made reading signs difficult (maybe those bifocals aren't too far off). Because I didn't make one wrong turn, the trip last exactly 2 hours.

Refusing to take more than one trip from the car to the house, I dragged my overnight bag and carried a stack of plates filled with bean dip and veggies. The chips, which were balance on top, fell off twice but I didn't have to go back to my car that night.

Donna and her husband live in an attractive condo. It is one of those great city type places. The building is narrow and long with 4 flights. The hard wood floors with open stairs and the real fire in the fireplace gave her home an warm. welcoming feeling when I entered.

Donna greeted me at the door with a big hug. For those of you who haven't met Donna, she is a petite woman with shortly cut hair. She has a strong determination in her eyes that makes you not notice her size right away. She calls herself the "radical militant" librarian, which is a fun, yet accurate, description of her.

The party had already started. DF IL Lali and her husband "Ian from Illinois" with their 3 dark haired children were sitting on the wrap around sofas. Kent and Janet Wilson from Donna's meetup steering committee, had also arrive. Thankful/Laurie arrived shortly after me.

Donna's husband, Bill, welcomed me and relieved me of my food, coat and suitcase. Donna, he is a keeper! Bill is a tall handsome man with a gentle smile. He always knew right where to be when there was help needed. Donna describes her husband as apolitical. I know my husband, Bob and he would identify with each other when they relay stories of living with "activist" wives.

Phase one of the party consisted of eating my broken chips and talking Chicago area politics. Wine and drinks helped too. It is always interesting listening about Chicago-land politics because their issues are so different from my red-rural experience. They are having fun supporting candidates at all levels and have the challenge of dealing with established Democrats. I am lucky to find one Democratic candidate to work for let alone have established Democrats even care about what we are doing.

All this time we are wondering where Denise, Renee and Demetrius were. Donna would run up and check the blog now and then. Eventually she reported that Denise was too sick to drive but there was still no word from R&D.

Phase two: We moved down one level to her kitchen/family room. I was looking forward to Donna's turkey chili after reading about it on her morning post and I was not disappointed. Lali and her family had to leave for a concert so they missed out on a delicious meal.

Political talk shifted to dogs. Donna has an adorable aussie collie who smiles when she is happy (!?! ) and would contently lay her nose on Donna's lap. I asked for help on how to discipline my bratty 6 month-old Shih Tsu. Donna brought out a book, Marley and Me, the world's worst dog. It is a great book and if you have a bad dog, it will make your feel understood.

The food-fest continued with Laurie's cookies and delicious fudge. As we sat around the table, Bill uncorked the champagne. Donna toasted to 2006 and for "quick trials and long sentences." Sounds good to me, and may there be many.

I still had faith that Renee and Demetrius would show up. I have seen their late hours on the blog and 10:30 PM was nothing to them. A phone call relayed not only R&D would make it, but they went way out of their way to pick up Denise too!

More descriptions for those who have not met Renee, Demetrius or Denise: Renee "looks" like she blogs. When you meet her she has the energy of a comforting mother. She has a big smile and a gentle voice. Demetrius is a solid man with a quiet humor that makes you not want to miss what he has to say. Denise is definitely a Chicago transplant that now lives in California. The first words out of her mouth brought laughter to my heart. There is a distinctive accent that only a lifetime of living on the south side of Chicago would produce. I have a special affection for this talk because my favorite sister-in-law is from this area.

Conversation moved on to "blog people." If you don't come to the party you run the risk of being talked about. We discussed how Tara "doesn't get it" but that we have made lifetime friends from people we have met there. We all felt as sense of grief over a loss. Donna expressed that she sometimes just feels burned out with politics and that she misses working hard for a great candidate. We all felt a yearning to have Howard Dean back at the helm.

If this were a crushie party (and I have been to a few great ones), pictures and ooing and aahhing would have been the next event.

Laurie updated us on her children and Denise told about her friend's recent loss. Two hours and several fudge squares later, our blogging party ended. I was grateful to Donna for letting me spent the night.

