“Every generation needs a new revolution.”
-Thomas Jefferson

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Staceyann Chin, National Equality March 10/10/09 photo: Ed Needham

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why is Anthem Blue Cross raising premiums by 39%? (Because they can)

Public Option Anyone?

It seems Anthem Blue Cross will go ahead with previously announced rate hikes of 39% on existing and new health insurance premiums. This is despite best efforts by Dems like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME) [both from states with a sizable Anthem presence] and a tongue lashing on Capitol Hill the past couple days. The increases will start hitting families soon.

Robert Gibbs, the unfortunate White House Spokesman, said at a briefing on Monday that the President is eager to pass his health care plan. The public option will not be part of it, he followed, because the vote count looked overwhelming.

Makes you wonder if we are talking about the same Congress. He surely can't be referring to the same Congress with a House strongly backing a public option and a Senate that now has over twenty Senators signed on to a letter urging Harry Reid and the President to help them fight for it. At a time when the public option is the most popular part of any proposed plan, enjoying support among more than 60% of voters according to a new poll by non-partisan Research 2000? That's nearly twice the amount of support the President's entire plan received, by the way.

Could the difficulty in whipping up votes be a result of zero leadership on the issue from the White House? Did Obama, as speculated by The Huffington Post's Miles Mogulescu, fashion a deal with the health care industry last summer to leave it off the table as he did with big pharma by agreeing to keep Medicare from negotiating prescription drug prices or buy them from Canada?

Makes you wonder what team he is playing for. Remember Candidate Obama? President Obama doesn't.

Read Anthem CEO's PR attempt at explanation in The LA Times here.
Get a quick take here from Eugene Robinson (a favorite of ours) of The Washington Post.
Check out the newest poll on the Obama Plan and the Public Option here. (and sign the petition)
Read the Huffington Post's story on Obama's back room deal with the health care lobby here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

OK, this has nothing to do with anything. (but it is such a hoot)

This cat in Paris does NOT want to go for a walk.
Sérieusement, ce que pensaient-ils?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's the deal with these Pastors leading prayer calling for the death of Pres. Obama?

Not a joke people. There are actually Pastors leading their congregations in prayer calling for God to take Obama from the living. It is generally no longer surprising to us when many of today's Christianists speak of their personalized God. You know, the God that seems to share many of the same human-like hang-ups of the congregations themselves. Their God is vengeful, intolerant, easily Republican, very much an American, and extremely homophobic.

Well, those same Christianists have outdone themselves and actually surprised us with what they are willing to attempt to cloak with religion - calling for the death of the President. John Avalon, author of Wingnuts: How The Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America, tells in The Daily Beast how some Pastors chose to celebrate Presidents Day this year. And we're afraid it isn't an isolated incident. From the article:

At a time when some people confuse losing an election with living under tyranny, it’s perhaps no surprise that a day set aside for marking past presidents’ birth has become, for some, a day for praying for the current president’s death.

Praying for President Obama’s death has become a sick cottage industry for some evangelicals on the lunatic fringe. Bumper stickers, T-shirts, and teddy bears are sold with the wholesome-sounding slogan “Pray for Obama” but tagged with the more troublesome “Psalm 109:8”—which reads “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership” followed by “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”

“If you have an evil leader above you, you pray that Satan will stand by his side and you ask God to make his children fatherless.”

In Wingnut circles, it’s known as the “Imprecatory Prayer.” Offered not just from select pulpits, but increasingly expressed through tweets and forwarded via email, this decidedly un-Christian Christian subculture has found its most enthusiastic advocates in a few Obama Derangement Syndrome-afflicted preachers—notably Orange County’s Wiley Drake and Arizona’s Steven L. Anderson.

Pastor Wiley Drake kicked off this Presidents’ Day Weekend with an email blast to his supporters saying “Imprecatory Prayer is now our DUTY” and announcing a daily teleconference call to advance the cause. Drake has been an enthusiastic advocate of imprecatory prayer since he announced that God answered his call with the murder of Kansas abortion clinic doctor George Tiller in church last May. “George Tiller was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler,” Drake said at the time, “so I am happy. I am glad that he is dead.” This emboldened him to add “the usurper that is in the White House … B. Hussein Obama” to the list said in his church on Sundays.

con'td here

If you feel up to it, here is an AP video with excerpts of Christianist Pastor Steven L. Anderson's sermon. Warning, this video may test your confidence in humanity.

