Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hilary won't be able to hide from this one...

Ok, it takes alot to really tick me off, and even more to actually question whether or not I will support the Democratic nominee for President should it be Hilary Clinton. Up to now, I would be likely to say yes to that. Now, I'm not so sure. Whether I should have been or not, I was completely taken aback by Clinton's yes vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. For those not familiar with this scary piece of legislation, here's a little breakdown of it. The Kyl-Lieberman amendment states that:

It is the sense of the Senate...
that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph
3 with respect to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization...

Does this amendment say "let's go attack Iran?" No, but it opens the door to a president who has repeatedly demonstrated that he will run a mile if allowed an inch. Cheney has been chomping at the bit for YEARS for an excuse to go after Iran. He now has his opening. In addition, take a look at the last sentence of the resolution. We have now designated a large portion of the military of another nation as "terrorists". Aside from what your personal feelings about Iran may be, there are tremendous implications for this kind of statement. First of all, in modern times, I don't think there is a precedent for this. We have labeled a large segment of a sovereign nation's defense as a terroist organization, and as we have repeatedly demonstrated, that means we, as a nation, claim cart blanche in actions available to us in this "war" on terror. This move opens up a hornet's nest of future possibilities for other nations, as well. What's to stop some despotic government from declaring the military of a foe as terrorists and circumventing international law? Or even more "respectable" nations? How much of a reach would it now be for Israel to declare the Lebanese army a terrorist organization, or visa versa? The specific linking of Hezbollah to Iran is especially troubling. It is insane.

Now, back to my initial point! Hilary Clinton, after declaring no more money with a timeline, and talking up a good game about the rule of law, etc., voted in favor of the amendment. Just who's rule of law is she referring to? Obviously not that of a sovereign nation. For me, Clinton has definitively shown her hawkish similarities to the Bush White House. I cannot support that in the president that I want to lead me. I've had reservations. Now I don't.

Whether Iran is an "evil" country, or not (please...), an incredibly dangerous precedent has now been set, and I can guarantee that this administration will find a way to run with it. Five or six years from now, Clinton won't be able to claim faulty information, or lack of facts. She knows exactly what she voted for today.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Patience is a virtue...right?

Through studying at least part of what goes on at the federal level, how Congress works, etc., I've gained at least some patience with the speed, or lack thereof, with which things move, and the minutia involved in every step of the legislative process. I mean, on average there are over 10,000 bills introduced in Congress EACH year. That is alot to deal with, nevermind oversight and budgetary responsibilities. While I may understand the volume of work that Congress has to contend with everyday (try looking at a senator's daily schedule sometime), I have to question some of their priorities. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Majority Leader in the House of Representative has a really useful email service where a daily list of what bills, debates and votes are scheduled for a particular day. It includes resolution numbers, which comes in handy when contacting Congressional representatives.For example, some of the "pressing" issues that the House will be dealing with tomorrow include

  • Encouraging participation in hunting and fishing, and supporting the goals and ideals of National Hunting and Fishing Day and the efforts of hunters and fishermen toward the scientific management of wildlife and conservation of the natural environment (Rep. Gillibrand – Natural Resources)

  • The 75th anniversary of Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina (Rep. Henry Brown – Natural Resources)

  • Supporting the goals and ideals of "National Life Insurance Awareness Month" (Rep. Biggert – Oversight and Government Reform)

  • Recognizing the establishment of Hunters for the Hungry programs across the United States and the contributions of those programs efforts to decrease hunger and help feed those in need (Rep. Gingrey – Agriculture)

    to name a few. Admittedly, there are a couple that need to be taken care of, like The Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2007 (Rep. Rangel – Ways and Means)and the Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act (Sen. Harkin – Agriculture). I realize that the daily business of the country still needs to be attended to in between hearings and investigations but come on. An anniversary for a garden and life insurance? There has GOT to be a better way to prioritize the time spent for our elected officials, beyond earning brownie points with local constituencies. If we want Congress to reflect our priorities, and act on them, than we need to stop wasting their time with small, localized issues that are better handled at the state level. No wonder people have the impression that nothing ever gets done.

