On Being Democrat

Political rhetoric against Democrats may become even more malevolent during the next two years. We need to listen to our own hearts and state our case with eloquence, passion, diversity and truth about why we are Democrats. This is not your typical blog. Democrats have an attention span that can handle philosophical discussions. Please help make this column become a voice to one another and send your thoughts to valsmith_4@msn.com

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Location: Spokane, Washington, United States

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Can truth, justice and logic prevail? - Tom McGarry

How an entire populace can elect a person to the most powerful position in the entire world (not once, but twice) who has publicly referred to people from Greece as “Grecians” troubles me. When I see the President of the United States holding hands with his good friend and business partner, his Highness Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I am angered.

Try as I might not to be bigoted, I cannot help but remember that the only reason Saudi Arabia has even addressed the issue of terrorism in passing is because the Saudi regime has experienced bombings within its own borders—to the Saudi government it’s one thing to murder infidels who probably deserved it, but entirely another thing to destabilize the Saudi Royal Family. To President Bush, “business is business.”

We Democrats have developed some kind of a complex. Under President Clinton, we had eight years of relative peace and record prosperity even with a Republican Congress. Despite the fact that President Clinton was in fact one of the greatest Presidents in modern times, he will be remembered for lying about having oral sex in the Oval Office by someone other than his wife (another great leader).

On the other hand many Americans think that Ronald Reagan was so great he should have his mug carved into Mount Rushmore. Under Ronald Reagan, we became a much more cruel and insensitive nation. He reduced poverty by simply raising the income level at which citizens were considered “impoverished.” I always wondered how the Republicans could live with themselves by endorsing such a cynical and artificial gesture. But, then, that’s what Republicanism is all about. Reagan attacked labor on every front—remember the Air Traffic controllers? He wreaked havoc with the environment and mortgaged the future of our great nation to bring more wealth to the wealthy. The public as a whole fell for it hook, line and sinker. People were just as hungry under Ronald Reagan, but Ronald Reagan’s tough talk made us “feel good” and his strategy legitimized the concept of “instant gratification” at the highest levels. By sweeping social problems under the rug and buying weapons (at inflated prices—remember the $600 toilet seats?), we wouldn’t have to deal with the issues now. Since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, it’s all about individualism and amassing personal fortune at the expense of anyone and everyone. Is that Patriotism?

Am I the only American who is troubled by the corporate practice of incorporating in foreign countries to avoid paying their fair share of taxes while running public relations television ads with flags flying in the background telling us how proud they are to be American? The Republican Congress has made it nearly impossible for an individual with overwhelming medical bills to seek relief in the Bankruptcy Courts, but has made it easier for huge corporations to liquidate and eliminate pension funds in Bankruptcy. Now, the same Republican thieves and cutthroats want to “reform” Social Security! We invaded a sovereign nation based upon falsified data because the President had a personal vendetta against its leader (a bastard to be sure, but you don’t invade sovereign countries because of it). Almost two thousand young Americans have died and thousands more permanently maimed because of the lie. Isn’t that an impeachable offense? I guess not.

Maybe Democrats are like me. They are beginning to see the futility in the fight. How can truth, justice and logic prevail against wealth, power and Madison Avenue spin masters who have convinced Americans that they don’t need education, they don’t need leadership, the poor people in this country are poor because of their own actions, that our domestic problems should be solved by building more prisons, and our foreign problems be solved via alienating historic friends and invading countries with whom the President has a personal vendetta, etc.? Am I the one who is out of step?

Tom McGarry

We can prepare to leave - Ian Graham

Don't ya just love common sense when you hear it? This is one of those times and I am pleased to share the following commentaries...Val

I remember sitting in the control room of the college radio and hearing the bells go off on the wire machines. One after another they rang a rare drumbeat of five bells. . . the code for the death of a president, or of a nation. This was the night of the final fall of Saigon.

Outside, demonstrators marched proclaiming that we had a duty to stay until the "mission" was accomplished. Only no one could agree anymore what that mission was.

30 years later, I hear the same talk. Over a year after being draped in the flag on a carrier and declaring "mission accomplished" -Bush says this week that we must stay until the mission is accomplished. Only now no one can agree on what that mission is.

You are so correct. It is time for Operation Homecoming. It is time for America to realize that we have created our enemies best recruiting tool. It's time to bring the troops home.

You asked earlier How Much is Enough. I don't know. It is pretty evident we've had more than enough already though.


I agree that "pull out and go now" is NOT the answer.

We should establish clear metrics for what conditions we WILL leave under. X numbers of troops trained, elections and constitution in place, etc.

