Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blum and Gloom XXVIII

[Week 27 / Week 28 / Week 29]

It's week 27 at Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office. To date he still doesn't support impeachment. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) continues to call his colleagues to hold Bush, Cheney & Co. accountable.

Neither wind nor rain stopped this Coalition for Peace and Justice.

Local attorney John Bradach was there as usual, but this time he brought a special guest protester, his sister Lynn. Since her son Travis died clearing US laid landmines in Iraq, Lynn has lead a life of full blown activism punctuated by brief periods of respite and recharge. She and I first met at Blumenauer's "Peace and Accountability" forum in Hollywood, where the Congressman made a pledge (since broken) "to vote NO on any appropriations bill that would continue military operation in Iraq." I don't wish to write anything trite about how she's channeling her grief for a greater good. All I know is there was a lesson there for me. And everyone should check out Adopt-A-Minefield in tribute to Travis, a proud US Marine.

Most of us listen to the local morning show on KPOJ, THC with Thom, Carl and Heidi. It's progressive talk radio and today a familiar voice joined the chorus calling for Rep. Earl Blumenauer to do his duty. "Ben in Aloha" (who keeps us all informed regarding weekly peace vigils on the West side) crossed the Willamette to give us more boots on the ground. Ben too is a proud US Marine.

Please join us every Thursday, noon to 2pm near the Lloyd District of NE Portland, 729 NE Oregon Street.

[video h/t Joe Anybody]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rally for Equality

"Don't wear loafers to a protest, son!"

What was I thinking? Maybe it's demonstration fatigue. For the labor rally on Monday, I was dressed for bear. I had on my full metal jacket of parkas, was well layered beneath that and was wearing my boots, to boot. This evening, I was traveling by bus rather than bicycle so I was less focused on the weather, which turned out to be pissy.

The call to action came from Basic Rights Oregon and was promoted on KPOJ. The rally was in response to the blocking of Oregon's new Domestic Partnership legislation by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman just days before the new law was to go into effect. Mosman's injunction stays in effect at least until his court hears further argument regarding an effort to keep the Oregon Legislature passed domestic partnerships on hold, pending a vote of the People.

Some 1500-2000 demonstrators easily filled the brickwork of Terry Schrunk plaza under a steady drizzle, spilling up onto the sodded and sodden slopes comprising the rest of this city square's amphitheater. The numbers were encouraging and not surprising given the broad coalition that actively supported the event. Beyond GLBT interest groups there were members of labor unions and peace groups (including my friends from Veterans for Peace, Local 72) as well as well as supporters from the faith community.

And there were candidates... Both leading Democratic candidates to challenge Gordon Smith for his US Senate were there, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and the Democratic activist with a hard left hook, Steve Novick. City Councilor turned Mayoral candidate Sam Adams was there as were City Council candidates Nick Fish and John Branam whose 1000+ signatures for Voter Owned Election qualification are awaiting verification. I saw Oregon Attorney General candidate, Greg Macpherson in the crowd and former Governor Barbara Roberts on the stage.

As I tramped through the mud, cursing my tractionless choice of shoes, I couldn't help wondering... hoping really that the GLBT community will return this show of support. Not that queer folk aren't already well represented in the communities of faith, justice, peace and labor... It's one thing to show up when your own tribe is threatened, but I know for a fact that a lot of straight folk were in attendance and not because their close friend or relative is gay or because they're running for office.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Michael "Waterboarding is OK with Me" Mukasey

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Federal official most responsible for law enforcement in our country, is still unable to go on record admitting that waterboarding constitutes torture.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Any answer I give could have the effect of articulating publicly -- and to our adversaries -- the limits and contours of generally worded laws that define the limits of a highly classified interrogation program," Mukasey said.

Mukasey's nomination to replaced disgraced Attorney General and Bush crony Alberto Gonzales was all but sunk last November when in his confirmation hearings, he refused to state if waterboarding constituted and illegal method of interrogation, in other words, "torture." That's when Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sided with pro-torture Republicans to send Mukasey's name to the full Senate for approval. He passed the Judiciary Committee on a narrow vote of (11-9).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Support Portland Public School Workers

Last year, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the workers' reinstatement, and 126 of the 300 PPS employees returned to find our investment in public schools in desperate need of maintenance. It seems when you outsource family wage jobs to temp agencies, you get what you pay for.

Nine months ago, the contract expired for these custodians and nutrition workers (the cafeteria folks) . One sticking point? The School district was "offering" a 34% pay cut.

I'm just returning from a rally, march and picket walk organized by SEIU LOCAL 503, the union which represents laborers from our community who feed our children while at school and maintain the facilities they learn in... honorable occupations indeed. (Remember, I am biased.) About 200 PPS service workers participated with supporters such as myself as well as several folks running for political office.