The Oregon Food Bank Needs Our Help

The Oregonian ( ran a piece a couple of days ago, that Andrew over at BlueOregon brought to our attention. According to Rachel Bristol, chief executive officer,

"The entire statewide Oregon Food Bank network of regional food
banks and the 900 local agencies we serve throughout Oregon
and Southwest Washington are feeling the impact."

According to the article, the OFB has less than half its normal weekly supply of food stuffs, and their freezers, which normally hold back up foods, are empty. Going into the holiday season, when there is normally a sharp spike in the need for food, this is frightening. A substantial drop in product from the USDA combined with consistent increases in demand from struggling families is resulting in an emergency situation. Even with its fund-raising and normal outreach, for the OFB to put out a specific call for help to the public says something, because it is a rare occurrence. They are asking for help from us. Show your gratitude for what you have and do what you can.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Constitutional Crisis?

I know the "Constitutional crisis" alarm has almost been overplayed, but the developing ballot measure issue in California does have potential for spurring a real issue here. The "Presidential Election Reform Act", as it is called is expected to make it on the ballot in California, proposes to change California's electoral vote distribution from its current form (all electoral votes go to the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote state-wide) to a distribution based on who wins in particular districts. Bob Herbert has a great article in today's New York Times about the entire situation and motives of the measure's backers, not to mention repercussions. Because it is still in the signature-gathering phase, it has not been given a measure number.

As someone who lives in a state with the ballot measure system, I've seen first-hand the tremendous abuse that occurs around ballot measures. Intended to give citizens a real voice in the laws of their state, the system has fallen prey to outside and narrow-minded interests. Many of these measures are written purposely in language that confuses and misleads voters. It is not uncommon for voters to read short summaries, or even the title of a measure and base their decision on that, without any real awareness of what the measure actually does. Many initiative sponsors bank on voters not having the time or the inclination to know what it is that they are really voting for. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive “think-and-do tank” for ballot measure research and strategic campaign support, is an excellent resource for keeping up on measures around the country, who is sponsoring them, background information and specifics about the measures. BISC does not claim to be non-partisan, but I've never seen any indication of support for any particular party.

I am a supporter of the spirit of the ballot measure system, but major work needs to be done to establish stronger safeguards against abuse, and to educate voters on how to read and understand the measures when presented with them.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day

I know I'm a bit late posting but everyday is Constitution Day for me so it works.

Constitution Day (formerly known as Citizen's Day) was created by Congress in 2004. It was the brainchild of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. The law requires any school and college receiving federal money to teach about the Constitution on or about Sept. 17.

This day is set aside to celebrate the following (from

On September 17, 1787, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting. Only one item of business occupied the agenda that day, to sign the Constitution of the United States of America.

After being signed in September of 1787, Congress sent printed copies of the Constitution to the state legislatures for ratification. In the months that followed, James Madison (my personal fave Founder), Alexander Hamilton and John Jay would write the Federalist Papers in support, while Patrick Henry, Elbridge Gerry, and George Mason would organize the opposition to the new Constitution. By June 21, 1788, nine states had approved the Constitution, finally forming "a more perfect Union."

No matter how much we argue about the details of its meaning today, in the opinion of many, the Constitution signed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 represents the greatest expression of statesmanship and compromise ever written. In just four hand-written pages, the Constitution gives us no less than the owners' manual to the greatest form of government the world has ever known. We have no tribal council, nor can we vote anybody off the island. But, we do live in the land of the free, and as long as the Constitution stands, we always will.

Although I am a solid John Edwards supporter, I have alot of respect and admiration for Chris Dodd both as a senator and as a candidate. Along with Patrick Leahy, Dodd has introduced a resolution restoring Habeas Corpus. He has this to say about it:

... I've said it before but the issue is too important to not repeat here: I pledge that if elected I will restore the Constitution of the United States in my first hour in office. I won't wait until then to take action and I'm committed to leading to restore the Constitution from my place in the Senate. This week I am working with my colleague Patrick Leahy to restore habeas corpus and I'll need your help.

