Monday :: Jun 5, 2006

The GOP Times, They ARE A'Changin'

by pessimist

And You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows:

Democrats see turning point
By Ralph Thomas, Seattle Times Olympia bureau
June 4, 2006

YAKIMA — Democratic Party leaders on Saturday lashed out at President Bush and the Republicans and vowed to seize on what they described as a "golden opportunity" to win back one or both houses of the Congress and expand Democratic dominance in Olympia.

State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz told about 1,000 delegates gathered for the party's convention that there is a 'fresh breeze blowing' in America.

"History will record that
America's flirtation with the Republican right-wing agenda
ended in 2006,"
Pelz said.
Pollster: Iraq war will hurt GOP in fall elections June 2, 2006

[N]ational pollster John Zogby said Friday 70% of voters believe the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, adding, “I have never seen a number like that since I’ve been polling.”

And that's only the first breeze.

Pelz, in his first year as party chairman, got things rolling with a scathing attack on Republicans.
"George Bush and his corrupt Congress have attacked the basic foundations of our middle class — our employer-based health-care system, our pension system, Social Security and Medicare."
Barbara Ehrenreich: A Guided Tour of Class in America

I think that the poor know much more about the rich than vice versa.

Both chronic, long-term poverty - and downward mobility from the middle class - are in the same category of things that America likes not to think about. 17% of people in jobs that do not require college degrees have them. I think they're just training people to sit quietly for long periods of time. I don't see where a typical BA even represents any serious skills.

Obviously you want some employment rights like the French just fought to preserve -- saying you can't be fired at will, that a procedure must be gone through. When I was in England recently talking about Bait and Switch, my publisher told me: "You know, people aren't quite understanding what you're saying, how you could be laid off or fired without any procedure." They didn't understand the concept of employment at will. So I had to explain that, in America, you have no rights: no right to your job, no right to a hearing. You could be fired for a funny expression on your face.

I see so many parallels because there's a huge stigma attached to unemployment. People who have been laid off are very ashamed and depressed. There's a need to come together and overcome that shame. I couldn't get over it, how beaten down people were, how they had internalized obedience. The fear of standing out in any way that might be noticed seemed to grip them. Those are very often people in their twenties who can't get professional-type employment, or people in their fifties who have been through one too many lay-off and are no longer employable because they're quote too old.

There's a lot in our society that makes people with college degrees and white-collar jobs think they're special and superior. But next time you're seeing that person pushing the broom, remember, you may be one year, maybe even six months away from that yourself. You're not special, not in the eyes of the owners and the CEOs.

[T]he security the professional-managerial class thought it had is gone. Companies began to look at even those people as expenses to be eliminated rather than assets to be nurtured. One way that shows itself now is in the requirement in so many jobs for an annual -- or even an every six-month -- evaluation. You're constantly on your toes, constantly being reviewed, and potentially always up for elimination.

Employers get it in their minds that a certain kind of work is done by a certain kind of person and we're not going to hire someone different. It's not that native-born Americans won't do heavy work and hard work and sweaty work. The problem is that these jobs pay so little. What makes it possible for immigrant workers to live on such low wages is their willingness -- at least temporarily -- to put up with just impossible situations, with many people packed into a room. After all, what does immigration do, in corporate terms? It provides a group of people you can really, really exploit. As long as they're illegal, you can do anything you want to them. Like not pay them. Not at all.

[P]eople are losing pensions, losing health insurance. Insurers don't want to insure the coasts any more; they certainly don't want to give anybody health insurance who might ever get sick. That's one of the things they've done pretty well at. In the ownership society, you take care of yourself; don't bother us, it's your problem.

A lot of the megachurches now function as giant social welfare bureaucracies. [T]hat's where you go when you want to connect with people to find a job. That's also where you find after-school care, child care, support groups for battered women, support groups for people with different illnesses. As government helping functions dwindle, the role of the churches grows. What's sinister is that so many of these churches also support political candidates who are anti-choice, anti-gay, and -- not coincidentally -- opposed to any kind of expansion of secular social services.

[Y]es, there's a class war. It's totally one-sided and it's time for the rest of us to mobilize against the aggressors. They can take what they want. They'll push down wages as far as they can, and if there's no union to stop them, they'll just keep going, and they'll push up their own pay. You have your pay determined by a board of your buddies, often just other CEOs.

There's no limit to what they'll take!

Pelz proclaimed that, if Democrats succeed in taking back the U.S. House or Senate, "We will have subpoena power and we will investigate ... Bush, Cheney, Donald [Rumsfeld] and [former House Majority Leader Tom] Delay ...