LOCAL 503 touts the elected leaders who attended the rally, and it was no surprise, though gratifying nonetheless to see my State Senator, Kate Brown (who is running for Oregon Secretary of State as well as my Representative in Salem, Diane Rosenbaum (who is looking to succeed Sen. Brown). Even our Speaker of the House was there, who was the last to join his fellow legislators in the photo above.

His nemesis in his quest (some say anointment) to become Oregon's next junior Senator, "Left Hook" Novick, participated as well. It was an interesting picture. Even though Novick stood among the protesters, he also stood out. Maybe it's his new ad campaign, but as Thom Hartmann recently said on his KPOJ morning show, "[He'd] make a great Senator, and it's got nothing to do with his height."

Rep. Rosenbaum got the workers riled up and reminded us all that, between the two establishment parties, Democrats are leading the fight for working families. This might have been when Spkr. Merkley "spent some time during the rally talking with SEIU President Andy Stern." In reality, I saw a lot of glad handing. Below, candidate for Oregon Treasurer (and bull semen farmer), Ben Westlund wrangles Rep. Rosenbaum as she chats up Andy Stern. Stern also addressed the crowd and in his remarks recalled a time when "workers were not a cost... they were an asset."

With the protesters revved up, there was a march once around the big industrial block just to the south of Portland Public School Board offices. Once back, most of the politicos evidently sought warth inside, but there was plenty of energy among the union members and their supporters to walk a picket until the start of the board meeting. When conflicts like this arise, I wonder how our leaders (in this case, the School Board) can be so out of touch.

On our way home, Martha, Malcolm and Joe reminded me of the nexus between economic justice and peace.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Casey's Mom at Bat for US. Wins!

“We reverse and remand for a new trial, however, because appellant was convicted of a crime that does not exist.”
With these words, the conviction of Cindy Sheehan was struck down by the US Court of Appeals. Cindy's son Casey was killed in the occupation of Iraq following the second US/Iraq War. She was arrested while petitioning the Government at the gates of the White House.

In its reversal of the lower court's ruling, the Appeals Court acknowledged that Sheehan and her co-defendants were "prevented from offering a viable defense." Cindy Sheehan has effectively re-secured a portion of our Freed of Speech, both in the courtroom and on the streets.

[More...] h/t to Joe Walsh, the Lone Vet

Saturday, January 26, 2008

¡Hola! Barack

As I heard the quote from the Obama campaign, "good, ol' fashion ass whoopin'" I clapped such that the Chris'mas lights, left hanging (abandoned, really) came on. And here comes the Senator on the telly right now.

With 99% of the returns in, a fuller extent of Obama's South Carolina victory comes into focus:

Obama 295091 55%
Clinton 141128 27%
Edwards 93552 18%
Kucinich 551 0.1%

Described in the mainstream press as a "rout," Barack Obama ends with a more than 2-1 lead over presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

It is also worth comparing the Democratic S.C. primary to the Republicans' a week earlier:
McCain 147283 33%
Huckabee 132440 30%
Thompson 69467 16%
Romney 67132 15%
Paul 16054 4%
Giuliani 9494 2%
Hunter 1048 0.2%

The Democrats managed to turn out some 90,000 more voters in their primary than the GOP did. But this is the most striking factoid. Obama received more than twice the votes than the GOP victor (and Bush war fan) Sen. John McCain. Even taking into account the larger Republican field, it is still noteworthy that Clinton and Edwards also best their place and show counterparts, Huckabee and Thompson (R.I.P.)

Should Obama win the nomination, he will have this advantage in South Carolina come November. He has already received 150,000 more votes in that state than any other rival.

Friday, January 25, 2008

¡Adiós! Dennis

I heard on KPOJ this morning that Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio is ending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for US President. Of all the candidates, his message spoke to me the most. Was there perhaps a problem with the messenger? Do we ourselves have a problem? With "short" people?

I recall a conversation on this topic on the radio back in November. The radio hosts (Thom, Carl and Heidi) were discussing the importance of physical appearance in political campaigns. A caller astutely noted that in this media driven world, the visual package matters. Advertising works! Carl agreed, saying "There's a telegenic aspect to running for President." Height of course is merely one factor. To his credit, Thom said "I frankly don't care what the guys look like." And I suspect when polled, most voters would agree. But there is the so-called Bradley effect, which essentially refers to biases that people are perhaps to afraid to admit to themselves.

Heidi brought the discussion home referencing the US Senate race in Oregon and Thom ended the segment saying "teve Novick would make a great Senator, and it's got nothing to do with his height." I can think of only one possible advantage that Novick's 4' 9" would give him. (Well, I could think of a lot of silly things too.) Back to the question of "electability"... These are only opinions, not backed up by any data pulled out of my nether regions.