But first I want to tell you why the Constitution is something that I value so dearly and why I'm making restoring it a central part of my campaign for the presidency.

I was raised in a household were the rule of law was treated as the most important issue facing a government (my father, Thomas Dodd, was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials). Every day, I carry with me a copy of the Constitution of United States, given to me twenty-six years ago by my colleague Robert Byrd. And yet today, I am running for President on a platform of restoring the Constitution. I had never dreamed that the day would come when a candidate for our nation's highest office would have to campaign on restoring the balance of powers, the rule of law set forth in our most cherished document. ... .. ... ..

We have an opportunity to pass legislation this week which will reverse one of the most damaging parts of the Military Commissions Act and put us on a path towards restoring the Constitution.

We'll start at the top: restoring habeas corpus. This week's debate on the Defense Authorization bill will include a vote on the Leahy-Specter-Dodd Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment.

Congress will need to hear your voices as this debate takes place. I'll keep fighting, but Senator Leahy and I need you by our side. Sign up to be a citizen co-sponsor of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill.

Go to, add your name to the list of Americans who want their Constitution back, and tell your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same. You can also call my colleagues in the Senate and tell your Senators that you want them to vote to restore habeas. The Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121. ... ..

If you haven't signed on as a citizen co-sponsor, please do. if you haven't contacted your senators, please do. The Senate is expected to debate and vote on Habeas Corpus this week. It is a much needed restoration of one of the most basic principles placed in the Constitution by its authors


Give 'em hell Murtha

Representative John Murtha gave a speech at the National Press Club (ironic seeing as how the press isn't sharing much of it). Here is what he had to say:

If you look back at what Napoleon learned in Spain, what the French learned
in Indo-China and Algeria, what the Soviets learned in Afghanistan,
and what the U.S. learned in Vietnam, the lessons of history are clear:
there is a limitation to military power.
Economic, political and diplomatic challenges must be solved.
They can’t be solved by military means and they shouldn’t be distorted by rhetoric.

Rhetoric, spin and slogans do not win wars.
Likewise, the war in Iraq will not be won with charts,
projections or sound bytes saying, "we will return on success."

The Administration claims we are witnessing another turning point in Iraq.
They claim progress is being made and now
depending upon the "conditions on the ground," more troops will come home.

But we have heard this before.
The same predictions were made with Saddam’s capture,
the adoption of the constitution, with national elections,
and with the capture and killing of several terrorists in Iraq.

A week ago on a Sunday talk show,
a reporter expounded on a personal moment
with the President in the White House when she
asked him, "Mr. President, how do you continue to
press forward when the war is so unpopular and
things seem to be going so wrong in Iraq?"
The President responded, "Because I am right."

Right about what Mr. President?
Right about weapons of mass destruction?
Right about Saddam’s involvement in 9-11?
Right about mission accomplished?
Right about thinking he could fight this war on the cheap?
Right at the ease at which Iraq could be transformed into a pillar of democracy?

How hard is it to learn from history? And how much longer can people in this country stand to be lied to, and insulted? I mean, really...
And here is the rest of it.

Television Media...Context is Everything

Over at The Huffington Post, there is an interesting commentary by Daniel Brook on the many differences between commercial television news and public television news. He compares an identical piece of news (the new life-expectancy numbers in the United States) delivered by two different outlets. He tells it better than I could.

This week, I watched the same piece of information reported on commercial TV and PBS. At 6:30, NBC's Brian Williams went into shocked-and-breathless mode to announce that American life expectancy had hit a whopping 77.9 years. Then at 7:00, I heard Jim Lehrer calmly announce the same fact and put it in context. While this is the highest life expectancy the US has yet achieved, it falls behind 40 other nations. The context changes everything. If you were watching Brian Williams, you'd be popping the champagne corks. If you were watching Jim Lehrer, you'd be contemplating moving to Costa Rica--one of several third world countries with longer life expectancies than the US.