We can also improve the situation internationally AND in Iraq by pledging PUBLICLY and NOW that we will under no circumstances have permanent bases in Iraq.

We can at least do THAT much.

Ian Graham

Batten Down the Hatches - Molly Ivins

I was particularly delighted with Molly's first statement: never let anyone else define what you believe, or what you are for or against. Through the years I have heard statements about the beliefs of different religious denominations, political groups, and entities, and then had the opportunity to listen to an individual from one of these groups explaining the beliefs of the group. Often the person's beliefs were quite different than what I had heard them to be from others. I also find it ironic how often the tenets of a group that is predicated as a "cult" are similar to the beliefs of the group that is excoriating them.

I hope that this finds you all well, and filled with much Peace and Joy!

Scott Kuhle

Batten Down the Hatches

By Molly Ivins, http://www.alternet.org Posted June 28, 2005.

Setting up a straw man, calling it liberal and then knocking it down has become a favorite form of "argument" for those on the right.

The first thing I ever learned about politics was never to let anyone else define what you believe, or what you are for or against. I think for myself.

I am not "you liberals" or "you people on the left who always..." My name is Molly Ivins, and I can speak for myself, thank you. I don't need Rush Limbaugh or Karl Rove to tell me what I believe.

Setting up a straw man, calling it liberal and then knocking it down has become a favorite form of "argument" for those on the right. Make some ridiculous claim about what "liberals" think, and then demonstrate how silly it is. Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and many other right-wing ravers never seem to get tired of this old game. If I had a nickel for every idiotic thing I've ever heard those on the right claim "liberals" believe, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

The latest and most idiotic statement yet comes from Karl Rove, who is not, actually, an objective observer. He is George Bush's hatchet man. Last week, Rove, in an address to the Conservative Party of New York, made the following claim: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

This seemed to the editorial writers at the San Diego Union-Tribune such a reasonable summary of the liberal position they couldn't figure out why Democrats were "hyperventilating" and getting "bent out of shape."

"What is harder to understand is how Democrats can think they can have it both ways," they wrote. "Even as they beat their chests and profess support for military action, they can't help but criticize the military and do everything they can to undermine the war effort." What a deep mystery. Let's see if we can help the San Diego thinkers solve it. On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress approved a resolution authorizing the president to take military action. The vote in the Senate was 98 to zero; the vote in the House was 420 to one. The lone dissenter was Democrat Barbara Lee of California, who expressed qualms about an open-ended war without a clear target. Find me the offer for therapy and understanding in that vote. Anyone remember what actually happened after 9-11? Unprecedented unity, support across the board, joint statements by Democratic and Republican political leaders. The whole world was with us. The most important newspaper in France headlined, "We Are All Americans Now," and all our allies sent troops and money to help. That is what George Bush has pissed away with his war in Iraq.

The vote on invading Iraq was 77 to 23 in the Senate and 296 to 133 in the House. By that time, some liberals did question the wisdom of invasion because: A) Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and B) it looked increasingly unlikely that Iraq actually had great stores of weapons of mass destruction, since the United Nations inspectors, who were on the ground, couldn't find any sign of them -- even though Donald Rumsfeld claimed we knew exactly where they were.

Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I'll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today -- I think it is bad for us. I think it has done nothing but harm to the United States of America. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did.

I did not oppose the war because I like Saddam Hussein. I have been active in human rights work for 30 years, and I told you he was a miserable s.o.b. back in the '80s, when our government was sending him arms.

I did not oppose the war because I am soft on terrorists or didn't want to get Osama bin Laden. To the contrary, I thought it would be much more useful to get bin Laden than to invade Iraq -- which, once again, had nothing to do with 9-11. I believe the case now stands proved that this administration used 9-11 as a handy excuse to invade Iraq, which it already wanted to do for other reasons.

It is one thing for a political knife-fighter like Karl Rove to impugn the patriotism of people who disagree with him: We have seen this same crappy tactic before, just as we have seen administration officials use 9-11 for political purposes again and again. But how many times are the media going to let them get away with it?

The first furious assault on the patriotism of Democrats came right after the 9-11 commission learned President Bush had received a clear warning in August 2001 that Osama bin Laden was planning a hijacking.

Batten down the hatches: This is the beginning of an administration push to jack up public support for the war in Iraq by attacking anyone with enough sense to raise questions about how it's going.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sorrowfully...We can't leave

I wrestle with the question of bringing our troops home. I want them out of the senseless situation where life is vulnerable to unseen enemies.

