March to End the War

September 21, 2007

A shot from the Answer Coalition's web site.

One of the great things about living in DC is that occasionally a progressively-minded acquaintance from college will give you a call and ask if you want to attend an anti-war march that weekend in your city. I was one of the 10,000 (or tens of thousands, or hundred thousand, depending on who you believe) who marched from the White House to the Capitol chanting anti-war slogans on Saturday, dodging anti-peace protesters’ verbal assaults and steely glances.

I can’t say I agreed with all the protesters — their views varied too much for that. Immediate withdrawal is unrealistic; support for the Iraqi resistance is…let’s just say off-message. But it seemed like the group of protesters, contrasted with the counter-demonstrators along the marching route, were a little too representative of the way our democracy is currently (dys)functioning.

For the first few blocks, the streets were lined mostly with supporters, but when we hit Pennsylvania Avenue the scene changed dramatically. Police barricades separated the marchers from the counter-demonstrators, but could block the offensive and inflammatory gestures and words thrown in both directions. Signs on both sides of barricade and issue were occasionally thoughtful, and many were oversimplified, but some were downright mean-spirited (“Traitors,” “Cindy Sheehan is Osama Bin Laden’s Best Friend,” “Hippies Smell” — and those were just from the other side). When the signs on the sidelines got nasty, many marchers started holding up a peace sign – oversimplifying our/themselves. Some people participating in the peace march became, ironically, violently angry. I asked a man in front of me to calm down at one point when he started screaming expletives and epithets at the Vietnam vets we encountered as we approached the Capitol. (He didn’t respond well.)

We all were there trying to make a point about the course our country should take in the future, but there was little unity within opposing factions and little dialogue between them. This is understandable – the crowd consisted of thousands of people with no real plan to rally behind. When our leaders can not communicate and work together to come up with a plan with potential that can be expressed concisely (and thus not by Sen. John Kerry), they give the people nothing to rally behind. That’s not to say that any or all factions of the stop the war movement would be contented with a proposal in Congress; our nation is too diverse and, I would like to think, too skeptical to blindly support whatever plan comes along. But if our leaders don’t take a shot at real dialogue, we will just be stuck, in the middle of the street, shouting at each other in hoarse voices and not hearing a word.

All the Nelson Mandelas were killed in Iraq before we even got there, President Bush lamented in his press conference earlier this week. Now that we’re there, though, all those who could potentially unite our country in its future action are silent in our own, established, self-congratulatory democracy. That’s why I’m also ambivalent toward all the presidential candidates – they are so focused on campaigning with their various messages of change and hope that they fail to foster either in their current roles. If one of them were to stand up with 66 or 67 senators behind him or her, and propose a workable solution that could withstand a Presidential veto – that might get the Democrats a little excited.


Where is our generation’s Harry Truman?

February 8, 2007


For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, this history lesson is worth reading. At a time of war, probably at a time of the greatest threat to our nation since the revolution, Harry Truman did his patriotic duty and demanded accountability from the military. He led probably the greatest example of congressional oversight in the last 75 years. Remember, at this time the Senate was heavily democratic– 66 Dems to 28 Republicans (1 Progressive, 1 Independent) and the House too– 267 Democrats, 162 Republicans, 3 Progressives, 1 American Labor, 1 Farmer-Labor, 1 Independent Democrat.

Imagine if WW2 was going on right now. Do you think any Senator would be bold enough to lead a committee whose sole responsibility is to investigate how the military is spending it’s money? I doubt it. John McCain could have been just as much of a hawk 3 years ago and would have kept his ‘maverick’ independent, straight-talker trait had he decided this type of oversight is patriotic. Instead, he, along with the rest of the GOP machine put party before country and put their heads in the sand, and as a result, his presidential prospects in the toilet.

And what we end up with, are stories like this, from CNN:

The indictment alleges that from 2003 through December 2005, Whiteford, Harrison, Wheeler and Morris conspired with Stein, Bloom and Hopfengardner to rig bids so Bloom won $8.6 million in contracts. In exchange, Bloom allegedly provided them with more than $1 million in cash, automobiles, jewelry, computers, travel, liquor and promises of jobs. Driver allegedly received a Cadillac Escalade as a bribe and used illegally obtained cash to make improvements to his and Harrison’s home, according to the indictment. Bloom also allegedly used foreign bank accounts to launder more than $2 million in cash that was stolen from the authority. Efforts to reach the defendants for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon.

and other stories, like this, from Bloomberg News:

“We have no way of knowing if the cash that was shipped into the green zone ended up in enemy hands,” Waxman, a California Democrat, said at today’s hearing. “We owe it to the American people to do everything we can to find out where the $12 billion went.”

Do you guys realize how much that amount of cash weighs? One estimate I heard was 250 tons. 250 tons. That’s the same as about 30 elephants. Where the hell did that money go? This was cold hard, American cash. Literally, suitcases and suitcases filled with cash. What the hell happened to it?

Is anyone ever going to be held accountable for all of this?

The Democrats better stand-up and start to hold this administration to account. The American people threw them the reigns in ’06; they better start acting like they deserve to hold them. Quick, can anyone name the 6 items in the 100 hour agenda? Yeah, that had a lot of staying power…..

Can I get a shout-out……

January 24, 2007

If I asked you yesterday what Dikembe Mutumbo, Julie Aigner-Clark, Tommy Raymond, and Wesley Autry have in common, what would you have said?

Interesting group to get the annual presidential shout-out at the State of the Union….