Context, it seems, is everything... Brook goes on to offer a couple of theories for this.

People love fake news. No, I'm not talking about The Daily Show; I'm talking about FOX. Many Americans want to hear good news, and that's what FOX gives them. Tune in to FOX, and you'll hear, for example, that we're winning in Iraq. And as the older commercial networks try to compete with FOX, which has better ratings, many have slipped into an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em strategy where they try to give people just as much fake news.
Self-interested corporate media. This one's a tad conspiratorial for my taste, but here's how it goes. The commercial networks are run by giant corporations which have never been more profitable. They need to keep people feeling either satisfied or powerless so nothing really changes. GE owns NBC. It pays Brian Williams's paycheck. It's also in the healthcare business. I know because I use their dental plan. So if word got out that the US had third world levels of life expectancy while spending far more than even its fellow wealthy countries on healthcare, people might dump the corporate healthcare system that GE's profiting off of (those profit margins are a big reason we pay more than everyone else). So GE's news division's job isn't to keep people informed, but to keep people happy--to "manufacture consent," as Noam Chomsky puts it.

I think it is a combination of the two. I also have my own theories for why the viewing audience seems to "prefer" watered-down, infotainment to real-world news and information, as influenced by Gore's should-be-required-reading-for-all "The Attack on Reason"..

I wonder if part of the reason that people don't respond to real news, or the truth on television news...and seem to crave because we can't respond to television news. It is a one-way communication where we don't get to respond or ask questions or give our own views back. We are removed from it because we aren't allowed to be engaged in it, through the television medium. I think that has a great deal to do with why blogs, etc. have become so indispensable as news sources...because we get to respond to what we hear or read. We get to discuss it with each other and with the "reporters". We get to engage fully in a two-way conversation, as opposed to simply being the object at which bits of information are thrown, as is the case with television news. Just my take on it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

School of Hard Knocks?

Even in this day and age, it is hard for most people to shake their image of who the homeless are: lazy, drunks, dirty, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and more. As much as we hear about how the inbalance in the economy is hurting even the middle-classes, and that everyday, more and more people become homeless, through circumstances beyond their control, there are some statistics in a recent AP article, as reported by KATU, in Portland,that focuses on Oregon, that surprised even me.
With 90 percent of the state's districts counted in the tally,
an estimated 15,517 homeless students attended
public school in the 2006-2007 school year, according to new numbers
released by the state Department of Education.
That's an 18 percent increase over the 2005-2006 school year,
and works out to about 2.8 percent of all public school students.

This is the third consecutive year that
the agency has released numbers
on homeless students, and each year,
the number has gone up.

How can this be in an economy that is supposedly improving? Well, for starters, and as pointed out by most credible economists and public services leaders, the increase in jobs that is driving this supposed upswing in the economy fall disproportionately in low-paying, non-insured occupations, that do not even come close to providing a living wage. In addition, the recent (and building) crisis in the subprime mortgage market has resulted in many heretofore stable homeowners to lose those homes, resulting in an increase in the number of homeless families. Read the complete article here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Real Patriot and Leader

You know, Barbara Jordan, former Representative from Texas is one of my greatest heroes. Barbara Lee, current Representative from another state (I forget which) is well worthy of carrying Jordan's legacy of courage and speaking out for what's right when it needs to be spoken...and following those words with actions.Six years ago, today, Lee was the sole vote against pre-emptive military action against Iraq, and today remains a staunch opponent to our occupation of that country.

This is the speech she gave on the floor of the House of Representatives six years ago. It is just as pertinant today, if not more so.

John Edwards' Response to Bush

John Edwards continues to speak out against Bush's failed policies and demonstrating his ability to step up and lead. One of many reasons that I respect and support him for President of the United States.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Portland...Safe and Sound?