The Brits know a good deal when they hear one. (it's bloody hilarious, too)

Check out this video. A campaign gaining momentum in the UK. We challenge you to find a reason why we shouldn't consider this in the good ol' US of A. Not a tough sell, really. What do you think? Let us know.

For more info: http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/

Don't Ask, Don't Give. That's the deal, Shaquille.

Because justice delayed IS justice denied.

Today, The Deal is proud to join our friends Paul Sousa (Equal Rep), David Mixner, Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog, The Daily Kos, FireDogLake and the many other blogs in the Don't Ask, Don't Give campaign.

Please read on, sign the petition, take the pledge. When our brothers and sisters are denied their civil rights, so are we.

What's the deal? [the following is reposted from AMERICAblog]
We are asking voters to pledge to withhold contributions to the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, and the Obama campaign until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is passed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is repealed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed -– all of which President Obama repeatedly promised to do if elected.

Why are you asking people to take this pledge?
Candidate Obama promised during the campaign to be the gay community’s “fierce advocate.” He and the Democratic party have not kept their promise.

Can you give examples of how the President and Democrats have not been fierce advocates for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans?

But won’t your pledge hurt Democrats?
It never hurts Democrats to keep their promises to the voters. The American people respect strong leaders who have the courage to stick to their beliefs. And it will only help Democrats in the next election to stand by their commitments to a core constituency. If Democratic voters aren't motivated, they won't vote. We are concerned that the President's failure to fulfill his promises may suppress voter participation not only from gay Democrats, but from our families, friends and allies. In a very real way, this is an effort to ensure that we get-out-the-vote in 2010, 2012 and beyond.

But if you don’t give money to the DNC, won’t that help elect Republicans who are even worse on gay issues, and other issues Democrats care about?
We are not calling for a boycott of donations to the DNC. We are simply calling for a pause until the party follows through on its campaign promise to repeal DADT and DOMA, and pass ENDA. The party will get the same donations it would have gotten, when the promises are kept. The Democrats could choose to make good on their promise today. And by doing so, they will only further motivate the Democratic base to again turn out for the next election, a decidedly good thing.

You have to admit, gay rights is controversial – wouldn’t it be political suicide for Democrats to push gay rights?
Democrats should not have promised to support gay civil rights rights in exchange for our votes if they never intended to keep the promise. If we're not controversial during the campaign, when politicians are happy to accept our votes and our money, we cannot accept being labeled controversial after our candidates win. We kept our part of the bargain, we voted for Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress. It’s entirely reasonable for us to ask our elected officials to keep their part of the bargain too.

What's more, gay rights are not controversial. Americans favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military by a margin of 69% - 26%.  By a margin of 57% - 37%, "A clear majority of Americans (57%) favors allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples." That can't happen if DOMA is the law.  And in fact, if these civil rights promises were controversial, they would have hurt candidate Obama at the polls. But, he proudly and loudly proclaimed his support for LGBT equality, and he won.

No matter how disappointed you are, aren’t Democrats still better than Republicans?
The Republican party is terrible on gay issues. That doesn’t excuse the Democratic party breaking specific promises to the gay community made in exchange for our votes. We didn’t break our promise at the ballot box, the Democrats shouldn’t break theirs after we helped put them into office.

President Obama has only been in office less than a year, why the rush?
In less than a year, serious damage has already been done to the President’s commitments to the gay community. The problem isn’t only that he hasn’t been quick enough to fulfill his promises, it’s that he has actually backtracked on his promises and hurt the cause of civil rights and our community, as detailed above.

