Archive for June, 2006

Since I Am On A Tirade Today….

June 29, 2006

This is what our Republican controlled government sees as the most important issues facing our nation:

That is their platform. I guess they are too busy to be concerned about:

God Bless the U.S….. What The Fuck?

June 29, 2006

So I wrote last time about, well sort of wrote about, our responsibilities as citizens to be active in the governing of our nation. Which is good and all, but I still have my reservations about the system we use to do the majority of the governing, at least in our capitals, be they local, state or national. Which brings me to the point of this post.

I watched, and joined in, some of the blogging on various sites yesterday concerning redistricting. I thought, “hey, at least the SCOTUS is paying a little bit of attention, which must be good right?” Of course there’s disagreement about who won with yesterday’s decision, with some saying it was the Democrats and others the Republicans.

But then on the way into work this morning I heard a commentary on NPR, by whom I didn’t catch, that really got me thinking. Basically the commentator made the point that in the end the American people lost because what this SCOTUS decision really did was open the floods gates for gerrymandering anytime and everytime a political party in power feels like shuffling districts around to keep the odds of winning on their side in the next election.

In other words, whoever you think is representing you today may very well not be representing you tomorrow because a political party feels its own interests are being challenged. And by interests I mean power. This is complete crap. Total bullshit, pure and simple.

Think about it. You decide to write your congress critter. You explain what’s important in your district, the district you live in, pay taxes in. You fight for your district, trying to get your issues represented in congress. And guess what? The next year you are no longer in the same district represented by the same critter! All your work was for not. Why? Because someone, somewhere, decided you would be better off in another district. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, they decided they would be better off if you where in another district.

Now, your house didn’t move. Your neighbors are still the same. What changed is that now your neighbor right across the street is part of a different district. You meanwhile find yourself lumped in with a bunch of folks that may live miles from you, have different lifestyles, want different things. So what, right?

Well, the reason it pisses me off is because the redistricting has nothing to do with what’s best for the nation, the states or my neighborhood. It is all about power. It’s all part of the game played by our elected officials and their party handlers. This is right up there with the Electoral College in my book of “What The Fuck Is Wrong With This Nation.”

If we don’t even know who is representing us, if we are continuously being shuffled around, how on earth are we supposed to hold our elected officials accountable? Oh, now it makes sense. Nevermind.

An Irrelavant America

June 28, 2006

While our congress critters worry about flag burning, same sex marriage, abortion, the Pledge of Allegience and brown people invading our southern borders a much more pressing matter slips by. For too long we have ignored the world outside our borders, assuming the rest of humanity has nothing better to do then sit in the dirt and wait for us to save them with our “democracy.” The reality of the matter is that we are the ones sitting on our butts arguing about who is more patriotic while those other folks (you know, the other 5,730,000,000 inhabitants of this planet) have been getting their shit together.

From the Socialist Democracy revolution in South America to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Asia, our brothers and sisters outside our borders are slowly but surely finding their way.

A Thought Continued On Representation

June 27, 2006

I wrote this post for annatopia.com a while back and want to expand on it. First, the post:

I have no representation in the government. I look at the politicians and do not feel a single one actually represents what I think, feel or want. Our government is supposed to be about representation of the people in the political forum. But it is not.

Let’s look at some numbers:

Population of The US- 295,734,134

Total number of Senators- 100

That’s one Senator for every 2,957,341 citizens.

Total number of Representatives in the House- 435

That’s one Rep for every 679,848 citizens.

And at the State Level (Texas):

Total Population- 20,851,820

Senate- 31, one for every 672,639 citizens

House- 150, one for every 139,012 citizens

And on the local level (Arlington):

Total Population- 347,607

City Government- 9

That means one Council member for every 38,623 citizens.

Yeah, I feel represented. How can our government really be of the people, for the people and by the people with these kind of numbers? When this country was founded, we had a lot less folks. The natives didn’t count along with women and slaves. But we have a much larger population now. And there is no way that even a fifth of us get any representation.

This is why money matters in Washington, in the state governments, and even in local councils. With so many represented by so few, the ones with the means simply buy the attention of the politicians. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left out.

On the other side of the coin, with so many people and so few governing, why doesn’t the citizenry pay better attention to what their politicians are doing? Maybe it’s because we all feel so under represented.

Maybe Americans would pay more attention if we made our government a “Reality Show”. One in which politicians have to compete to get our votes, then must go through a series of challenges to stay in office. If they fail, we vote them out of office.

Oh, wait….

(Updated in response to this comment by annatopia:

we discuss this all the time. sometimes it makes me feel like we need to either split the country into smaller parts or we need to drastically increase the number of congressional representatives. i honestly wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to resolving this problem.

i agree with the basis premise of this post, i just have no clue what to do about it. anyone?
Posted by: annatopia at September 29, 2005 09:20 PM)

Anna-In 2000 we voted for multiple parties when we voted for Nader. I still believe that is a viable option. Also, having one president, one person with so much power is archaic and dangerous.