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams and the Portland Department of Transportation are rolling out an ambitious capital projects plan and possible gas tax increase for the city of Portland. I have to admit that I am not an expert on city planning, and I do definitely have some serious concerns about the recent prioritizing of the streetcar and tram system. However, I don't see any project on this list that doesn't need to be addressed. I haven't learned enough about this yet to render a very educated opinion, but I wanted to put it out there so that people would be aware of the plans and weigh in.
Here are some facts put out by the city, and some of the reasons for our current state, from the perspective of the City:

378 lives have been lost and 2,662 people seriously injured (1996-2005) on Portland’s streets

Economic impact of traffic-related injuries and deaths is $400 million per year

32% of Portland’s busiest streets and 22% of City-owned bridges are in poor condition

The Sellwood Bridge has a sufficiency rating of only 2 on a scale of 100 – due to cracks in the
bridge, its weight limit has been reduced from 32 tons to 10 tons, creating diverted and longer trips for buses and trucks

The 30 deficient weight-limited bridges negatively impact business – they impede the efficient movement of freight by adding costly detours and delays to truck trips

58% of Portland adults limit walking, biking, or taking transit due to traffic safety concerns

Kids walking or biking to school has declined from 66% in the 1970s to 10% today

40% of all congestion in the city is non-recurring and primarily caused by crashes

Maintenance backlog grows by $9 million per year – every dollar spent on preventive maintenance now will save $4-5 in future reconstruction costs

Reasons per the city of Portland:

Since 1993, the cost for materials to repair our streets and bridges has increased by 70%. One dollar in 1993 equals 58¢ in today’s market.

The Portland region receives only 46¢ back for every dollar we send to Salem in gas tax and vehicle registration fees

Oregon’s gas tax is 24¢ per gallon. A fixed amount fails to provide any increase to cover inflation.

There has been no increase in the 24¢ per gallon state gas tax since 1993.

Given what I understand of how revenue expenditures work in Oregon, I can understand the need for an increase in the gas tax (It's been 14 years!).
Here is a broad list of what the city is proposing to do:

Safety improvements at high crash intersections

Identify and improve safe routes to schools

Add safe crossings near transit, businesses, and parks

Create family-friendly travel routes (bicycle and pedestrian boulevards)

Add sidewalks to busy streets

Provide funding for safety improvements

Increase enforcement of reckless driving on highways

Improve major arterials in poor condition

Improve bridges in poor condition

Improve signal timing and operations

Equitably and efficiently allocate projects across the city

There are numerous open houses planned around the city for citizens to share their views and thoughts. I highly recommend getting involved with this one. The proposed gas tax increase would bring in $263,097,987 in additional revenue to fund these projects. That's a hefty chunk of change to not get your say in.<strong>

A Small Price?

Well GOP House leader John Boehner well-represents the loss of perspective for much of our national leadership (sorry to say that includes some Dems, as well). In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer (not one of my favorite members of the press for holding the powers that be accountable, which is why I'm impressed with his question to begin with) Boehner has this to say about Iraq:
BLITZER: How much longer will U.S. taxpayers have to shell out
$2 billion a week or $3 billion a week as some now are suggesting
the cost is going to endure? The loss in blood, the Americans who are
killed every month, how much longer do you think this
commitment, this military commitment is going to require?

BOEHNER: I think General Petraeus outlined it pretty clearly.
We’re making success. We need to firm up those successes.
We need to continue our effort here because, Wolf, long term,
the investment that we’re making today will be a small price if
we’re able to stop al Qaeda here, if we’re able to stabilize the Middle East,
it’s not only going to be a small price for the near future,
but think about the future for our kids and their kids.
Of course when he was called on this comment later, Boehner claims to be speaking in terms of dollars only. First of all, Blitzer specifically asks about the "loss of blood" and "Americans killed every month". To me, this only reinforces what we already know about these warhawks to begin with: The human losses and sacrifices don't matter...the financial bottom line does. Even with that, to sit and say we have to think of the future of our kids and their kids...who exactly does he think will be PAYING for this debacle? Obviously he, and the others are quite comfortable in the knowledge that it isn't THEIR kids who are getting killed, nor are they the working masses who die everyday for lack of helathcare, who sacrifice everyday while our infrastructure crumbles around us, or who end up with nothing in their later years while their corporate bosses bank enough money to support the next THREE generations.