But aren’t there bigger priorities than gay rights for the Democrats to deal with, like health care and the economy?
Would President Obama, the DNC and the Congress tell other minorities that their civil rights aren't important? The suggestion is that Democrats have more important things on the table. When won't Democrats have more important priorities than the civil rights of gays and lesbians? Will there ever be a day, a year, an administration, when the President and the Congress won't have serious crises to deal with? Suggesting that gay Americans and their friends and families wait until the President and Congress have nothing else to do is not only insulting, it's a recipe for never. And regardless, we trust that this President, unlike the previous, can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Who is behind this effort?
John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, two longtime political operatives in Washington, DC, and the editors of AMERICAblog.com. AMERICAblog has raised over $300,000 for Democratic candidates and progressive causes, including nearly $50,000 for then-candidate Barack Obama, supported by AMERICAblog early in the primaries. The boycott is cosponsored by Daily Kos, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Andy Towle and Michael Goff of Towle Road, Paul Sousa (Founder of Equal Rep in Boston), Pam Spaulding, Robin Tyler (ED of the Equality Campaign, Inc.), Bil Browning for the Bilerico Project, and soon others.

You can contact us at: dncboycott@gmail.com

How can I help?
Sign the pledge, tell your friends about this campaign, read the blog, and stay tuned for updates and action alerts on how you help make sure that the President, the Congress and the Democratic party keep their promises to the LGBT community, our families, our friends and our allies.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What's the deal with Lent? (Clarity of purpose, anyone?)

Theologian, author and activist, Jim Wallis explains why he observes Lent and why now is a perfect time to do so.

As with most traditions and rituals, the practice of observing Lent has evolved over the years.  But sometimes evolution brings us further from original purpose. Fasting was always the traditional method of observance (and by fasting, I do not mean refraining from chocolate). As Wallis puts it "Fasting is intended to cleanse the body, clear the mind, create some time and space, nourish the spirit, and focus the heart."

There must be something to fasting or it wouldn't be found in all the major religions. "Cleanse, ...clear, ...create time and space, ...nourish, ...focus," sound good? Sign me up, right?  Wallis plops Lent and fasting right down in middle of now, amidst all the confusion, noise, need, struggle and cynicism today holds for each of us. He does what he does best. He makes god relevant. Not by explaining what god is and interpreting a dogma to adhere to as so many are want to do. But by bringing us back to original purpose and connecting our post-modern souls to that which might provide a sense of the holiness amidst the dissonance of our daily lives.  In his case, the context is Christianity. Yet, as the case of traditional Christianity (but not the modern Christianist interpretation), the practice is not exclusive to other religions or belief systems.

Wallis observes, "Sometimes things get so bad that you really don't know what to say or do. When that happens, it's a good time to fast and pray. Now, it's always a good time for fasting and praying -- especially during Lent, which begins this week." Good point. In my own experience, I do not always pray from a place of routine or belief it will improve my situation. Frequently, and especially of late, it is because I do not know what else to do. And, as many far wiser men, like Wallis, have observed, the power of desperation may move mountains. Lord knows, there are many mountains to be moved today. So many mountains, it may be overwhelming to determine where we might begin. Wallis suggests we might stop and observe the overly obvious. We might do well to begin with ourselves.

Find his article here on The Huffington Post.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear God, what's the deal with Texas? (No, really, what's up?)

In the Texas State Board of Education's quest to save the future of Christianity, US history, education and our democracy, - they must crucify each.

How you ever seen, read, or been exposed to something and been so viscerally offended on multiple levels that you simply do not know where to begin? I get that every once in a great while when something comes into my purview and I sit aghast, mouth agape, unable to find the words to communicate my disappointment with the human condition.

This, my friends, is one of those times. Except, here, my repulsion is matched by my sense of duty (ie. ego) to shine whatever meager light I might muster on this train wreck of a truly American moment.

In his article in The Times Magazine last week, Russell Shorto brings us inside the Texas State Board of Education, it's members, and current undertakings. For many of us who follow issues at the nexus of the US church/state relationship, the mere mention of the Texas State Board of Ed (TSBE) is enough to make your knees knock. It is an ongoing and bloodied battlefield between those who would preserve the separation of church and state and those who are driven to rewrite American history, utilizing the state's public school system to indoctrinate children (aka, the future leaders of America) in a human, national and world view skewed to a grotesque misrepresentation of Christianity.