In reality, every citizen eligible to vote is part of the government. The republic is only as strong as the people. Our government is weak and crippled because we the people have continuously failed to keep our end of the bargain.

There are so many avenues to fix this. Run off voting, multiple parties, real civic education; the list goes on. It is the current parties and their need to survive that keeps all these things from happening. Ever wonder why November 2nd isn’t a national holiday? Ever wonder why we spend 500 billion on defense but can’t get voting machines that have paper trails? (Which, incidently, even Venezuela has)

It saddens me to think that in a couple of months so many well meaning folks will go to work propping up the system that keeps our country sick. The Democrats are one half of the problem. They are the other half of the FEC, which is a tool to keep them and the Republicans in control. It kind of reminds me of the book 1984. Perpetual warfare. Each side entrenched, keeping their ground. One side against the other, but both stable enough that regardless of the minor changes both will survive. And at our expense.

Nothing will ever change as long as these two parties keep control. Ever. They may differ in language, but they are the same when it comes to the most important point; keeping themselves in power. And we will all fall in line to keep them there, pushing candidates on this site, going to rallies, going door to door, mailing out fliers.

We the people are lost in this game because we allow ourselves to be. We are the republic. It only exists in our minds, and as long as we continue to think and act the way we do, nothing will ever change.

The reason I bring it up again here is because I have learned a lot the past couple of months and feel the need to share.

For starters, as much as I am a supporter of third parties, I am finding myself pushing more and more to get the Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008. Why? Because a wise friend once told me we can only change things when we have people in the governement who will listen to us in the first place. And right now this is not the case.

Now, that doesn’t mean I am 100% Dem. But after meeting some of the candidates and learning more about them as people I believe they are much better at understanding the needs of the average person. Plus, those that have reached out to the grass and net roots understand (I hope) that they will be held accountable for their actions once elected, which will keep them in check, the way its supposed to be.

We must however be ever vigilant in sticking to our beliefs in these races. Getting Democrats elected just because they are Democrats is not good enough. If we bend our words to get in but then do what we want once elected we are no better then the Republicans. And even if what we do is good, the other side will use it against us. What is in our favor is that what we want and stand for is in the best interest of the average person and the nation as a whole. So we are now tasked with getting that message out, which isn’t easy as long as we keep infighting.

Why the infighting in the first place? I think its a mixture of passion and stubbornness. I have fallen in love with the grassroots folks I have met because of the unbelievable passion they have in changing this country into what America is supposed to be. But I think that passion has led to a “you will say exactly what I want or I won’t vote for you” mentality that cripples us as a party. So here we find the conflict: how do we say what we mean and stand by our beliefs while at the same time comprimising enough to come together as a party and win?

Its this very conflict that made me a third party supporter in the beginning. But in light of that, I think every one of us needs to look at what is most important to us and consider the bigger picture of what the government is about. We seem to expect all things from the government, every problem solved, more laws and legislation for every issue we hold dear. But as I alluded to in the original post, with so many of us, can we really expect to have our individual beliefs exactly represented in the government?

Having attended the Texas Democratic Convention and seen all the groups represented there, I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be a politician and have all those groups, plus thousands more, wanting my undivided attention. Every group saying “I want this or you don’t get my vote”, every letter received demanding action now, every person they meet pushing for a specific cause; no wonder nothing gets done.

What a lot of this boils down to is what about our responsibilties to each other? We run to the government like children to mom and dad to fix our problems. We work so hard at finding differences to argue about that we forget we are all in this together. Its not about you or me, but our nation as a whole. We are fed constant conflict by a media who makes its living feeding us fear, we focus on everything everyone else is doing and we remember what wrongs have been done to us over what good we can all bring to the table.

Look, in the end the government can only do so much. We are the real power in this country. What we say and do every day is what’s important. Our elected officials are only humans, and can only do so much. We do our best to elect people who will try their best to lead the nation in a just and fair way, but it’s up to us to create a nation that is just and fair. I think Howard Dean said it best when he said “You have the power.”

I definitely think the structure of our government needs changing to meet the challenges of today. But I also think we need to change ourselves as well. Ultimately how we treat each other has a more direct impact on our daily lives then what happens in Washington. Now, that is not to say what happens there is not important. But one thing I’ve learned from the grass and net roots is that people can come together and change our world through their collective will.

So where does all this lead? For me I will vote for people who cover the overarching theme represented here. They may not fit my beliefs 100%, but I don’t expect them to. In the mean time I will do my best to be a good citizen. A friend of mine has asked me to join a local activist group that goes around doing things for the community. Sounds right up my alley.