We will reveal to the American people what these people knew and when they knew it."
Bar group will review Bush's legal challenges
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff
June 4, 2006

The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office.

The ABA's president, Michael Greco, said in an interview that he proposed the task force because he believes the scope and aggressiveness of Bush's signing statements may raise serious constitutional concerns. He said the ABA, which has more than 400,000 members, has a duty to speak out about such legal issues to the public, the courts, and Congress.

The signing statements task force, which was recruited by Greco, a longtime Boston lawyer who served on former Governor William F. Weld's Judicial Nominating Council, includes several Republicans.

Among them are Mickey Edwards, a former Oklahoma representative from 1977 to 1993, and Bruce Fein, a Justice Department official under President Reagan.

"I think one of the most critical issues in the country right now is the extent to which the White House has tried to expand its powers and basically tried to cut the legislative branch out of its own constitutionally equal role, and the signing statements are a particularly egregious example of that," Edwards said.

William Sessions, a retired federal judge who was the director of the FBI under both Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, said he agreed to participate because he believed that the signing statements raise a 'serious problem' for the American constitutional system.

"I think it's very important for the people of the United States to have trust and reliance that the president is not going around the law," Sessions said.
"The importance of it speaks for itself."

"This is not our war," Pelz said in his speech. "This is a Republican war."
Zogby said:

Iraq is the top issue for U.S. voters... The unpopularity of the Iraq war has cost President George W. Bush and Republicans their grip on the issue of terrorism as “their ace in the hole.”

As T E Lawrence [of Arabia] knew, and troops in Iraq are finding out, guerrillas are almost undefeatable

Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf [Baghdad Bob], provided some unexpected entertainment at a time of great uncertainty. But some of his claims do not seem so risible now, one of them being: "We have drawn them into a quagmire and they will never get out of it."

Quagmire is the word. Unable to halt the country's descent into a sectarian civil war, and yet reluctant to admit failure and leave a vacuum by withdrawing, we are faced with a terrible dilemma in Iraq today. The situation would be familiar to TE Lawrence, who described in 1920 how clumsy involvement in Iraq had left Britain "in a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour".

Just as George Bush and Tony Blair don't want to pull out of Iraq for the admission of failure such a withdrawal would represent, the Turks were loth to leave Medina in 1916 and relinquish their leadership of the Muslim world, which they believed came with the possession of the holy city.

[T]he Ottomans' determination to cling on in Medina left them vulnerable to hit-and-run warfare. "This show is splendid," [Lawrence] told a colleague, "you cannot imagine greater fun for us, greater fury and vexation for the Turks."

There was no shortage of guerrillas. The completion of the Hejaz railway from Damascus to Medina in 1908 had hurt the Bedu, who hired out camels and guides to travellers, and had sidelines in robbery and protection rackets. Like the economically dispossessed young men dying in the insurgency in Iraq today, the Bedu had little to lose from taking the abundant British gold on offer.

British and American troops in Iraq are vulnerable to similar tactics today [and] the "fury and vexation" caused by the insurgents' almost unanswerable tactics seems to have triggered the alleged massacre in Haditha by US troops last November.

"To make war upon rebellion was messy and slow,"
in Lawrence's memorable phrase,
"like eating soup with a knife."

His own estimate after the war was that the Turks would have needed 600,000 men to pacify the Hejaz. Today in Iraq, a similar-sized area, there are fewer than 200,000 coalition troops. Soon there will be even fewer.

It seems Lawrence's central message, that guerrillas are almost impossible to defeat, is finally beginning to sink in.

Other messages are starting to sink in as well:

Zogby said:

The economy is third most important nationally... working Americans worry about gas prices and about losing their health care coverage and pensions.

The Economy: Bush Boom is now a whimper
By Andrew Cassel, Inquirer Columnist

So much for the Bush Boom.

For months, the president and his supporters have been talking up the economy's performance, arguing that if Americans only looked at the numbers, they'd realize that the good times are, in fact, rolling.

Last week's employment numbers, however, poured a bucket of cold water on this notion.

* U.S. employers added a relatively anemic 75,000 jobs in May, the government reported. That was less than half the number economists had been forecasting.

* Worse, the net number of jobs added in March and April was revised downward, meaning the economy created about 37,000 fewer jobs than had been originally reported.

More specifically, the jobs numbers reinforce the idea that the economy is losing some of the momentum it seemed to have earlier in the year. Gas prices you understand only too well. Home sales are also slowing, and the change is showing up in the level of construction employment. Builders' payrolls rose only 1,000 in May, after gaining an average of 17,000 in each of the prior three months.