Before everyone left, Bill took a picture of our group sitting around the table. What an unlikely bunch brought together; a couple with young children from Ohio, a Californian with Chicago in her heart, a mother of young adult children, an activist librarian, and a liberal woman from the country.

Thank YOU Howard Dean. Look out America.

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Open Thread

Thank you Jessica for checking in at the bottom of the last thread. Hope the whole family is feeling better soon. Demetrius and I and the kids and pets will be heading back home today, but I thought I'd put up a fresh thread before leaving.

Karen in MI passed along this link that is worth checking out.

Kos-Eye View

The creator of the left's favorite political blog, The Daily Kos, handicaps the 2006 elections and shares his advice for the Democratic Party.

Looks like the seasonal default Gravatar is going to be out of season pretty soon. Thoughts on a new one, or should we just go without?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Son of Deaniac, Passenger Escape Serious Injury in Williamstown Crash

Long time DFA and HEP community member listener reports that her son, Jonah, was injured in a Williamstown, MA car crash last night. Though multiple emergency services responded to the accident, and though Jonah and his passenger were treated at North Adams Regional Medical Center, neither of them was seriously hurt. Listener is now back home with her wounded chick. ♥The Schulte Family♥

It has been over twenty-four hours since Jessica, a dedicated and indefatigable Deaniac, took her two-year-old daughter to the hospital for treatment of dehydration. Our love and prayers go out to the Falker Family.

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Making a difference

This morning I would like to share some sites with you that some of you may already know about, but others may not--and maybe you would like to know more. What they have in common is the commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

Humanity's Team

The New Spirituality that we at Humanity's Team seek to embody is not a new religion. Nor is it a rejection or abandonment of present spiritual beliefs. It's simply an expansion of all our present theologies; an updating of them; a refreshing of them, rendering all of our current sacred teachings even more relevant to our present day and time. In that expansion, in that updating, in that refreshing are extraordinary new possibilities.

Oxfam International
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice.

With many of the causes of poverty global in nature, the 12 affiliate members of Oxfam International believe they can achieve greater impact through their collective efforts.

Heifer International
With Heifer's proven approach - almost 60 years in the making - to helping people obtain a sustainable source of food and income.

Cornerstones guide our efforts to end world hunger and care for the earth.

Long-Term Solutions emphasizing community involvement distinguish our work from that of global relief organizations.

"Passing on the Gift" means recipients agree to share the offspring of gift animals with others in need, making them equal partners with Heifer in the fight to end world hunger.

Do you have any positive links you would like to share?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Some diaries/posts of interest

I composed this brief diary this morning before I saw that Jessica had a new diary about Pine Ridge Reservation up.

We're going to be visiting with Demetrius' family today--in a house (believe it or not) without internet connection. (Hope springs eternal that one day we will at least get Mom an email account one day.) So before heading out there, I've found some posts/diaries you might find of interest...

From Howard Dean:

Did George Bush Break the Law?
Dean on GOP's Misplaced Budget Priorities

From Oliver Willis, regarding Hillary:
Fool me twice...

From Media Matters:
Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

From Booman Tribune:
All Anti-Alito, All The Time!

We ask your prayers, gentle thoughts, positive vibes/energy for listener's son who broke his collarbone in an auto accident today, and also for Jessica's daughter who is in the hospital being treated for dehydration. And, of course, for their concerned families.

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Howard Empowered Friends of Pine Ridge

Many of us contributed to the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation this holiday season. Thanks to Catreona and Susan letting us know about this project, FOPRR collected about 2,500 holiday gifts for their least fortunate children, plus help for many of the reservation's community facilitities and residents who desperatly needed it.

The need on the reservation is year round, and I was going to wait a month or so before posting another project of their's, but there's a great opportunity on their website to contribute/recycle something that many people would just throw away this week:

Oyate Teca Project, the reservation's youth center, is asking people to donate their used holiday cards so the kids can use them next year to make gift tags, ornaments, small boxes, gift bags, cards, etc.

They are also asking for hole punches, scissors, construction paper, and glue.