Back In The Swing Of Things

June 18, 2006

So I went to the Texas Democratic Convention for the first time last weekend. What an experience. I was, shall we say, over stimulated the first day. So many people, so many groups represented, almost too much to take in. The second day was a little easier, if only because I was terribly hungover from the Bloggers Caucus and more concerned with hydrating then I was with stopping at every booth. Anyhow, here’s my take:

Day One-actually started on Thursday. We went to the Drinking Liberally event in Fort Worth. What a hoot. Getting drunk with like minded liberals is so much fun. We (me, Anna and Nate) started out in Arlington at our local watering hole and then made our way to the liberal event. I wish I was better with names because I met some really wonderful people there who I would love to talk with again. I do have a couple of highlights from the event.

I met my first conservative Democrat, which was weird. The guy came off as a little defensive, but I guess that is to be expected when surrounded by much more liberal Dems. Apparently being a conservative Dem means owning guns and bitching about liberals but not claiming to be a Republican. I would have talked to him more to understand his position better but he seemed intent on controlling the conversation so I moved on.

I looked down the table to see where to venture to next and found myself talking with a really nice gentleman who is running for a judge’s position down around Waco. We talked about campaigning and blogs and all things politics, but I think once he realized I wasn’t going to do anything for his campaign he moved on. Fair enough. He no doubt has more important things to worry about then talking with some Z level blogger.

I ended up discussing parenting (which I know nothing about) with a really nice lady who is a stay at home mom for the rest of the evening. We started talking because I asked her and another person what they did for a living and when she said she was a stay at home mom I said I had a great deal of respect for that, to which she gave me a look like she thought I was being condesending. It was a refreshing conversation because to be honest I was bored already with talking politics.

Day Two-walking into the convention, I had no idea what to expect. And nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Booth after booth of groups trying to get your attention, if only for a minute, candidates moving through the crowd, buttons and t-shirts with every slogan imaginable and folks of every race, creed and color come together to celebrate democracy. Truly, I thought, this is America. I did my best to stop and at least scan every booth to see what people were representing. There were so many its all a blur in my mind. From reproductive rights to gun rights, these people were there to let everyone know what they thought was the issue of the day.

I ended up blowing way too much money on pins, shirts, a board game and donations. But hey, why the hell not. It all went to good causes. I hope. My favorite purchase is a pin that says “Kiss me I’m a Democrat.” Didn’t work though, which is probably good because Anna can kick my ass. Speaking of which, her and Nate pretty much disappeared for most of the morning trying to get the blog thing going. This left me to wander about at my own frenzied pace. Hence the shopping spree. As much as I often say otherwise, I do love to shop.

Eventually I found my way to the Texas Democratic Veterans Caucus. The group hasn’t been very active since I joined, but they promised they are going through some re-organization, so we shall see. That said, the speakers were excellent. I sat in the back with David Harris and his wife Michelle, both of whom I love dearly. They are a fun couple to hang out with, and I hope like hell Dave kicks Smoky Joe Barton’s ass. And wins the election too. Dave gave a wonderful, moving speech about how he had been at that very podium 2 years earlier as a soldier back from Iraq and now he was there trying to make a difference as a candidate. When he started talking about Iraq he got chocked up and you could feel the whole room get chocked up with him. It was magical moment.

The other speakers were all very good, and since I completely suck at names I can’t remember who they were. Oh, Courage spoke, I remember that, and so did a guy just back from Iraq who I hope follows Dave’s example and comes back as a candidate one day too. It was a wonderful experience being there with my brothers and sisters in arms.

After that we all ended up at our Senatorial District Caucuses. Ours, District 10, was a very crowded room. The group was a little rowdy, so at times it was hard to hear. When we first got there Anna was campaigning for the Resolutions Commitee, handing out the longest campaign flier in history to anyone who would take it. I did my best to help, and I think people appreciated her commitment and determination. Needless to say she won. Oh, and each candidate had to give a little “why vote for me” speech, and you should have seen her up there, fire in her eyes as she said she was tired of the Republicans controlling the Democrat’s message. She got a lot of applause, and I don’t think she realizes how powerful of a speaker she is. The rest of the Cuacus was more voting, and Taking Back Texas pretty much ruled the day, getting their people elected to every open position. But more on them later.

After that event we made our way to the floor of the convention hall. Anna and Nate did the media thing, and I ended up front row, dead center. Perfect spot to hear and see the candidates. Instead of recapping each speech, if you are really that interested go check out the state party site and hear them for yourself. My favorite moment was hearing General Clark speak. He has to be our candidate in 2008. No one else can do it as far as I am concerned. Every other speech that day was good, but Clark had that crowd mesmerized. Count me in as a supporter of his presidential campaign.