I don't plan to use this site to push Edwards at everyone (although I do fully support him) but he will be addressing the nation tonight on MSNBC, right after Bush's EIGHTH major Iraq address to the nation.
From his website, this is a bit of what Edwards will be addressing tonight:
"Tonight, after President Bush makes yet another argument for continuing the war in Iraq, John Edwards will speak directly to the American people in a nationwide address on MSNBC.

Our campaign has bought airtime on MSNBC immediately following the President's address at 9 p.m., and John Edwards will challenge the President's remarks with a strong call to the nation to end the war now.

Please watch in that timeframe—and forward this e-mail to your friends, asking them to watch as well. Each of us has a responsibility to make sure that President Bush and Congress understand that the time for excuses has run out. John Edwards will deliver a strong message tonight on our behalf. It's time to end this war and bring our troops home.

Buying this kind of airtime is expensive. But we believe that President Bush's address must be countered with a strong voice in opposition to the failed policies that have kept our troops in harm's way for far too long. Tonight, John Edwards will continue to lead, and make the case to the nation that we cannot wait for an election to change course in Iraq—we as citizens must make Washington understand that the time to end this war is now."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Impeachment and My Rep

Awhile back I wrote a letter to my Congressional Representative, Earl Blumenauer. I've always respected his work and am constantly amazed to have a rep that I approve of and that is responsive to me 99% of the time. However, like most folks, I have become increasingly irritated and angered by this atitude of impeachment being "off the table" and the seeming lack of real backbone exibited by Congress. I was tired of hearing how impeachment wasn't going to be considered because there weren't enough votes to pass it, or that the Dems didn't want to "waste" time on an impeachment that wouldn't pass anyhow, and then risk losing in 2008. The real purpose, and power, of impeachment was, and is, being overlooked.The process of impeachment begins with investigations in the House of Representatives. IF there appears to be enough evidence of wrong-doing, than articles of impeachment are drawn up and investigated even more. Impeachment investigations do not require a vote passage, nor do they even require that the House believe in the guilt of the person being investigated. Impeachment investigations are just that...investigations. For those who do not see the point in this, who think that only a conviction and execution will work to deter, one has only to think of Nixon, who was not only never convicted and removed, he was never even impeached. The articles of impeachment were never even introduced. ALL it took, for him to see the writing on the wall was knowledge that he was being investigated, and that there was going to be enough support in the House, to introduce articles of impeachment. All it took was the THREAT of impeachment, for him to step down. That is the power of impeachment. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing deal.
I want to include here, the response that I received from Congressman Blumenauer which illuminates what is happening in Congress fairly well:

Thank you for contacting me about impeachment. As I talk with people throughout my district and Oregon, the issue of accountability and peace is very much on people's minds. I appreciate knowing your thoughts. I believe that Congress must hold the Bush Administration accountable for its actions and that impeachment should be among the options for accountability.

After having spent an incredible amount of time and energy to defeat George Bush and his Republican apologists in the last election, I have been outraged and, frankly, angry at the continued actions of this administration. I am also frustrated at Congress' inability to end the war and the ongoing abuses of our civil liberties. It is dismaying that more of my colleagues aren't willing to join with me to say "not another dime for the war in Iraq," and that, with almost all of the Republicans and some Democrats unwilling to take the hard votes, we don't have a working progressive majority in Congress.