What's the big deal with what Texas decides to do? Because it is a very, very big deal. The Texas public school system is the largest single unified state school system in the country. (California's has the most students but the school systems within the state have more diversity in their approaches to curriculum.) As the biggest market for the country's multi-billion dollar textbook industry, Texas, essentially, gets to decide what goes in them. And the rest of the states get to buy them. As a long time player in the textbook industry put it in the article "Texas governs 46 or 47 states." Ouch. It seems, in terms of our children's education in this country, as goes Texas, so goes the nation.

The TSBE boasts a cohesive minority of seven (out of fifteen) self-proclaimed "christian fundementalists" who have a clear and very public agenda and are as serious as they are dangerous.  While the Times article focuses on the recent campaign to revise American history to integrate the "Christian "truth"(sic) of America's founding," the much publicized recent history of the board's contemplative work includes the expected - failing to insert creationism into the science curriculum by one vote, schools now must teach evolution as a theory with scientific "strengths and weaknesses"; to the surprising - the banning of books by Bill Martin, Jr, author of the subversive classic "Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?" and nearly three hundred other childrens titles. How did this latter decree get passed down? Not through voracity of research. It seems a TSBE board member was informed by another member of a book entitled "Ethical Marxism", "who suggested that anyone who wrote a book with such a title did not belong in the TEKS [ie. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or the states official curriculum guidelines. -ed.]." The author of this book was Bill Martin. No relation to Bill Martin Jr, but, apparently, close enough for the board to pass the amendment along with hundreds of others it considers with great, but not precise, dexterity.

This year's initiative for the TSBE Christianist voting bloc is history. U.S. history to be precise. The pile of amendments attempt to re-write American history to portray the founding of our country to be an emphatically Christian endeavor. Unsurprisingly, they rarely refer to the Declaration of Independance and never the Constitution. Why? Because, as nearly the unanimous community of history scholars point out, while the majority of this country's founders identified themselves as Christian, they intentionally refrained from using any Christian of biblical language in the either the Declaration or the Constitution. At the core of religious freedom, they believed, was the prevention of a state religion. But the TSBE has a well documented history of not letting facts stand in their way of truth, as though saying something repeatedly and with conviction will eventually make it true.  From the article: "Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians. “Many of us recognize that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our country and that many of our founding documents had a basis in Scripture. As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

Instead, the revisionists point to other documents such the The Mayflower Compact and from there draw their evidence. As Shorto writes "The language in the Mayflower Compact — a document that McLeroy and several others involved in the Texas process are especially fond of — describes the Pilgrims’ journey as being “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith” and thus instills the idea that America was founded as a project for the spread of Christianity. In a book she wrote two years ago, Cynthia Dunbar, a board member, could not have been more explicit about this being the reason for the Mayflower Compact’s inclusion in textbooks; she quoted the document and then said, “This is undeniably our past, and it clearly delineates us as a nation intended to be emphatically Christian.” See? "Emphatically."

While the Christianists operate with impressive zeal around the assumption that "the true picture of America’s Christian founding has been whitewashed by 'the liberal agenda,'" there continues to be an equally zealous community holding them somewhat accountable to reality, namely, historians. A casualty of the situation has been the subject of religion in our schools. Where the Board and it's theocratic counterparts haven't succeeded into injecting their warped view of Christianity into the country's textbooks, there is little material on the subject as a whole. The topic is such a lightening rod, textbook publishers have opted to stay away from the subject completely except when pressured to do so by the folks who write the checks. This is a pity. The subject brings with it exceptional insight into the history of our country and other cultures. It is truly ironic that the work of a small group of evangelicals to weave their beliefs into the fabric of the country has resulted in the misrepresentation of one religion and the exclusion of the others. But for now, that irony is lost on the Texas State Board of Education and it falls to us to "save" them (and our children) from themselves.

click here for Russell Shorto's piece in The New York Times.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama a socialist? Puh-lease. EJ Dionne on the deal with the teabaggers and the world they came from.

What fuels the grass roots rage:  
So what exactly is the Tea Party movement and why has it risen up?
E.J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post

"The ferocity of its opposition to President Obama is mystifying to political progressives. Most of the left simply doesn't see him as especially liberal, let alone "socialist."