None of this should really come as much of a shock. Economists have been saying for months that the economy was too dependent on soaring house prices. Consumers were borrowing against the equity in their homes, using the money to buy cars, appliances and vacations. That had to end eventually. Now, it apparently has.

In addition, the lies about the estate tax are getting through as well:

Effort to Repeal Estate Tax Said to Be Faltering

The ferocity of the fight is surprising in light of the fact that only a tiny slice of the population is affected by the tax, which applies to inheritances in excess of $2 million. Only 12,600 estates will be taxed this year, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

A recent report by Public Citizen, a liberal watchdog group, identified 18 wealthy families who contributed to organizations promoting repeal of the estate tax. It calculated that at least 15 of those families' businesses paid $27 million since 1998 for lobbyists to promote repeal of the estate tax.

Opponents of repeal say the deficit-ridden federal government cannot afford to repeal a tax that benefits only the wealthy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in the first 10 years after a repeal, the government would lose $776 billion in revenue.

A very good sign is this - the Republicans are eating their dead:

Ex-GOP Legislator Blasts Bilbray
By: John Gizzi

With five days to go before the too-close-to-call special U.S. House election in California's 50th District (San Diego), Republicans were rocked last week with a hard-hitting denunciation of their nominee, Brian Bilbray from a fellow Republican.
"I proudly swore an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of California and the United States," Steve Baldwin, a former state assemblyman from San Diego and longtime conservative activist, wrote in an e-mail to fellow GOP activists in the 50th District, "That's why I'm appalled and deeply saddened to learn that Brian Bilbray is making a mockery of his oath to his fellow citizens (an oath that's taken with one hand on the Bible)."

Such a loss of support could be very damaging, especially if it leads to a collapse nationally. There is another possibility looming to bring this about.

Too many women supported Bush in the elections between 2000 and 2004 (inclusive) despite clear politically religious-based positions opposed to issues of importance to women. I doubt that support will be there this time around:

What Happens When There Is No Plan B?
By Dana L.
Sunday, June 4, 2006

The conservative politics of the Bush administration forced me to have an abortion I didn't want.

I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we're starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

As we're both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren't planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception. I wanted to make sure that our momentary lapse didn't result in a pregnancy.

The next morning, after getting my kids off to school, I called my ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.

The receptionist, however, informed me that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B.

Neither did my internist. The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day. The weekend -- and the end of the 72-hour window -- was approaching.

I was pretty much out of options ... Weeks later, the two drugstore pregnancy tests I took told a different story. Positive.

I worried because the odds of having a high-risk pregnancy or a baby born with serious health issues rise significantly after age 40. Although I've always been in favor of abortion rights, this was a choice I had hoped never to have to make myself.

When I realized the seriousness of my predicament, I became angry. I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern -- valid or not -- wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband.

I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

All the while, I was thinking that if religion hadn't been allowed to seep into American politics the way it has, I wouldn't even be there.

This all could have been stopped way before this baby was conceived
if they had just let me have that damn pill.
It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening.
But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.
And to think that, all these years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, this is what our children have to look forward to as they approach their reproductive years.

Dana L. is a lawyer and writer living in Virginia. Out of concern for her family's privacy, she requested that her last name not be published.

I get the last word on this issue. I don't like abortion, but as a man, I don't feel it's my place to tell a woman what she can or can't do with her own body. I would much rather support prevention rather than cure, as the author of this last piece proposes.

I give the last word for the post to former President Jimmy Carter, who sums up the nightmare of the last 25 years - and points to the real dawning of morning in America:

[T]here was in effect a merger of the fundamentalist Christian leaders and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party. And for the last 25 years or so, that merger has become more pronounced and more evident.

[W]ith the allocation of billions of dollars through what President Bush calls a faith-based initiative, taxpayers' money is distributed to churches and other religious institutions that will comply with the basic principles of the present political administration. And there's no doubt that in public conventions and in individual church speeches and sermons, there's been a prevalent inclination to endorse candidates, primarily Republican candidates.

In the last few months at least, there has been a reconsideration by many American citizens that that trend was not advisable for our country. This is indicated, at least to some degree, by public-opinion polls. And obviously the popularity in polls of some Republican leaders has deteriorated as well. So there's been a re-thinking in many ways.

I think part of it has been caused by some of the practical political decisions that were ill advised and were supported by the religious fundamentalists.

Dethrone King George! Kilroy rides again!

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