I am doing everything in my power to stand up to this President. From the beginning, I have been an active and vocal opponent of his failed war in Iraq and have introduced comprehensive legislation, H.R. 663, to bring our troops home. I have pledged to vote against any additional funds for military operations in Iraq except for the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops. I have fought against the politicization of the Justice Department and called for the impeachment of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. In August, I voted against legislation to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because it broadened the administration's ability to spy on Americans without a court order or necessary oversight. The actions of this administration are eroding our basic rights and making our country less safe. Recently, more than 100 foreign policy experts from both political parties were surveyed about the war on terrorism. They overwhelmingly agreed that the war in Iraq is negatively affecting our national security.

While these are indeed troubling developments, the issue of whether or not to push impeachment is a difficult one. The Constitution sets an extremely high standard for impeachment that is triggered by "Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." Therefore, I believe that investigations into the range of crimes and abuses must be the first step.

Democratic-led committees in the House and Senate are conducting unprecedented investigations into a broad range of Bush administration misdeeds. The information uncovered by these hearings can be used to hold people responsible for their crimes and abuses, either through Congressional action or criminal prosecutions.

These investigations are making significant impacts. There is no doubt in my mind that were it not for the thorough work of Congressional oversight and the probing research and questions from Democrats leading committees in the House and the Senate, Alberto Gonzalez would still be Attorney General and Karl Rove would still be calling the shots at the White House.

I believe that oversight must lead to accountability. Impeachment is among the range of options for Congress to consider as we seek to hold President Bush and others accountable for their actions. Impeachment may not be ripe, either procedurally or politically, now but that does not mean that it won't be in the future. Congress cannot let this administration off the hook or give them a "Get out of Jail Free" card by taking impeachment off the table.

While it is important that investigations and accountability measures be neither partisan nor political in nature, Congress must make the necessary effort to expose and punish the abuses of the last six and a half years. If these investigations show that impeachment is warranted and necessary, then Congress should not be afraid to take that step.

The ultimate act in accountability will be who controls the next Congress and who the next President is I will work to restore Americans' faith in their government as I continue to fight on the issues that matter to Oregonians. Standing up to President Bush and his destructive vision for America is critical to regaining control of our country and will make a difference in people's lives by ending the war, restoring our damaged constitutional protections, saving the planet from global warming, promoting tax fairness and solving the crisis in healthcare.

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Spin Cycle

Here we go again. Once again, the administration is going to try and convince us that we need to stay in Iraq, that the "surge" is working, that we must not back down, blah, blah, blah. As if they haven't been telling the same old tired stories for five years.And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The REAL Rudy

Brave New Films has released the first of a series of short films documenting their research on Guiliani's responses and actions around 9/11. Check out their site
I cannot claim to be vegan, or even completely vegetarian. However, I have begun to make choices in what I eat, what products I use, and where I get them from. For better or for worse, in today's market-driven society, the vast majority of companies and corporations don't change how they do business unless they are dragged kicking and screaming toward a damaged bottom line.PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) garners alot of publicity for their somtimes outrageous actions in support of their positions. However, they do have quite a bit of very useful information on their website, that is worth getting familiar with if we want to be able to play even a small part in making better and more humane choices in how we live our lives. Visit their homepage particularly for humane charities and companies.

Life in the Big Easy...

Life in the Big Easy isn't so easy anymore, and it might never be quite the same. As strong and proud as we New Orleanians may be, we still need the help of our fellow Americans."–Yanna G., Metairie, LA

"What helped the people of the Gulf Coast was not the government, not insurance companies, but regular everyday Americans who gave and continue to give of their time, money, moral support, friendship and love to help us here. I am so grateful for that."–Jessica J., New Orleans, LA

"Recovery has been very slow, especially for renters. We lived in government housing and they have been one of the last to rebuild or repair their buildings. Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary and we are still in a FEMA camper...made to vacation in, NOT live in. We are very thankful for a roof over our heads, however, we need permanent housing."–Cheryl E., Bay St. Louis, MS

"Please, please, please continue to write and call your political representatives, as well as the national media, and tell them that it is unforgivable for them to continue to neglect and forget not only my once amazing city,but the entire Gulf Coast region affected."–Molly L., New Orleans, LA

And here are excerpts from Greg Palast's new film on those same efforts. Incredibly damning...