Obama, after all, is the man who saved the banks and the capital markets. Now the bankers are secure and most of them are still rich.

His health-care proposals stopped far short of the single-payer system that so many liberals have long sought, and his plan is the kind of thing moderate Republicans offered back when they were a significant force. Obama put absolutely no political muscle behind the progressives' backup idea: a public option that could have served as a beachhead for a single-payer system."


9 & 1/2 years later. Just as hard to deal with.

From the AP and NYT

Aerial Photos of Trade Center on 9/11 Released

"Newly released aerial photographs of the World Trade Center terror attack capture the towers’ collapse, from just after the first fiery plane strike to the dust clouds that spread over Lower Manhattan and New York harbor."


Hey, what's the deal with Iran and the Green Revolution these days?

Daily Beast contributor and Iranian-American revolutionary, Jason Shams, just got back from Tehran. He totally knows.

The Revolt About to Rock Iran

From sabotaging loudspeakers to circumventing Internet firewalls, Jason Shams—who spent months fighting in the streets of Tehran—reveals some of the underground machinery that fuels the protests. Plus, Michael Adler on the race to stop Iran’s nuclear regime.

Posted using ShareThis

What's the deal with Uganda, Part 2. (stuff you can do about US exported hate/violence in religious packaging)

Thanks to the good people of The Nation Magazine. If you've heard about this, check out the article. If you haven't heard about this, watch the video clip, count to ten, take a deep breath, count to ten again, and read the article.

Ten Things to Oppose the Anti-Gay Legislation in Uganda 

"Although homosexuality is criminalized in 80 countries, the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 is the most egregious attempt to sanction homophobia and threaten the human rights of all its citizens. The bill, introduced by parliamentary member David Bahati and strongly influenced by US religious right, previously called for the death penalty for "any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex," now making homosexual conduct punishable by up to life imprisonment. Other features of the bill include extraterritorial jurisdiction to punish gay Ugandans living out of state and up to three years imprisonment for anyone who refuses to report the existence of any perceived LGBTI individuals to the police. "


 Transforming Uganda / high resolution from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo.



Worth a thousand words. Or, what's the deal with these pictures.

From TX Gov. Rick Perry rally:

From our friends at the American Progressive Party:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Controversy, Vancouver and the Olympics, Part 2.

More of the story behind the story, by Dave Zirin of The Nation.  It is a fascinating time in Vancouver, BC.

When Snow Melts: Vancouver’s Olympic Crackdown 



Dear God, save us from religion. (part one)

During the last couple centuries, a curious thing began to change within the major religions of the world. Previously, religion was more of a knack or skill among followers. A guide to become more knowing of God through ritual, myth and metaphor. It was taken for granted that one could not know God through logic or knowledge or words or reason. God transcended reason, knowledge, language. The holy books of the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, Baghavad Gita and Upanishads were full of parables, myths, great stories that through their repeated telling and retelling, ritualized enacting and meditiation on, would provide an path to enlightenment, a way to understand truth for those who sought a closer relationship with God.

Thence came the ironically named Age of Enlightenment (aka Age of Reason, which is far more apt) and the importance of myth and metaphor as a necessary way to understand our world, God and ourselves, fell victim to rationality, empiricism and the scientific method. While in terms of Christianity, the questioning of the religious institutions and orthodoxies of the time did lead to the eruption of religions that placed man in direct relationship with God, it did so at a cost made more evident later. Within a couple hundred years, the philosophical decendents of Martin Luther and John Calvin had all but cast aside any hint of metaphor and parable. Now, instead of the Bible providing a path to "know" God or to know the "truth", it is seen by many, for the first time in Man's history, as nonfiction. Self-described Christians measure their faith by the unquestioned acceptance of the Bible as dogma much to the chagrin of two thousand years of history. As a result, myth understood as fact, has seriously removed man from God rather than the other way around.

Evidence of this is everywhere and it is not encouraging. But God may be making a comeback. A greater number of mainstream Protestant religious groups are moving past the self-limiting boundaries of the literalists.  Symbolism and parable may be making a comeback, cultural context is not seen as a threat to truth. Slowly, larger numbers of modern pilgrims are seeking a relationship with God by knowing him through action and experience rather than trying to know him through mistaking myth and metaphor as fact.