The address to send donations is on the FOPRR website:

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Monday, December 26, 2005

New Year's resolutions for Bush

First of all, I'll get this part out of the way first. I don't do New Year's resolutions. There are certainly times that I privately commit to do more of something or less of something, but I don't tie that to something as arbitrary (to me) as a date on the calendar. And I definitely am not into announcing resolutions publicly. But I certainly do understand that other people see the new year as a good, symbolic time to commit to making a positive change.

But whether you are one of those people who likes to make New Year's resolutions or now, I bet this is a question a lot of us can sink our teeth into. I saw this story when I opened up the AOL home page on my parents' computer.

Nobody is perfect, and our president has had a less-than-perfect political year. But a new year offers fresh opportunities. Check out some suggested resolutions and offer your own.

View the story, and weigh in here if you like. Or just leave your comment about suggested resolutions in the comments below. Or just talk about whatever's on your mind, like we usually do.

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Happy Holiday

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, but since I know next to nothing about that holiday, I'm not going to attempt to post anything about that. But if you do have something to share--a link, a story, reflection, or tradition, please do so in the comments. Today is also the huge day after Christmas return day, post-Christmas sale day, or, as I like to think of it, the day that Renee stays as far as humanly possible away from shopping malls.

Every now and then I check out the Flying Spaghetti Monster web site, and I had wondered what the "official" FSM winter celebration might be called. Today I found the answer:

A note about the FSM Holiday season. People keep asking me what the FSM winter holiday is called - Ramendan, Pastamas, etc. Clever (not really), but no. Our winter holiday is named "Holiday", and stretches most of December and January. Consider how much our religion has spread over the last couple years; how many schools and businesses refer not to the "Christmas season", but to the pastafarian "Holiday season" instead? - Strong evidence of our rapid growth. A special thanks goes to Walmart, who rejected the Christian phrase "Merry Christmas" in favor of the Pastafarian greeting "Happy Holidays". We appreciate your support.

Finally, I know I posted a lot of comments about all the cookie baking I was trying to get done, so I thought I'd share a picture with you before they are all gone.

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False centrism and losing connection to the grassroots

Before turning in for the night, I thought we could use a new thread, so I'm going to post a bit of floridagal's Kos diary, with a link to the rest.

I have been very concerned lately about some of the top down involvement in local politics. I will just mention two specific instances briefly. One is the IL 6 race with Cegelis and Duckworth. That has been discussed a lot here heatedly.

The other is really worse in a way, because the Florida state party chairman, Karen Thurman, is involved with the DCCC's Rahm Emanuel in drafting a very wealthy Republican to run in Florida's District 16. There are two very qualified Democrats in the race already, why not fund them? Why have meetings with a registered Republican instead of supporting the ones in the race? I have been getting some stuff ready for a diary on this issue, but first I decided to reread some sections of Howard Dean's book.

I have thought a lot about what Howard Dean's feelings on this top down type of power play might be. He can't really say it now, you know. In his position as chair, I guess he must be careful. But actually he made some references obliquely to circumstances like this in his book last year called You Have the Power.

Click here for the rest. And check out the graphic link to Cegelis' campaign web site, on the right side of this page.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Who Is That Child?

Originally posted on The Underground Railroad.

Now that everyone has opened their own gifts and given gifts to friends and family, let us now look at the first three men to bear gifts in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

The wise men came from the east to Jerusalem on a quest for that child. They could have said, "If such a king be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and there will be time enough then to pay our homage to him." But they were so anxious to be better acquainted with Him that they took a long journey to seek after Him. Their question was, "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" They do not ask whether there were such a one born - they knew who that child was, and spoke it with boldness. They wanted to know where he was born. The magi called Jesus the King of the Jews, because that is what the Messiah was expected to be: Protector and Ruler of all of Abraham's seed, the household of faith. He is born a King.

But Herod was troubled. Herod's thinking was that there could be only one king in Judea, and he was it, so who was that child? Any opposition must be neutralized. He knew Jewish history, being an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. He knew of the Maccabees and their rebellion centuries earlier. He knew of the Zealots and their desire to rid Israel of the Roman occupation. He knew of the messianic prophesies which said that One would come and deliver Israel, and how the people longed for this messiah. Herod did not receive news of the child as Good News. However, you would think that Jerusalem should have greatly rejoiced to hear that her King was here; yet the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was troubled with Herod, apparently afraid that this would involve them in war, or restrain their lusts - they desired no king but Herod; not even the Messiah himself.