The cost of Iraqi and American lives since our arrogant invasion is estimated over 100,000. On both sides, thousands are maimed; mourn the loss of their family members and disrupted lives...and face many years of sorrow ahead.

I ache for the daily loss of lives on both sides...and am ashamed of the price that Iraqis who step forward to help their country regain equilibrium and a democratic way of life (our imperative dictum) are paying as they die for a cause they didn’t ask for.

I marched against this war. But my conscience says “We broke it ...we need to fix it...we can’t leave”. It would be a disservice to all those who have given their lives to support us.

It is immoral for America to create a chaotic and dangerous mess and then ask the victims to clean it up.

We must recognize how our patriotism can be twisted and used to manipulate us into actions we come to regret.

America is all of us... we hold responsibility through our past and future votes.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Thank you Justin

Hi, i am very impressed with your story. I am a 19 yr old student in Georgia who has lost a sense of value in the flag with 911 due to constant overexposure. I really felt that it was demeaning how you can go to a truckstop and find an american flag even in the restroom, but with your story of protest, i can almost remember what its there for. It's also painful to hear the negative response that you recieved.It really goes to show how we can act so irrational at war time. But thank you for the reminder. - Justin

Thank you, Justin from Georgia. Your words give me hope to keep writing from the heart. I write because I must....but I didn't know if anyone was listening. You gave me a gift.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Diary of a Demonstrator

Today polls are showing a majority of Americans are not supportive of the war in Iraq, I am remembering how it felt to stand in the minority two years ago. Val Smith

Diary of a Demonstrator: July 2003

Sometimes I struggle to capture the facts that back up intuitive leaps to conclusions. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer. Like the world wide intuitive response that an aggressive invasion of Iraq was a really offensive idea. (Pardon the pun).

I found myself demonstrating against the idea of war last November on the streets of Spokane, knowing intuitively there was a need to stand up and be counted.

I am 65 years old. This is new behavior for me. It is also physically painful and sometimes I think I cannot walk all the way. But the idea of innocents being maimed and killed, (including the men and women of our military forces) makes my pain inconsequential. I go back again and again, thankful that someone organized a way for me to express my concerns.

I did not have a sign, so I took my American flag. There was no other flag present and I wondered if I had broken some unwritten rules about protest demonstrations. Someone questioned the aluminum pole that held it up as being interpreted by law enforcement as a weapon. But no one said to put it away.

One person quietly said “Thank you”. An older man challenged me as to why I carried it. I stated “Because it guarantees Americans the right to protest”. He nodded and explained that as a youth, he been involved in miner’s strikes in Pennsylvania. The federal strike breakers sent in had carried such flags and the resultant pain he had suffered was associated with the flag.

On my second foray out, I brought the flag and again it was the only one there. A fellow demonstrator thanked me. “You are the ‘flag lady’ and have reminded us that this is our flag too and that we should take it back”.

The third time out, I brought three flags to share with other marchers and was amazed to see the idea had blossomed into a crowd of flags of all sizes. This was the largest demonstration with thousands from across the social and economic strata. There were elderly nuns and grizzled military veterans, business men in suits and punkers in costume, seniors and teenagers, parents with children in strollers, Democrats and Republicans. It was awesome. The crowd was extremely well behaved and there were no signs of wanting to do damage or inconvenience anyone. They stopped at the lights and stayed on the sidewalk and waved to the crowd.

Waving to the crowd continues to be an interesting experience. Drivers of tall SUVs stare straight ahead and pretend that we are not there. Folks in lowly Hondas tend to beep and wave. Guys in pick-up trucks are experts in one fingered salutes. I wondered if those who were unwilling to make eye contact …had not yet figured out how they felt about impending war. Certainly the smilers and wavers knew where they stood.

A couple of young women pull up at a stoplight. One leaned out to call me an “F…’ing bitch”. I lean back and ask “Are you registered to vote yet?” (Guess I broke the rule, not to engage, just keep smiling).

Passing a women bystander on Riverside who was weeping copiously, I stopped and asked if she was okay. She smiled through her tears and said “Thank you all, you are demonstrating my feelings about the war that I couldn’t say”.

Stopping at a light across from the Davenport Hotel, I am addressed by a polite young man who has just crossed the street. He sips from a large paper cup of what I presume is a latte. He asked my name. I told him and he introduced himself. He asked where I was from. I said “Spokane”. He replied “I am from the United Arab Emirates”. I shook his hand. He asked why I was marching. I said “ I cannot condone killing innocent people on either side of the war” He nodded, looked seriously at the scene, and quietly slipped into the crowd and walked with us all the way back to Riverfront Park.