Perhaps we are exiting the Age of Reason and maybe it is a good thing. One can't really run "God is Love" through the scientific method. But that's ok. There's plenty enough facts to go around these days, it is truths we seem to be short on, truths we are hungry for, and truths that can begin to light our way.

My current two favorite theologians:

Rabbi Micheal Lerner in 2006 with Tim Russert on Meet the Press. A brief look at the religious right in America.

Karen Armstrong makes her TED Prize wish: the Charter for Compassion.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is the Deal with Sarah Palin? Why she is good for the Democratic Party. [and it's not why you think]

The woman is a phenomenon. I think everyone can pretty much agree on that. The majority of the country believes she should never, ever, be in the same room as the nuclear "football." In the months following John McCain's ill-fated announcement that the freshman Alaskan Governor was to be his running mate for the 2008 Presidential election, the more Americans heard from her, the less they thought of her. Some of the more glaring examples were those prominent Republicans who, in those 10 long weeks between her arrival on the scene and the election, broke Pres. Reagan's Eleventh Commandment, "Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican." These included noted conservatives like George Will, David Broder, Kathleen Parker, Charles Krauthammer, Ross Douthat and former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, who noted in the New York Times, "How serious can [McCain] be," Frum wrote even before Palin appeared at the GOP convention, "if he would place such a neophyte second in line to the presidency?"

So Sarah Palin is good for the Democrats because, by comparison, she makes them look like God's gift to good Government? No. Not even she could pull off that sort of miracle these days. No, Sarah Palin is good for the Democrats because she gathers all the crazies under one roof. This, in the long run, will be good for the Republicans, and, in turn, a good deal for the Dems, too. Stay with me.

The recent Brown/Coakley election in MA has somewhat obscured an even more telling election in NY last fall when Palin (along with MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty, fmr. Majority Leader Dick Army and right-wing talk radio) endorsed conservative outsider Doug Hoffman over local GOP nominee Dierdre Scozzafava. This was a very visible display of a Tea Party/GOP rift that has continued to foment since the 2008 elections. Those familiar with the race for US Senate in Florida know this is already the next visible street fight between these two forces. Gov. Charlie Crist started out with a very healthy lead last year but has given up all that ground to fmr. FL House Speaker, Marc Rubio. A lengthy article on the race and Rubio (linked below) in the NYT last month was entitled "The First Senator from the Tea Party."

In what may the most ironic display of political identification of our time, the figure most heralded by both Teabaggers and their GOP counterparts is fmr. Pres. Ronald Reagan, the man whose 11th. Commandment they run roughshod over.  Reagan was notably committed to the idea of a Republican big tent. That philosophy contributed to two solid elections and a party re-energized for the first time following Watergate. Yet, Palin and her Partiers are about to bring down the tent in Florida.

If, on August 23rd, Rubio goes on to defeat Crist in Florida's US Senate election and Ms. Palin has all but made her 2012 run for the Presidency official, it is powerful good news for the Democrats. But not for the reason you think.  Yes, a healthy Tea Party movement involved in the 2010 midterm elections is great news for democratic candidates during a time when, at least to date, there is little to no great news. Nor should there be. Save for a few Congressman/Congresswomen and even fewer Senators, there really isn't much reason to vote Democratic this year except for the fact that they are not Republicans. Though some do come exceedingly close by definition. And a strong Sarah Palin run for the Presidency in 2012 is one of the exceedingly few scenarios that would clinch a second term for Mr. Obama. While both these developments mean great short term gains for the Democratic Party, a long term, more ellusive benefit is also moved into play.