I'm sure that we can relate.

Americans despise restraint. Freedom and liberty are to Americans what Grace and Mercy are to Christians - can't live without them and wouldn't want to try. Americans shout, "Give me liberty or give me death!" while God says to Christians, "My grace is sufficient for you." Most every church has two flags, one hanging on each side of the pulpit: the American flag and the Christian flag. To which kingdom do you pledge allegiance? "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." "No man can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." "Choose this day whom you will serve..." We must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, but we must render unto God that which is God's.

Herod had obtained his kingdom by great crimes, by shedding much blood. He was therefore easily alarmed by any remarkable appearances, and the fact that this star appeared - and that it was regarded as proof that a King of the Jews was born - scared him. Besides, it was a common expectation that the Messiah was about to appear, and Herod feared that his reign was about to come to an abrupt end. Herod therefore began to inquire about how he might secure his own safety and the permanency of his government.

Herod, at this point, was an old man and had reigned thirty-five years - this child was but newly born, and not likely to start anything considerable for many years - yet Herod was jealous of him. People often cannot bear to think of successors, much less think of rivals. Ask anyone about who will chair their committee after them and see how they reply. Most people can't conceive of anyone replacing them, let alone the think of being ousted from "their" position. Nothing less than the blood of this child would satisfy Herod. Apparently, it never occurred to Herod that, if this child should indeed be the Messiah, then in opposing him, or making any attempts upon his life, he would be fighting against God Himself - an exercise in futility if ever there was one, nothing which could be more dangerous. He'd just have to find out the hard way that his arms were too short to box with God. Passion got the best of his reason and conscience. How many times have our passions got the best of our reason, the best of our conscience? It's not that we lost our minds - we still think - but we lose our will to do that which would be pleasing to God. Look at Herod.

See how cunningly he laid the project in v. 7-8. He privately called the wise men in order to talk with them about this matter. He would not openly air his own fears and jealousies; it would be to his disgrace to let the wise men know them, and dangerous to let the people know them. Herod learned from the wise men the time when the star appeared, that he might take his measures accordingly; and then implores them to inquire further, asking them to return with a report. All this might have looked suspicious if he had not covered it with a show of religion: "that I may come and worship him also." I have found that the greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a mask of piety. Absalom cloaked his rebellious project with a religious vow. Hitler slaughtered the Jews under the veil of being religious. Bush invaded Iraq under the pretense of "fighting evil-doers." People often think rationally while losing the ability to think reasonably. We can learn three things from this text:

First, people with ill intentions often cloak their designs with the pretense of piety - they attempt to deceive those who are pursuing Jesus and make them believe that they have the same intentions. There was a song a few years ago that said, "They smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place. The back-stabbers. Back-stabbers!" That's biblical. People will pat you on the back just to see where the knife should go. Ask Jesus. He'll tell you that your friend, the one you trust with your money, will kiss you just to help your enemies destroy you. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Ain't nothing new under the sun." (Oscar translation)

We also find that wicked people often pimp the pious to pursue their personal plans. Men like Herod will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. They endeavor to deceive the simple, to lure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak in order to accomplish their own purposes. In politics, there are those who care nothing about God and cringe at the name of Jesus, yet they would have the majority of Christians in America to believe that the only way to be a good Christian and a responsible American is to support their party - even though their policies defy the very teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "You are blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me," but that party opposes the very concept of society feeding the poor - they say that some charity will do it, so collectively we as a people need not be about the business of feeding the poor, i.e. no food stamps. Jesus said, "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink," but they oppose handouts, as in no welfare - except corporate welfare (tax cuts). Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you invited me in," yet that party has people chanting, "America for Americans only." Jesus said, "I was sick and you visited me," yet that party says that health care is only for those who can afford it. Those people will actually try to pass their party off as the only party for Christians, and too many Christians go for it - hook, line, sinker, rod, reel and a little knuckle too.