  • I believe a certain fraction of the electorate are less likely to vote for a candidate based their race, sex, height, etc.
  • I also believe it to be a fact that Novick's entire physical package (yes, hook and all) will more than offset lost votes due to hidden prejudices simply because he is indeed so different. I once heard him joke, "The voters want someone who's a little different. Well, I'm little. And I'm different!" Looking at the what we've already got, you've got to admit he's very different.

Ok, this is my take on the current field. If you didn't see the real ad on TV yet, you can check it out here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blum and Gloom XXVII

[Week 26 / Week 27 / Week 28]

It was sunny and cold with more bullshit from the Pelosi regime in the forecast. Join us Thursdays on the corner of NE 7th Avenue and Oregon Street as we petition our government to do their duty and uphold the Constitution by holding Bush, Cheney & Co. accountable by supporting impeachment. So far, Rep. Earl Blumenauer is missing in action.

Which reminds me, Veteran for Peace, Joe Walsh had an interesting take on the Larry Craig airport restroom affair. As the story first broke, this Lone Vet (who has more than a passing familiarity with our rights as citizens) noted that Craig's biggest problem was his ignorance of the law. According to the Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution the horny Senator could have simply told the officer he was courting to "step off!"

"[Senators] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place."
Joe also informed us that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (who has already introduced articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney) will take the opportunity of Bush's State of the Union speech on Monday to call for the President's impeachment as well. The Congressman had this to say on the floor of the House yesterday.
"The President and Vice President lied and 4,000 of our soldiers died. The President and Vice President lied and a million innocent Iraqis died in a war that'll cost us two trillion dollars while people here in the states are losing their jobs, their health care, their homes, their dignity. Lies are weapons of mass destruction. Lies are also an impeachable offense. Monday, January 28th is the State of the Union. We already know the State of the Union, it's a lie." (January 23, 2008)
You won't find this in the Congressional Record however, as Kucinich was forced by House Republicans to strike his own remarks from the record. Some of you may be surprised that Freedom of Speech is not respected in the US House of Representatives.

[video h/t Joe Anybody]

Honestly, thank God

I was multi-tasking when then news hit. Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley was involved in a rollover accident. My heart immediately sunk. These have been days of introspection. Images easily conflate. I was in a serious bicycle accident on the last Fourth of July. I can see a family photo of Jeff in my mind's eye. I think of him in this moment as a father. And I am relieved, even with the initial alarm... at the Alert...

Ore. Senate candidate escapes injury in rollover accident

Ever mindful of what we all have in common. A moment of gratitude... gracias a Dios.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Proud to be a Democrat?

I saw this advertisement over at Loaded Orygun, a blog I have been following... partly because of Senate '08 coverage (and no, I don't really mean Novick v. Merkley). Torridjoe (a.k.a. "TJ") and Carla (a.k.a. "Merkley's web mistress") got me to pitch in some dough to try and recruit Rep. Peter DeFazio to take on Sen. Gordon Smith. We failed. Since then, I guess I've just been trying to get my lost money's worth.

But back to this post and that ad... It was a string of testimonials from various Oregonians declaring why they're proud to be Oregon Democrats. I know a few folks from the ad, and by the end... well, I was rather emotional... mixed emotional, actually.

Maybe it's just the week sitting shiva... (What's often missed in my posts... in the writing of them I mean... are the frequent long pauses. You might call it introspection. Other's may blame a short attention span... Anyway, I just went there again...)

And when I look inside to try and articulate what I would say in such an ad, well...

"I'm a Democrat... again... [CUT!] ... because... when my voice was silenced... by a Democrat... I wanted to vote in May... [CUT!] ... I'm an Oregonian who grew up a Republican... [CUT!] ... I'm a Democrat who is not proud of the Democratic Party. [CUT!] ... [CUT!] ... [CUT!!!]
I want so much to associate myself with all those Oregon Democrats on that video. But I am thoroughly disgusted with the leadership of this party of mine which I recently rejoined. At first, I assumed incompetence when after the 2006 election the Democrats continued to fund the occupation in Iraq. Today, given the scope of the Bush administration abuses already documented and the Democratic leadership's reluctance to hold him accountable, one can only conclude complicity.

And I keep coming back to the ad... "I'm so-and-so, and I'm proud to be an Oregon Democrat."

I don't feel proud. I feel ashamed... of myself. It's not that I was silenced... I silenced myself... out of fear. I don't blog under a pseudonym for purposes of privacy, but rather for protection. Everyone who knows me knows that this is my blog. It's just the strangers left scratching their heads. Unfortunately, I have been stalked in the past. And in a world where the information superhighway can lead right to my driveway, I choose to be Thom.

But the president of Mandate continues to push, and there's little I can do about that. I won't be posting my bio any time soon. Who cares, anyway. It's not like I'm on anyone's payroll. But if you really want to know... just ask. The email link has always worked.

Thursday, January 17, 2008