Politics is like tennis. Your game can only improve when you play with someone your equal or better.  Leadership issues aside, the democrats are currently flailing, in large part, because the GOP is an awful mess. Since the '08 elections there has been not a scintilla of cohesion in the party. Sure, members of congress still step before microphones and repeat mantras of "lower taxes" and "cut spending" but this is a planetary distance from a strategy, let alone a uniting raison dêtre. By default, the GOP has become the party of "no." As it turns out, this hasn't been good for the Dems, the GOP or, most importantly, American citizens. Instead of Democratic initiatives being challenged by Republican initiatives and then put through the fire of constructive debate with an outcome that may disappoint some on both sides but come closer to the goals both sought, Democratic initiatives have been met with obstinance and procedural gridlock. It should not be a surprise that this lesser strategy from the GOP has inflicted damage on the Dems. It is very difficult for the Dems to rise to the occasion when they are wrestling in the gutter. A certain amount of leadership is required to rise above this sophomoric fray and return to the ideas that were supposedly ushered to the steps of Capitol Hill in '08. Neither the legislative nor the executive branch is offering anything of the sort so far. But this is a topic for a different article.

To be at it's best, the Democratic Majority must have a healthy opposition party. Why do minority parties occasionally meld into a significant force (ie. Gingrich and the "Contract for America")? Because they must. Just as the arts gorge in meaning and talent during oppressive regimes or political movements galvanize when forced underground, desperation is a powerful motivator for the underrepresented. Presently, the GOP desperately lacks a voice, a mission, a raison dêtre (much more so than the Dems who seem to have stepped away from theirs temporarily). Sarah Palin can save the party.

The former Governor of Alaska's success will accelerate a 'coming to Jesus' moment for the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. A recent National Review poll of over a hundred GOP leaders found Sarah Palin in 5th place (after MS Governor Haley Barbour) as the most likely to get the nomination in 2012. Compare that with the reception Ms. Palin received this week at the Tea Party Convention and at most all of her public appearances, and anyone can see a storm brewing on the horizon. Fortunately for everyone, this has little to do with Ms. Palin herself and much more to do with the angry and vocal political vein she has tapped. She brings a fresh face and attractive demeanor to the table. But that's about it. She is riding a disgruntled, populist, culturally isolated and near jingoistic wave of folks who don't place much stock in experience or book learnin' and are pleased as punch with the former beauty queen as their spokesperson. Even if she isn't politically in alignment with much of the Tea Party precepts, no one seems to mind on either side.

As the primaries for 2010 continue and the presidential primary for 2012 draws closer, lines will begin to form and sides taken. Where and how the showdown happens, one can't be sure. Will it wait till the Republican Convention (either Tampa, Phoenix or Salt Lake City)? Or will races such the Senate race in FL bring this pot to a boil well before then?  Either way, between now and the 2012 general elections the GOP is going to be forced to into a crisis of identity. And that will be good for them, good for the Dems, and, especially, good for the people.

Read more about the Crist/Rubio race for US Senate in FL:

The First Senator from the Tea Party?
by Mark Leibovich
NYT 1/6/10

Friday, February 5, 2010

How long must we wait (ie. must we fight) for citizen-funded elections? As long as it takes says Lawrence Lessig of The Nation (and so do we).

To a borrow a forty-year-old metaphor from John Dean, there is a cancer growing in our democracy and it has metastasized into the lifeblood of every policy proposal that might be construed as having even a short-term negative impact on corporate or significant private wealth. It is not because we have immoral or corrupt politicians or because the modern robber-barons sit atop their fortunes ready to crush the simplest form of citizen empowerment. It is a fault of a system which has never matched the cleverness large sums of money can produce. And, perhaps, it never shall. What can and must be done is a grassroots movement to end the choke-hold campaign contributions and corporate influence has on our government.  We must meet this cancer with a blast of grassroots chemotherapy and repeat whenever necessary. And we must do it with all speed, courage and conviction as though the very life of our democracy hung in the balance. Because it does.

Take the time to read Lessig's piece.

How to Get Our Democracy Back:

If You Want Change, You Have to Change Congress

By Lawrence Lessig 

"The point is simple, if extraordinarily difficult for those of us proud of our traditions to accept: this democracy no longer works. Its central player has been captured. Corrupted. Controlled by an economy of influence disconnected from the democracy. Congress has developed a dependency foreign to the framers' design. Corporate campaign spending, now liberated by the Supreme Court, will only make that dependency worse. "A dependence" not, as the Federalist Papers celebrated it, "on the People" but a dependency upon interests that have conspired to produce a world in which policy gets sold."

Staceyann Chin can deal with civil rights.