The Grand Ole Party.

Democrats aren't much better - it is very easy to see how they frequently disregard the commands of Christ, but nobody is implying that they are the only party that a true Christian should support, as many do with the Republican Party. The point is that Godless people have beguiled Christians into believing that politics is the savior of this society, and the avenue to that salvation is through the Republican Party - just like Herod fooled the wise men into believing that he wanted to worship the living Christ. It took special revelation from God to show the the wise men Herod's deception as it will no doubt require God's special revelation to enlightened today's believers.

The third thing that we see here is that the plans of wicked people are often well laid. Those plans occupy a long time and can stretch out over many years - even generations. Satan has great patience - if he can't get you then he'll come for your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren. He'll bring it into the church, having entire denominations condoning sin. People twist scripture to make it say what they want it to say and ignore scripture that they cannot twist. Such people make diligent inquiry much like Herod, and all of it has the appearance of religion. But God sees through the design, and though people are deceived, God cannot be mocked.

See how strangely Herod was deceived in all of this? He trusted it with the wise men, and did not choose some other managers that would have been true to his interests. Bethlehem is only seven miles from Jerusalem - Herod could have easily sent spies to watch the wise men, who could have been there to destroy the child as the wise men came to worship him! God can easily hide from the eyes of His enemies those methods by which they might easily destroy His work; that's why no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

Herod waited a long time for the return of the wise men. He hoped that though they be slow, they would be sure, and he would crush this rival at His first appearing. But when he found out that they'd departed in another direction he correctly suspected that they pledged allegiance to this new King, which made Herod exceedingly angry - more passion and less reason. It obviously did not occur to him who he was dealing with, even though he'd been told. Herod did all that he could to obtain accurate information regarding the Child, that he might be sure of destroying him. He not only determined the probable time of His birth, and the place where He would be born, but he sent the wise men that they might actually see him, and bring him word.

Go back to verse 4 - he'd convened the Sanhedrin council to determine where the messiah was to be born, and they responded with the word of God. Micah 5:2 clearly told of the location: Bethlehem. Isaiah 7:14 told of the virgin birth. Zechariah 9:9 foretold of His triumphant entry (some 37 years later) while Isaiah 53:3 and Psalm 118:22 foretold His rejection by His own countrymen. Psalm 41:9 foretold His betrayal by one of His close associates, while Isaiah 53:7-8 foretold how he would stand silently before His accusers as He was put on trial and condemned. Isaiah 50:6 foretold how He would be struck and spat upon while Psalm 22:7-8 foretold how He would be mocked and insulted. Psalm 22:14-17 foretold how He would die of crucifixion and Isaiah 53:12 foretold His execution among criminals. Isaiah 53:5-12 foretold His death as a sacrifice for our sins and Psalm 16:10 foretold His resurrection, while Psalm 110:1-2 foretold Him being seated at the right-hand of the Father. (Parenthetically, it is this Psalm that Jesus used to shut down the Pharisees and assert His divinity.)

Herod must have heard all of this and more as the Jewish scholars recounted the Servant Songs in his hearing and quoted the messianic prophesies in his presence. Nonetheless, Herod was unmoved. He dismissed the council and met with the wise men privately to send them on a final intelligence-gathering mission. He missed the answer to the question that demanded a verdict: "Who is that child?" So, who is that child? Glad you asked. He is the One who has authority over the Law, the Sabbath, and the temple. He is the One who has authority to forgive sins. He is the One who is supreme over Moses, Jacob, and Abraham.

He is the Son of God.

He is the Messiah.

He is God incarnate.

The Jews of Jesus' day understood what Jesus said and meant, but many would not believe. Thomas put his fingers in Jesus' wounds and believed - worshiping the Christ. Peter confessed Jesus' lordship immediately. Who do you say that Jesus is? James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God and tremble, yet they are still condemned. Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Have you surrendered you life to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, God with us - Immanuel? Herod would not submit to Jesus' authority, will you?