Some teens in a passing car yelled “Shame on you…support the troops”. I yell back “I do and I want them home safe”.

A drunk stumbles out of a bar to say “Hey lady, give it up, don’t you know the war has already begun?” I respond “I know, ...I just want our troops home. Starting a war doesn’t mean automatic approval from me”. He nods…and goes back inside.

(I just can’t get the hang of keeping my mouth shut).

A pick-up truck roars by and a guy hollers “Traitor”. Two grade school boys yell “Iraqi Bastards’ while pointing and laughing. Some one yells “get a life”. I think about telling him that ‘I have a life, I want life for those in the way of war”

The latest march is over. A group of teen age boys at Sheridan’s schoolyard, yelled words at me that I know came from adults in their life. I walked around to the side of my car next to the fenced playfield and faced them. I very slowly begin to furl my large American flag, a few inches at a time, carefully straightening the yellow ribbons that now flow from the top. It takes a while, and I never stop looking at their faces. They fall silent. I drive away.

I read the letters to the editors and am amazed at the automatic assumptions about those who march against war. I try the words on. That’s not me.

I marvel at the generalizations, lumping all demonstrators in the same box, as though we are all out breaking laws, destroying property, being unruly and out of control, unpatriotic and uncaring about our military.

I cringe at the evidence that some citizens think it is not okay to have an opinion different from the President.

I marched because I love my country. I want to be proud of how she wields her powers and uses her resources and influence in this world. I want our leadership to be that of statesmanship and diplomacy …leveraging our resources to solve the problems that lead to war. I do not want us to be bullies, just because we can…and there is no nation state to stop us.

I marched because like other parents and grandparents, I cannot countenance wanton waste of the life and futures of our sons and daughters on a dark cause.

Yes, I am proud of our military and want them to be successful and proud of themselves. But I note that they do not represent the full face of our nation. Where are sons and daughters of the old men who send them off to carnage?

I discovered that marching was not enough. It was only the beginning of acting on my conscience. I join those who work hard to support the troops. I fly and wear yellow ribbons for their return. I attend prayer vigils. I pack up gift baggies to show a sign of nurturing. I write letters to the children of my friends in the war zone. I try to find ways to support their wives and children.

I once wanted to lay the responsibility for the dead on the doorstep of the President and Congress. I now understand that we, the citizens, are responsible for the actions of our leaders. We elected them and then didn’t pay attention.

We have a power that we may have forgotten how to exercise…the ballot box.

Now I will fly my flags…and register voters.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How Much is Enough?

How much is enough? This question occurs to me every time I pick up the paper....and read about the excesses of our world.

Today, it is the war on Iraq: How many dead are enough before one side or another proves a point? How many maimed? When does the scale get balanced between their dead and our dead? We lost almost three thousand innocent citizens on 9.11.01. We have killed approximately one hundred thousand men, women and children of Iraq in return. Is it enough yet? They were not responsible for the actions of Saddam nor did they participate in attacking America. I can’t believe that over 45% of Americans still believe they are guilty. What am I missing?

How many of our honorable young men and women have to die or return home with life altering wounds before enough is enough?

What is it we have accomplished? Have we proven our leader had a higher level of testosterone than theirs? Everyone already knew we had more weapons of mass and individual destruction than anyone else in the world...so that was not the question.

When our troops rushed to protect the oil facilities instead of the halls of antiquities...was that a revealing tip-off about our coveting the second largest source of oil in the world?

We allowed the looting of hospitals, schools, and government offices. We allowed a power/leadership vacuum to develop when we dismantled the government structure. We blew the cover of “democratic intent” when we closed down the press. We approved torture via official documents before we planned the war. Is it any wonder we have lost the respect of the world? How much of our international reputation being trashed by our actions is enough?

We showed an empty heart when we did not immediately fix the infrastructure of water, waste disposal, and access to medical services that we bombed into oblivion. How desperate and sick do people have to get?

We showed a greedy soul when we gave the jobs of rebuilding Iraqi industry to American companies and their contractors rather than unemployed hungry Iraqis. Think about the insult of Americans making $500 a day when Iraqi men have no way to feed their families. How much abasement is enough?

After thousands of years of tribal and religious government structure, who are we to come and tell them they have to change? How much ignorant insult is enough? How does this country founded on the establishment of freedom of religion and the right to choose our form of government deny that right to other countries?

When did we lose our minds and begin to believe that bombs and bullets can change beliefs? How have we come to embrace the idea that causing more poverty, hunger and loss of hope can turn around the actions of a desperate people?