We left a little early, missing Chris Bell speak, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. Why? Not because I don’t like him, but because we had to go set up the party of the night. The Bloggers Caucus was with out a doubt the best party I have ever been to. We filled the the Flying Saucer with more candidates, activists and delegates then my mind can comprehend. My highlight: seeing Barbara Ann Radnofsky kick off her shoes, climb on to the arm of a couch, and give an amazing speech. She was the only person in the room that could get the place go silent to here her speak, and every word carried determination and motivation. We as a party are blessed to have her as a candidate. And forgive me baby but I might have a little crush on her.

The people there were fun to chat with. The best conversation I had that night was with 3 young Dems from San Antonio. They were young, energetic and exaclty the shot in the arm this party needs. I love you guys, you know who you are.

Day 3-aside from suffering from my 2nd hangover of the weekend, the day started out well enough. Anna had to get there by 8 am for her commitee duties, while me and Nate rolled in around 10 am. We all ended up in the convention hall for the last big round of speeches and some inter-party elections. The early speakers were all great, though by this time I was really over hearing speeches. After a while they all sounded the same, kinda preaching to the choir if you ask me.

Then we hit the party chair election. This is where my story takes a dark turn. The race was basically between Boyd “Boss Hogg” Richie and Glenn Maxey. There were two others running, but they didn’t really have a chance. First, let me set up the situation.

There was a bit of a sticker war going on all weekend between the Richie and Maxey supporters. Both camps were doing their best to get their sticker on everyone, but one look around and it was clear that the Richie sticker was the fashion accessory of the day. It helped that Richie had cute young people at every door handing them out like candy. Then there was the signs. As in Richie signs. The first day Richie signs were hung all around the main hall. Now this would be no big deal because so were all the other candidates, except that most had a sign or two, while Richie signs numbered in the hundreds. The secound day, the day of the vote, we all entered the hall to find a Richie sign in every seat.

Now when I say signs, I don’t mean some cheap paper signs. These were multi-colored heavy, glossy stock two sided prints. (Sorry, I worked at a Kinkos for a while) Maxey had a few signs up on the railings, hand painted on poster board. Anyway, the first thought that went through my mind was, “Why isn’t this money being spent on our real candidates? You know, the one’s running for office against Republicans.” There must have been several thousand Richie signs in that place, all for an unpaid political position. Including the gazillion stickers, I heard Richie spent $50,000 to Maxey’s $8000. What the fuck are we doing as a party wasting $58,000 on inter-party politics when most of our state candidates are lucky to have a couple of hundred dollars in their war-chests? I’ll tell you why; because this was a war between the grass-roots and the establishment.

In the end Richie, aka the establishment, won. What really chaps my ass isn’t so much that he won, but why. Two reasons were brought to my attention, one which gives us insight to our party and one that I think is meant to cover up the truth in the other. The lie is that Richie won because we are too close to the election to change leadership right now. The real reason, the one that was admitted to me personally by Richie voters after the fact, is that Glenn is gay. Thats right, you read that. Texas Democrats won’t elect a gay man to lead our party. They will tell you in public, if they will admit it at all, that it’s because the Republicans will use it against us. But there was some real homophobic shit going on at the convention.

Which brings me back to Taking Back Texas. I am going to say my peace and then never bring this up again. How dare you sit in the main hall and feed me shit about some wrong you feel Maxey did to you and say that is why you won’t vote for him and then later admit it’s because he’s gay and you are afraid of what the Republicans will say. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Welcome to the establishment, where morals and values are traded for money and power. I lost a lot of respect for two people I love dearly, and it hurts to no end to see that all the talk about inclusion only counts when getting fundraising, but falls to the wayside when it really matters.

But enough with that. In the end, if you’ve made it this far, I salute you and everyone who showed up to fight the good fight. We are not perfect as a party, we are not perfect as people, but we are (I hope) correct in our beliefs and in our message. Democracy is an ugly thing, as I learned at the convention, but it sure beats the hell out of every other form of government.

So, that’s my story. I know it’s not deep political insight, profound realizations or even a good recap of the whole convention. But this is what I remember, what I took home with me. I wish I knew where to go from here. I don’t know if I can contribute to the state party, but I will do what I can to support the candidates. Because that is what we are supposed to be doing. The candidates are more important then the machine, and unless we remember that we don’t deserve to win.

80 More Lives

June 17, 2006

To the 80 soldiers lost in the month of May:

here’s 80 more lives gone away
who will never again see
the light of day
80 more souls torn away

that’s 80 more lives gone away
drifting out into the sea
in the month of May
80 more souls torn away

what’s 80 more lives gone away?
just a number the cold
and callous would say
80 more souls torn away

those 80 more lives gone away
are debt we can never
begin to repay
80 more lives torn away

for the 80 more lives gone away
let us all pray that peace
will find it’s way
to the 80 more lives torn away