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 gave us the greatest gift of all - Jesus,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Turning the World Upside-down

Maybe you've seen me use a portion of this picture as a Gravatar--or maybe not, as I haven't used it in a while. The painting is entitled "Mary of the Magnificat". No, I realize that the first century peasant girl who was the mother of Jesus looked nothing like that. We've been watching these shows on the National Geographic channel which explain how much at odds the usual Christmas pageant imagery is at odds with what we know about life in first century Judea. Our 12-year-old is taking great pleasure in informing everyone that "The manger looked nothing like that--the animals were in a lower room, in the same building as where the people lived!"

I don't know if he's ready to understand that stories can be true--or reflect deeper Truths--without being factually, literally true. I think I first discovered what is beautiful and inspiring to me about this story back when we were attending a local Unitarian Universalist church. The Christmas sermon was entitled Turning the World Upside-down, and it said, in part:

And in a world where the Roman intelligentsia believed that Augustus Caesar himself was born of a virgin mother, a virgin who had a vision in a temple from a messenger from the gods, what might the author be saying? Since he or she (and we really don't know whether the author we call "Luke" was a man or a woman by the way-cases have been made for both) deliberately brings up Augustus Caesar at the beginning of the story about another virgin birth, I grow suspicious. Isn't it more likely that here is another picture inviting us to look at the world in a totally upside-down manner? The story is asking us "Is Caesar the greatest power on earth, Caesar with his power and might, his obedience and his executions, his slavery and his caprice; or, is it this peasant baby from the outskirts of civilization whose head needs to be entirely supported in the crook of his tender mother's arm? Two virgin births. But which of them is the real center of the world? Choose.

Mari herself, upon being told that she will be a mother, sings a clear song about the world turning upside down, The Magnificat, part of which you heard being sung this evening, by Peg Meckling and Edgel Alley, set to Bach's beautiful music. The Magnificat insists that the world is about to go topsy turvy. Remember the poem?

Do you see? The lofty are now scattered
through the arrogance of their own heart,
and the all-powerful rulers of earth
are pulled down off their thrones,
and poor people like me are lifted up.
The hungry are fed now,
the sated go away with empty hands.
The way I see it is this: when you worship a poor third world baby in a cattle-feeder, instead of a muscular and violent head of state on his throne, you begin to turn philosophy on its head, and certainly all theology.

And, to say (as the Christians eventually did), that this weak child nursing at its mother's breast is a wonderful picture of G-d, you get another upside-down image…not the common image of G-d as Caesar in the sky, controlling the weather, the fates of individual human beings, and meting out punishments and rewards according to bribes, but G-d, or the Ultimate, if you will, as a helpless child in a dirty, splintery cattle feeder.

By the way, I know that someone is bound to ask about the spelling G-d. Others can probably express it better than I can, but it is typically a Jewish convention. I have heard at least two explanations that I can recall--one is that if we try to give a name to the Ultimate, we risk making an idol of that name. Another is that, in the Hebrew scriptures, to name someone or something was to control them--have dominion over them. For obvious reasons, we could not expect to do that with God. Again, I'm sure someone else could explain this better, but I wanted to try to anticipate the question in an attempt to keep any confusion or curiosity about that from eclipsing the powerful truth of this story that I wanted to convey tonight.

Turning the world upside-down...that's what resonates with me. Knocking the powerful off their thrones, while at the same time recognizing the power in the "lowly" who can be all too easily dismissed by those who are content with "politics and usual". I *love* this story, and I believe in it. Well, in my heart, deep down I do. Sometimes, after the people fighting the good fight get knocked down again and again, it's hard to keep believing. At Christmas time, one thing I try to do is to remind myself that this very old story still rings True in our hearts, because there are always Caesars who need to be knocked off their thrones. It seems impossible. But the impossible can be achieved by something greater than ourselves. Maybe we call that something "God", or another name that means something similar. Or maybe that "something greater" is our sense of being interconnected, part of a larger community rather than focussed on our own narrow interests. The sense that "we're all in this together". Now, where have I heard *that* before? ;-)

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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.

Subway serenades need
subway riders - You can
make the holiday a little
brighter by being a
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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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