Power...world resources...wealth...control? How much is enough in terms of our greed? Dead...wounded...hungry...homeless...hopeless?. How much is enough in terms of the cost paid?

We need to hold our leaders accountable. We have the power to make a difference...one vote at a time. But we need to ask ourselves.....how much is enough?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's About Defense...Mr. Bush!

Contrary to Bush’s notion of obstructionism, Democrats are playing defense to maintain the best parts of America for all of us.

It is damn hard to tackle the quarterback when he is wearing Teflon. You think you got a hold on the issue and then he just wiggles loose again.

We Democrats are playing defense in a game that threatens to take away the gains we made over 50 years to support the ordinary guy on the street.

It’s defense to support public radio and television. A house panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS. The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year and end funding altogether within two years. Geez...how could you not love Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow...and history, the fine arts, and bias free news?

It’s defense to ask about the Downing Street memos. Why is it that the Bush regime is never required to reveal its agendas, memos, studies, consultants, plans, etc.? This is the most secretive government I have seen in my 67 years. We are defending the traditional responsiveness and accountability expected of the government to the people who elected their leaders.

It’s defense to protest the dismantling of the Social Security System. This is an inter-generational promise made to take care of seniors, widows and orphans and the disabled. It would be immoral for this nation to break that promise. It needs tweaking with a raise on the cap, not destruction.

It’s defense to question this regime on its torture policies and record of abuses around the world. America once stood for something great and good. Now we are hated around the world.

It’s defense to question the right to preemptive wars by this government without solid evidence and international support. Wars that takes the lives of our sons and daughters, maims thousands physically and emotionally, kills 100,000 mostly innocent Iraqi men, women and children, dismantles their infrastructures, raises unemployment to 60%, disrespects their culture, history and religions and raises the spector of civil war. What kind of precedent have we set? Who can blame an attack on us again...for we are the threat...the ones with the WMDs and no hesitation to use them.

It’s defense to support NASA and exploration of space and rescue of the wonderful Hubble Telescope rather than put money into more Star War weapons that don’t work.

It’s defense to stand up for cars that conserve gas, renewable energy sources, saving environmental laws rather than defile our nature preserves and spend money on big business so they can mess up the environment even more.

It's defense to stand against the appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations. We need to preserve and improve the UN...it's our creation....not let it be destroyed or disrepected by this man.

It's defense to try and preserve jobs in the U.S.A and stop the outsourcing of our economy. It is in our national interest to preserve the ability to produce and manufacture the sources we need for our infrastructure and safety.

It's defense to protest pharmaceutical companies charging Americans higher prices than around the rest of the world.

It's in defense of our wellbeing to insist on national medical insurance for all at an affordable rate we can all pay into. 40 million Americans should not be without coverage. Businesses should not be penalized by having to provide coverage to attact workers. We can do this better when we take the profit out pain and suffering and fear of illness.

It's defense to protest the taking away of the civil rights that have made America unique in this world by the passing of the Patriot Act during a period of high emotion. The secretive ends do not justify the secretive means.

It's defense to question the budgeting process that gives to the rich, takes away from the poor, bankrupts the nation and leaves the debt to our grandchildren's children. At least we Democrats pay the bills as we go.....and the money goes to improve our nation's wellbeing...not the bottom lines for the privileged.

And the list goes on....It's about Defense ....because we care.

Monday, June 13, 2005

I'm a Democrat...But Not On Blind Faith - David Jeter

The toughest thing about being a democrat is that our ability to create a cohesive platform is hamstrung by our natural ability disagree with everyone. Democrats have a very difficult time believing an issue on blind faith. As President Clinton did, we love to wrestle with the possibilities, when most Americans want a quick, easy, pill to swallow. The reason I am a democrat is that I think that this party believes at least some of the generalizations that I believe:

• Not all people are given the same advantage from the start
• Poor people are poor because they were never taught life skills
• All people deserve a chance to be great
• All people deserve a second chance to be great
• Exploiting vulnerable people is not the way to build an empire
• Creating a society where most people are in the middle class is important
• Immigration is how everyone came to this continent
• We have the ability to meet basic needs for all of our citizens, if we chose to
• Healthcare is a right not a privilege
• Protecting the environment should be a factor in all thought processes
• We cannot compel other nations support us, especially if we bomb them
• We cannot purchase the respect of other nations
• A woman has the right to make choices regarding medical conditions
• A person has the right to be respected about choices at the end of their life

The greatest strength of the Democratic Party is its ability to disagree with all of the above, and begin the conversation that will ultimately improve how are society works.