Staceyann Chin performed this piece at the National Equality March in September of '09. I had the honor of working on the March and spoke briefly with Staceyann following her performance. She glows and resonates as do her words.

Corporations are people, too. (no, really)

The recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission brushes away bothersome restrictions to political contributions on behalf of corporations. All in the name of freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment. So you'd better get on the stick and start making some six figure contributions to your Congressman. After all, you'd like him to return your calls, too, right?

Great coverage below by PBS and NPR.

Supreme Court Rips Up Campaign Finance Laws 

by Deborah Tedford

The decades-old system of rules that govern the financing of the nation's political campaigns was partially upended by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued just ahead of the pivotal 2010 midterm congressional election season.

Thursday's landmark decision, approved by a 5-4 margin, could unleash a torrent of corporate and union cash into the political realm and transform how campaigns for president and Congress are fought in the coming years.


Not the Vancouver you remember.

Vancouver is rife with tension with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games around the corner. Citizens and community groups are upset with how the city's poor, homeless, and vulnerable have been trodden over in hopes of an economic bonanza for some. Protests have been planned for weeks and will surely be a stark contrast to the games themselves. The story has been picked up by foreign news outlets with commentary such as this from the Sunday Times of Australia “North America’s festering sore of what do with its homeless and disenfranchised is crystallized in a few short blocks.” Not a nice picture, is it? The New York Times article by Greg Bishop below provides some depth.

photo: Wendell Phillips

The New York Times.

In the Shadow of the Olympics.
Greg Bishop

"Host cities have long been accused of sanitizing rough areas in the run-up to the Olympics. Government efforts were taken to another level for the 2008 Beijing Games, as historical neighborhoods were bulldozed in a slum-clearance program. Vancouver’s actions, though less drastic, have drawn objections from some community groups; at a protest Monday they called the information center propaganda and whitewashing."

Howard Dean on why Dems lost MA Senate seat on night of the election. Love this man.

"This is like Washington was when I got there five years ago. You know, the Democrats really weren't sure they were Democrats. If you want to win, you actually can't sort of move to the middle and become a Republican. You've got to stand up and stand for the things that you got elected on and that the Democratic Party believes in and we haven't seen that in the healthcare bill and I think that's part of the problem."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Boston demonstration one of the many events around the country in response to Prayer Breakfast/Ugandan bill

Tonight, activists turned out in 20 degree blustery weather to protest the US involvement in the Ugandan anti-gay bill. Organized by Join the Impact-MA and the Anti-Violence Project of MA, the speakers included Rev. Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates (PRA), a progressive think tank and right-wing monitoring group. Rev. Kaoma recently published a study on the Ugandan situation and the US detailing the direct involvement in this and other African anti-gay actions of American's such as Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA.

For Rev. Kaoma's paper and more information on radical right-wing movements from Political Research Associates click here:
The U.S. Christian Right and the Attack on Gays in Africa

Rev. Koama's appearance on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show follows below.

Pam Chamberlin and

Kate Leslie, co-founder, Join the Impact-MA addressing the rally outside the JFK Federal Building in Downtown Boston, 2/4/10.

Look, more talk. Seen any walk?

Obama and Clinton address group behind the prospective Ugandan law requiring death penalty for homosexuality.

Obama, Clinton Address Prayer Breakfast | News | Advocate.com

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both spoke out against religious-based discrimination against gay people — including a Uganda bill that calls for the imprisonment and execution of gay people — at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.

Bernie knows best

A recent article The Nation by the Senator from Vermont. He continues to show a commitment to Democratic Party principles despite fewer and fewer colleagues at his side.

Blueprint for Dems: Where do we go from here?
By Sen. Bernie Sanders

In my view, the Democrats--including the president--have absurdly continued to stumble along the path of "bipartisanship" at exactly the same time the Republicans have waged the most vigorous partisan and obstructionist strategy in recent history.

Andrew Sullivan coins "Christianists" in May of '06

Few are better skilled at naming hypocrisy than Andrew Sullivan. One of the most prolific bloggers around, Sullivan identifies himself as gay, roman catholic and a political conservative.

My Problem with Christianism
By Andrew Sullivan

Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented by the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.