Saturday, December 22, 2007
Last night, a friend and I were talking about the mess that is the media's political coverage. One of the narratives that we both hated is "the candidate you'd most like to have a beer with" paradigm, but I thought I had the best answer. If asked, the candidate I would most like to have a beer with?
He's mormon, and mormons don't drink, so I get both beers.
Friday, December 21, 2007
My campaign is generating tremendous grass roots support from concerned citizens across the country. With wage earners and laborers digging into their pockets to donate $15-$50 during tough economic times and a holiday season. The fact is, the people need a voice in Congress. My goal is to be that voice. My only agenda is to do what is best for the Country and the District. My agenda, however, does not appear to be in line with the plans of Democratic party insiders who have "anointed" an "insider" candidate for the seat. The "anointed" candidate was a state legislator who apparently "paid her dues to the Party." I invite readers to review this former state legislator's record and compare it to my accomplishments as a private attorney. She quit mid-term to run for Congress. She has yet to provide any substantive positions on important issues -- her people are "working on her policy statements." I have clear positions posted on my website. If there is an issue not addressed call or email me and I will address it.
Even without substance, however, the Party's heir apparent has raised approximately $400,000. My goal is not to bad mouth or demean my opponent. Indeed, she appears to be very pleasant. I do, however, question the very fundamentals of our Party and our processes. These times call for candidates with vision, as well as the ability and willingness to oppose the status quo. Yet we elect good fund raisers, not leaders. We complain when our elected officials pander to deep pockets. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties understand this lapse in our collective sanity and take full advantage of it to promote their own. Whether out of some misguided sense of loyalty or simply political sinecure, make no mistake, they do have "their own."
We are mired in an unjust war of our own making with no concerted effort to
implement an exit strategy. As a nation, we are borrowing money from Saudi Arabia so we can buy oil from, for example, Saudi Arabia. We are faced with a national health care crises -- we don't have coverage. Our population is aging without adequate savings at the same time we have floundering Social Security and Medicare systems. Our government is rife with corruption -- already infamous for selling off essential government functions on a no bid contract basis. We do not have adequate infrastructure or services in place to meet the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our elected officials continue to talk about global warming as if it is a political issue, rather than a scientific fact. We even have a viable Presidential candidate who rejects the theory of evolution. The list goes on. The system is broken. We need people to fix it, not to be part of it.
The question is, "Do the political insiders have a strangle hold on power?" The answer is, "Only if we let them." The problems facing our country are too important to hand off to political machines whose wheels are greased by cronyism. We need leaders with vision and the ability to stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. That is what I have to offer. Help me bring democracy back to the Democratic party. If you have read all the way through this message -- Thank you. I invite you to Google me, "Howard Shanker". Even better, check out my website at www.Shanker2008.com . Please contact me with your suggestions and thoughts. I have a proven track record of standing up against the federal government and big corporate interests to protect communities, families, the environment, and the freedoms we all hold dear. Help me give the people a voice that doesn't march in
lock step with party politics as usual. I hope you all have a good holiday season.
I have made no secret of my support of Howard, as I see him as a refreshingly honest candidate who will represent the people, has honest principles, and expresses strong, intelligent positions on the most important issues. I'm looking forward to some serious grassroots campaigning in the coming year.
Long before there was a Christmas, humans celebrated the winter solstice. Agrarian people were in touch with, and controlled by, the natural cycles of the earth. For those in the Northern hemisphere, the longest night and shortest day of the year meant that Winter had achieved its depth and now began the slow wait for spring. Across cultures, festivals were common to celebrate the returning light. The best food and drink, stored from the fall harvest, were brought out to share with family and friends as the tribes saw the light begin to defeat the darkness.
Sometime in the 4th century, Christians began to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time (even though most biblical scholars agree that Christ was actually born in the spring) as an opposition to the Roman feast of Saturnalia (which looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun. I could get into that kind of partying). Not to disparage Christmas, but the urge to celebrate the winter solstice is an instinctive part of the cycle of life on this planet. We are of this earth, and, thanks to a tilted axis, subject to its seasons.
The Winter Solstice is unique among days of the year — the time of the longest night and the shortest day. The dark triumphs but only briefly. For the Solstice is also a turning point. From now on (until the Summer Solstice, at any rate), the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer, the dark wanes and the Sun waxes in power. From the dark womb of the night, the light is born.
Many of the customs associated with the Winter Solstice (and therefore with other midwinter festivals such as St Lucy’s Day, Saturnalia, Hanukkah, New Years and Twelfth Night) derive from stories of a mighty battle between the dark and the light, which is won, naturally, by the light. Other traditions record this as the time a savior (the Sun-Child) is born to a virgin mother.
Happy Winter Solstice to you all. Let's celebrate the coming of the light.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Lakota Indians, the tribe of legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have declared their independence from the United States Wednesday.
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.
"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.
A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.
They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.
The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.
The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.
One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples -- despite opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own laws.
"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by. They continue to take our land, our water, our children," Phyllis Young, who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.
The US "annexation" of native American land has resulted in once proud tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people," said Means.
Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies -- less than 44 years -- in the world.
I wonder if they will be recognized by the UN (or the American Media), but I'm willing to bet Hugo Chavez will recognize them. Any other predictions?
Update: Means does not appear to have the authority within the Lakota tribe to make such a declaration official, so he may just be blowing smoke for publicity.
Uhm, I remember my teenage years.
I remember how much we thought about sex, and sometimes actually achieved sex. At least we had been taught about birth control, not that it guaranteed that we would use it. So, some teenage girls got pregnant, leading to marriage, abortion, adoption, or young motherhood. Society survived. The same was true for my parents generation, my grand-parents generation, and, I suspect my great-grandparents generation (my great-grandmother got married at 15, and gave birth to my grandfather 5 months later).