David Jeter
Spokane, WA

I'm a Democrat because... - Carl Ballard

You inspired me to write this and put it up on the website, thanks!

I'm a Democrat because I believe that we have to help the least among us. If that's healthcare for children, the elderly or the poor, if that's education for people who's family can't afford to send their children to private schools, if that's women who need abortions, when it's gays or African Americans being discriminated against, if it's working folks trying to get a fair shake. I'm a Democrat because the Democrats stand with them.

I'm a Democrat because I understand that the Constitution is more than the just Second Amendment. I'm a Democrat because I understand that the Bible is more than just Ecclesiastes 5:17. Because the Declaration of Independence is more than the words "our creator." Those and other important documents to us have a context that we have to understand.

I'm a Democrat because I understand that law and order means more than just locking people away. We need drug rehab. We need to give people the opportunity not to commit crime. We need to keep people out of desperate straights in the first place.

I'm a Democrat because we're the party that won 2 world wars, ended segregation in America, contained Communism, founded the UN, set up Social Security, saved the Kosavars from genocide, produced the longest economic expansion in American history, and avoided nuclear confrontation in Cuba.

I'm a Democrat because we understand how to balance budgets. At the Federal level, Democrats were responsible for the largest surplus in American history. At the state level, we understand that roads, hospitals, and transit come with a cost, and we're still willing to pay that cost.

I'm a Democrat because Bill Clinton actually caught terrorists.

I'm a Democrat because Jimmy Carter knew how important human rights were to foreign policy.

I'm a Democrat because LBJ ended legal segregation in America.

I'm a Democrat because John Kennedy was willing to look our demons head on and still remind us what a wonderful country this is.

I'm a Democrat because Truman set up a sane international consensus after the Second World War including containing Communism, and the Marshal Plan.

I'm a Democrat because FDR showed us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself as he ended the depression and won World War Two.

I'm a Democrat because Wilson showed the world what a sane foreign policy and America what a sane economic policy would look like.

I'm a Democrat because Democrats haven't sold weapons to Iran. We haven't given aid to the Taliban.

I'm a Democrat because we have humility. Can you imagine a Republican apologizing to the country the way Clinton did after the sex scandal? Let alone the way JFK did after the Bay of Pigs? Taking any personal responsibility for anything? Shit George W. Bush couldn't even figure out anything he's done wrong in 4 years.

I'm a Democrat because we stand for clean elections. Here in Washington we actually passed good legislation dealing with this despite the fact that our problems were much smaller than Florida and Ohio who still haven't done anything to address their problems.

I'm a Democrat because we're the party of cities. We fight for transit. We fight to get people to live near each other. We fight to get affordable housing. We fight to make cities livable. We fight to make cities a great place to work. We fight to make cities engaging.

Finally, I'm a Democrat because of my family. My Mom who worked for Bella Abzug. My Dad who explained to me at a young age that Republicans favored the wealthy, and Democrats stood up for everybody else. My Grandmother who fought the good fight on women's rights her whole life, and my Grandfather who threatened to kick me out of the family when I turned 18 if I voted for a Republican for president (I think he was kidding, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it never happened). I couldn't imagine being anything else.

Carl Ballard - carl-ballard.blogspot.com

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Time to Weep - Ted Sorenson

Ted Sorensen’s Remarks
New School University Commencement
May 21, 2004

This is not a speech. Two weeks ago I set aside the speech I prepared. This is a cry from the heart, a lamentation for the loss of this country’s goodness and therefore its greatness.

Future historians studying the decline and fall of America will mark this as the time the tide began to turn — toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.

For me the final blow was American guards laughing over the naked, helpless bodies of abused prisoners in Iraq. “There is a time to laugh,” the Bible tells us, “and a time to weep.” Today I weep for the country I love, the country I proudly served, the country to which my four grandparents sailed over a century ago with hopes for a new land of peace and freedom. I cannot remain silent when that country is in the deepest trouble of my lifetime.

I am not talking only about the prison abuse scandal — that stench will someday subside. Nor am I referring only to the Iraq war — that too will pass — nor to any one political leader or party. This is no time for politics as usual, in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns and everyone else is blamed.

The damage done to this country by its own misconduct in the last few months and years, to its very heart and soul, is far greater and longer lasting than any damage that any terrorist could possibly inflict upon us.

The stain on our credibility, our reputation for decency and integrity, will not quickly wash away. Last week, a family friend of an accused American guard in Iraq recited the atrocities inflicted by our enemies on Americans, and asked: “Must we be held to a different standard?” My answer is YES. Not only because others expect it. WE must hold ourselves to a different standard. Not only because God demands it, but because it serves our security.