“They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”New Orleans two years afterby Greg Palast [Thurs August 30]

"They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers, you know? And that's just the bottom line."

It wasn't a pretty statement. But I wasn't looking for pretty. I'd taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn't Malik's concern. We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes.
But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing "Blackwater" badges: "Try to go into your home and we'll arrest you." These aren't just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.

Raised up on high ground, with floors and walls of concrete, they were some of the only houses left salvageable after the Katrina flood. Yet, two years later, there's still bars on the windows, the doors are welded shut and the residents banned from returning. On the first anniversary of the flood, we were filming this odd scene when I saw a woman on the sidewalk, sobbing. Night was falling. What was wrong? "They just messing all over us. Putting me out our own house. We come to go back to our own home and when we get there they got the police there putting us out. Oh, no, this is not right. I'm coming here from Texas seeing if I can get my house back. But they said they ain't letting nobody in. But where we gonna go at?" Idiot me, I asked, "Where are you going to go tonight?" "That's what I want to know, Mister. Where I'm going to go - me and my kids?"

With the help of Patricia Thomas, a Lafitte resident, we broke into an apartment. The place was gorgeous. The cereal boxes still dry. This was Patricia's home. But we decided to get out before we got busted. I wasn't naïve. I had a good idea what this scam was all about: 89,000 poor and working class families stuck in Homeland Security's trailer park gulag while their good homes were guarded against their return by mercenaries. Two decades ago, I worked for the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Even then, the plan was to evict poor folk out of this very valuable real estate. But it took the cover of a hurricane to do it.

Malik's organization, Common Ground, wouldn't wait for permission from the federal and local commissars to help folks return. They organized takeovers of public housing by the residents. And, in the face of threats and official displeasure, restored 350 apartments in a destroyed private development on the high ground across the Mississippi in the ward called, "Algiers." The tenants rebuilt their own homes with their own sweat and their own scraps of cash based on a promise of the landlords to sell Common Ground the property in return for restoring it.Why, I asked Malik, was there this strange lock-out from public housing? Malik shook his dreds. "They didn't want to open it up. They wanted them closed. They wanted them poor niggers out of there." For Malik, the emphasis is on "poor."

The racial politics of the Deep South is as ugly as it is in Philadelphia, Pa. But the New Orleans city establishment has no problem with Black folk per se. After all, Mayor Ray Nagin's parents are African-American. It's the Black survivors without the cash that are a problem. So where New Orleans once stood, Mayor Nagin, in connivance with a Bush regime more than happy to keep a quarter million poor folk (i.e. Democrats) out of this swing state, is creating a new city: a tourist town with a French Quarter, loose-spending drunks, hot-sheets hotels and a few Black people to perform the modern version of minstrel shows. Malik explained, "It's two cities. You know? There's the city for the white and the rich. And there's another city for the poor and Blacks. You know, the city that's for the white and rich has recovered. They had a Jazz Fest. They had a Mardi Gras. They're going to have the Saints playing for those who have recovered. But for those who haven't recovered, there's nothing." So where are they now?

The sobbing woman and her kids are gone: back to Texas, or wherever. But they will not be allowed back into Lafitte. Ever. And Patricia Thomas? The middle-aged woman, worked sweeping up the vomit and beer each morning at a French Quarter karioke joint. Not much pay, no health insurance, of course. She died since we filmed her - in a city bereft of health care. New Orleans has closed all its public hospitals but for one "charity" make-shift emergency ward in an abandoned department store.

And the one bright star, Malik's housing project? The tenants' work was done this past December. By Christmastime, they received their eviction notices - and all were carried out of their rebuilt homes by marshals right after the New Year, including a paraplegic resident who'd lived in the Algiers building for decades. Hurricane recovery is class war by other means. And in this war of the powerful against the powerless, Mr. Bush can rightly land his fighter plane in Louisiana and declare that, unlike the war in Iraq, it is, indeed, "Mission Accomplished."