A few quick thoughts while the speech is concluding–
The first half, I thought, was terribly written. I’m in healthcare, I’ve read a bunch of previews of his speech, and I can honestly tell you I have no idea what he was talking about with this health insurance reform piece. My understanding is that it will offer tax cuts for certain people, and will increase taxes on others. Another part of the plan is supposedly taking money from public hospitals and giving it to the uninsured. Kind of silly– nothing like this has a prayer of getting out of Congress.

The other domestic agenda items were odd too. The congressional reform piece sounded nice– certainly no one is going to argue against earmark reform, or against balancing the budget, but it was awfully thin on details.

I thought the portion on foreign policy started strong, and was actually fairly well written, but once it got to the meat of the escalation policy Bush is pushing, it lost all steam. I thought the line, “please give this a chance to work” sounded incredibly weak.

The laundry list items at the end sounded like weak fluff too. Of course everyone wants to eliminate AIDS in Africa, or end the genocide in Darfur, but it’s tough to forget that he has actually been president for the last 6 years. Where’s he been on some of these issues?

All in all– weak, not exactly full of passion (although, like I said, the piece on the global threats of terrorism started strong but ended weakly when it got to Iraq), and a meaningless laundry list that will be ignored.

Remember the days when presidents used to go out to the country to push their agenda outline in the SOTU? Does anyone think Bush has a chance to do that now

Best part of the speech was his touching tribute to Pelosi at the outset. Sounded genuine….

Now onto Webb.

When practical becomes politicized

January 3, 2007

After anoodle posted about the polls that show an overwhelming majority of Americans support the upcoming and crucial first undertakings of the Congress, I thought I should add to the information by showing some of the ways that information can be misleading or untrue regarding the initiatives that our government is about to set out on.

Media Matters has listed many of the upcoming Republican arguments we will be hearing during debate on the proposed bills, and while I recommend that everyone read the entire thing some are worth noting in particular:

Minimum wage hike will result in job losses and discourage job creation. Conservatives commonly argue that increasing the minimum wage will negatively affect the economy, resulting in stagnating job growth and higher unemployment. However, numerous studies have examined recent increases in the minimum wage at both the federal and state level and found that higher wages do not result in job loss. One recent example is Oregon, which increased its minimum wage to $7.50 in 2002. Four years later, “Oregon’s experience suggests the most strident doomsayers were wrong,” according to a November 3 Wall Street Journal article. Indeed, private, nonfarm payrolls have increased there at twice the national rate, industries that employ many minimum-wage workers have experienced considerable job growth, and unemployment has dropped to 5.4 percent from 7.6 percent in 2002.

Republicans claiming they care about small business owners and the middle class will constantly claim that a raised minimum wage is unhealthy for the economy…NOT TRUE.

Deficits under Bush are smaller — as a percentage of the economy — than under Clinton. Some conservatives, when faced with Democratic criticism of the Bush economic record, have claimed that the deficits under Bush — when measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product — are half the size of those experienced under Clinton. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the average federal budget deficit during Clinton’s two terms (FY 1994 to FY 2001) was 0.1 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, during Bush’s first term (FY 2002 to FY 2005), the average was 2.75 percent of GDP.

As the article states, PAYGO (the pay-as-you-go budgetary policy) led to the surplus in the 1990s. It is also worth noting that the middle-class is worse off today than they were five years ago, and that has nothing to do with 9/11. Watch economist Paul Krugman here explain how the middle class is worse off.

Hope when we hear these myths on television and in print, people will be able to respond with fact.

Starting practical never hurts…..

January 3, 2007


New polling data out today shows that the American people support the Democrats goals for the beginning of their control of Congress. Dubbed the 100 hour agenda, the Democrats campaigned hard on these issues, and it seems like their message got across. The whole article is here.

First up, the minimum wage:

A boost to the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage would be the first since 1997. Democratic leaders have proposed raising it in stages to $7.25 an hour.
President Bush has said he supports the idea, along with help for small businesses. Fully 80 percent of survey respondents favor an increase, too. Support is strongest among Democrats, 91 percent, while 65 percent of Republicans back the idea. Women, men without college degrees and single women all are especially likely to favor a minimum wage hike.

Next, although maybe not in this order, allowing the government to negotiate on behalf of medicare with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug costs, and allow importation for prescription drugs from Canada:

Nearly seven of 10 adults, 69 percent, favor the government taking steps to make it easier for people to buy prescription drugs from other countries, where some medicines cost significantly less than in the U.S. Importing prescription drugs to the United States is illegal, but the Food and Drug Administration generally does not bar individuals from bringing in small amounts for personal use. At the same time, the government has estimated that buying drugs from other countries would do little to influence what they cost here at home.

Third, pass veto-proof legislation to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research:

Some 56 percent of adults support easing restrictions on using federal money to pay for research on embryonic stem cells. Supporters say such research could lead to treatments for everything from Parkinson’s disease to spinal cord injuries. Bush and other opponents say the embryos from which the cells are extracted are human lives that should not be destroyed in the name of science. Bush kept a promise in 2001 when he limited federally funded research to lines of embryonic stem cells that had been created by that time. Last summer, he used the first veto of his presidency to reject a bill that would have directed more federal dollars toward embryonic stem cell research. Democrats have pledged to reverse that outcome, setting up a possible veto showdown with the president.

Other portions of their agenda include instituting the 9/11 commission recommendations and enacting ethics reform………

The brilliance of this is it begins to create the framework for discussion for 2008, while at the same time, instills in the American people the notion that the days of the do-nothing Congress are over. The opinion of the Democrats will go through the roof once some of this legislation is passed– it will be very easy to fill the vacuum the Republicans have left……