Our greatest strength has long been not merely our military might but our moral authority. Our surest protection against assault from abroad has been not all our guards, gates and guns or even our two oceans, but our essential goodness as a people. Our richest asset has been not our material wealth but our values. We were world leaders once — helping found the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and programs like Food for Peace, international human rights and international environmental standards. The world admired not only the bravery of our Marine Corps but also the idealism of our Peace Corps.

Our word was as good as our gold. At the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, President Kennedy’s special envoy to brief French President de Gaulle, offered to document our case by having the actual pictures of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba brought in. “No,” shrugged the usually difficult de Gaulle: “The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me.” Eight months later, President Kennedy could say at American University: “The world knows that America will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough of war and hate…we want to build a world of peace where the weak are secure and the strong are just.”

Our founding fathers believed this country could be a beacon of light to the world, a model of democratic and humanitarian progress. We were. We prevailed in the Cold War because we inspired millions struggling for freedom in far corners of the Soviet empire. I have been in countries where children and avenues were named for Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. We were respected, not reviled, because we respected man’s aspirations for peace and justice. This was the country to which foreign leaders sent not only their goods to be sold but their sons and daughters to be educated. In the 1930’s, when Jewish and other scholars were driven out of Europe, their preferred destination — even for those on the far left — was not the Communist citadel in Moscow but the New School here in New York.

What has happened to our country? We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross, without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world.

Last year when asked on short notice to speak to a European audience, and inquiring what topic I should address, the Chairman said: “Tell us about the good America, the America when Kennedy was in the White House.” “It is still a good America,” I replied. “The American people still believe in peace, human rights and justice; they are still a generous, fair-minded, open-minded people.”

Today some political figures argue that merely to report, much less to protest, the crimes against humanity committed by a few of our own inadequately trained forces in the fog of war, is to aid the enemy or excuse its atrocities. But Americans know that such self-censorship does not enhance our security. Attempts to justify or defend our illegal acts as nothing more than pranks or no worse than the crimes of our enemies, only further muddies our moral image. Thirty years ago, America’s war in Vietnam became a hopeless military quagmire; today our war in Iraq has become a senseless moral swamp.

No military victory can endure unless the victor occupies the high moral ground. Surely America, the land of the free, could not lose the high moral ground invading Iraq, a country ruled by terror, torture and tyranny — but we did.

Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein — politically, economically, diplomatically, much as we succeeded in isolating Khadafy, Marcos, Mobutu and a host of other dictators over the years, we have isolated ourselves. We are increasingly alone in a dangerous world in which millions who once respected us now hate us. Not only Muslims. Every international survey shows our global standing at an all-time low. Even our transatlantic alliance has not yet recovered from its worst crisis in history. Our friends in Western Europe were willing to accept Uncle Sam as class president, but not as class bully, once he forgot JFK’s advice that “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

All this is rationalized as part of the war on terror.

But abusing prisoners in Iraq, denying detainees their legal rights in Guantanamo, even American citizens, misleading the world at large about Saddam’s ready stockpiles of mass destruction and involvement with al Qaeda at 9/11, did not advance by one millimeter our efforts to end the threat of another terrorist attack upon us. On the contrary, our conduct invites and incites new attacks and new recruits to attack us. The decline in our reputation adds to the decline in our security. We keep losing old friends and making new enemies — not a formula for success. We have not yet rounded up Osama bin Laden or most of the al Qaeda and Taliban leaders or the anthrax mailer. “The world is large,” wrote John Boyle O’Reilly, in one of President Kennedy’s favorite poems, “when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide, but the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side.” Today our enemies are still loose on the other side of the world, and we are still vulnerable to attack.

True, we have not lost either war we chose or lost too much of our wealth. But we have lost something worse — our good name for truth and justice. To paraphrase Shakespeare: “He who steals our nation’s purse, steals trash. T’was ours, tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches our good name… makes us poor indeed.”

No American wants us to lose a war. Among our enemies are those who, if they could, would fundamentally change our way of life, restricting our freedom of religion by exalting one faith over others, ignoring international law and the opinions of mankind; and trampling on the rights of those who are different, deprived or disliked. To the extent that our nation voluntarily trods those same paths in the name of security, the terrorists win and we are the losers. We are no longer the world’s leaders on matters of international law and peace. After we stopped listening to others, they stopped listening to us. A nation without credibility and moral authority cannot lead, because no one will follow.

Paradoxically, the charges against us in the court of world opinion are contradictory. We are deemed by many to be dangerously aggressive, a threat to world peace. You may regard that as ridiculously unwarranted, no matter how often international surveys show that attitude to be spreading. But remember the old axiom: “No matter how good you feel, if four friends tell you you’re drunk, you better lie down.”

Yet we are also charged not so much with intervention as indifference — indifference toward the suffering of millions of our fellow inhabitants of this planet who do not enjoy the freedom, the opportunity, the health and wealth and security that we enjoy; indifference to the countless deaths of children and other civilians in unnecessary wars, countless because we usually do not bother to count them; indifference to the centuries of humiliation endured previously in silence by the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed.

When, in 1941, the Japanese Air Force was able to inflict widespread death and destruction on our naval and air forces in Hawaii because they were not on alert, those military officials most responsible for ignoring advance intelligence were summarily dismissed.

When, in the late 1940’s, we faced a global Cold War against another system of ideological fanatics certain that their authoritarian values would eventually rule the world, we prevailed in time. We prevailed because we exercised patience as well as vigilance, self-restraint as well as self-defense, and reached out to moderates and modernists, to democrats and dissidents, within that closed system. We can do that again. We can reach out to moderates and modernists in Islam, proud of its long traditions of dialogue, learning, charity and peace.

Some among us scoff that the war on Jihadist terror is a war between civilization and chaos. But they forget that there were Islamic universities and observatories long before we had railroads.

So do not despair. In this country, the people are sovereign. If we can but tear the blindfold of self-deception from our eyes and loosen the gag of self-denial from our voices, we can restore our country to greatness. In particular, you — the Class of 2004 — have the wisdom and energy to do it. Start soon.

In the words of the ancient Hebrews: “The day is short, and the work is great, and the laborers are sluggish, but the reward is much, and the Master is urgent.”

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I am a Democrat - Garrison Keillor

The following are excerpts from Garrison Keillor's book "Home Grown Democrat" A great read that is replete with doggeral, homespun wisdom and humor.

I am a Democrat, which was nothing I decided for myself but simply the way I was brought up, starting with the idea of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', which is the basis of the simple social compact by which we live and also 'You are not so different from other people so don't give yourself airs', which was drummed into us children back in the old days when everyone went to public schools.

1. Democrats distrust privilege and power. Power unchecked runs amok, tears up the garden, and the privileged become sluggish and dull if nobody talks back to them.

2. Equality is Democratic bedrock.Democrats believe in writing your own story and putting it up against other people's on a level court and let the game begin and more power to you, sing your song and do your dance, but don't be under the illusion that you invented yourself. Don't be so superior you're offended at the thought of the progressive income tax.

Collective expression is a rare thing; self-expression is common as dandelions.

We reside in a city of memory and share the avenues with others. It is a wicked world, in which the power to do harm is so great and the power to do good so slight and an angry fool can do more damage in a day than a hundred wise men can fix in a year, but here we are, we must do our best and do it as a people...

3. We Democrats are inclusive and integrationist to the core. We cross social lines and climb through strata. We are fond of cities where people merge and life bubbles up from below, where high society hangs out with show folks, bankers meet dancers, Lutherans consort with Catholics, Samaritans mill among Judeans and black and pink and brown and Jesus moves among publicans.

4. Democrats believe in individualism. Social class does not tell the story, nor religion or political party or race or nationality. The important distinctions are between individuals, not between groups. Between two siblings, a vast unbridgeable gulf might exist, whereas between male and female, white and black, straight and gay, Eastern and Western, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, there is ever the possibility of liaison, friendship, union, miraculous intimacy. People who ought to be enemies are not necessarily.

Garrison Keillor - 2004

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hot Housing Market....except for the low-income!

David Broder (Spokesman Review - 6-2-05) states that our nation lacks 1.5 million units of low-income housing... and that 7.5 million households were "severely burdened by their housing costs, meaning that more than half their income went for rent or mortgage payments.

Over the years, the federal commitment to affordable housing has shrunk steadily, with the only remaining large-scale program being Section 8 vouchers, which help qualified families with rent subsidies but do not expand the available supply of units.

Some bills designed to utilize 5 percent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's hugh profits for preservation, rehabilitation and construction of low-income housing are in danger of being shut down.

What do you think? Is there some moral (read religious) responsiblity to care for our brothers, shelter the homeless, take care of the fragile and vulnerable segments of our population?

I think we should be outraged that the tax cuts for the rich are balanced on the backs of the poor.