Over at PoliTits, Dcup has written a great piece about talking about sex with her children. It's quite funny, but also incredibly wise. In a sane society, this would be how teen sex is addressed.
The decision immediately provoked a heated debate over its scientific basis and whether political pressure was applied by the automobile industry to help it escape the proposed California regulations. Officials from the states and numerous environmental groups vowed to sue to overturn the edict.
This really is just a stalling game, as the states will most likely, based on precedent, win in the federal courts.
The 17 states — including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — had waited two years for the Bush administration to issue a ruling on an application to set stricter air quality standards than those adopted by the federal government. The decision, technically known as a Clean Air Act waiver, was the first time California was refused permission to impose its own pollution rules; the federal government had previously granted the state more than 50 waivers.
The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.
The California attorney general, Edmund G. Brown Jr., called the decision “absurd.” He said the decision ignored a long history of waivers granted California to deal with its special topographical, climate and transportation circumstances, which require tougher air quality standards than those set nationally.
Mr. Brown noted that federal courts in California and Vermont upheld the California standards this year against challenges by the auto industry.
Way back when 'ol Dick Nixon created the "Environmental Protection Agency", he was actually thinking about the "environment." It was among the few good things Nixon ever did. But St. Ronnie and shrub have turned it into the "Corporate Protection Agency." The states are going to win this one after a long court battle, but the corporations will gain time to continue profiting off of pollution. Why do the right thing for the planet when there is money to be made?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
WASHINGTON—The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress.
The new report outlines every bill filibustered, vetoed or threatened to be vetoed by President Bush. Conservatives filibustered bills to end the occupation of Iraq, provide soldiers in Iraq rest time equal to their deployments, support renewable energy and grant residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Today's record-breaker involved a $516 billion budget package passed by the House to fund the federal government in 2008. The conservative minority demanded $20 billion additional funding for the war and opposed House language to bring troops home, and threatened a filibuster to prevent the bill from getting an up or down vote.
"In just one session, a minority in Congress has prevented a mind-blowing 62 pieces of legislation from going to the floor for an up or down vote," said Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey. "Our report shows how over and over again, the uncompromising minority has thwarted the will of majorities in Congress and of the American people, holding the Senate floor hostage to a radical right-wing agenda."
Even pieces of legislation that have made it past the Senate filibuster blockade have been obstructed by President Bush. Last week the President vetoed for the second time a popular bill that would expand health coverage for 10 million American children. According to the Campaign for America's Future report, Bush has threatened to veto 84 bills and has vetoed six as of December 17. In contrast, during the period when the Republicans were in the congressional majority, Bush went the longest time without vetoing a bill since President Arthur Garfield.
Eric Lotke, Campaign for America's Future research director and lead author of the new report, calls the obstruction a "deliberate strategy." He observes that the congressional Republicans block legislation, then blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. "It's like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn't delivered on time."
And they still have another year of this session to expand on that record. We'll see many more episodes where shrub stamps his feet and demands that congress give him everything he wants, and the loyal thugs will filibuster any useful legislation. When democrats attempt to do the "peoples business", they will be blocked and then blamed. Then the media will tell us "congress isn't getting anything done."
The GOP (Gross Obstructionist Perverts) in action.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House on Tuesday approved an energy bill to increase the fuel efficiency of U.S. cars and trucks for the first time since 1975, boost production of renewable motor fuels like ethanol and cut energy use in light bulbs and appliances.
The Senate approved the same bill last week and President Bush will sign the measure into law Wednesday, the White House said.
To win the backing of Bush and many Republican lawmakers, Democratic congressional leaders had to drop from the bill provisions that would have imposed about $13 billion in taxes on big oil and gas companies and required utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
With global warming and high oil prices ahead, this feeble effort is disappointing at best. The country desperately needs more wind and solar power, and alternative fuels that are not made from foodstocks. This bill fails to address either.
So all the congress-critters and shrub will smile, pat each other on the back, and congratulate each other for having done "something" about energy. Even though the "something" is only slightly better than "nothing."
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I haven't posted any weird critters lately (except the Coconut Crab), so here's a giant rat from Indonesia:
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Researchers in a remote jungle in Indonesia have discovered a giant rat and a tiny possum that are apparently new to science, underscoring the stunning biodiversity of the Southeast Asian nation, scientists said Monday.
Unearthing new species of mammals in the 21st century is considered very rare. The discoveries by a team of American and Indonesian scientists are being studied further to confirm their status.
The animals were found in the Foja mountains rainforest in eastern Papua province in a June expedition, said U.S.-based Conservation International, which organized the trip along with the Indonesian Institute of Science.
"The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat," said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip."
Pretty cool for a rat.
We learned this week that the CIA destroyed tapes of American officials committing torture. The American people deserve to know whether laws were violated and whether the President was directly involved in illegal activities. Torture is a black and white moral issue. A failure to act decisively in this case will be an unacceptable failure of leadership.
Torture is un-American, it violates international law, and it is wrong. And when I am President, I will make sure that those who are responsible for torture are held accountable for their actions.
When I have secured the release of people held in captivity overseas, I have seen the fear in the eyes of captured men and women, and I have spoken with their scared families. To them, the Geneva Convention is not "quaint" or outdated; it is the bedrock institution guaranteeing that no one -- no matter how powerful -- is above the law.
And yet, in the thirteen months since winning back the House and Senate, Democrats in Congress have done too little to force this administration to stop torturing.
Perhaps one reason that Bush and Cheney have been so comfortable with torture is that they feel they will never be held accountable for their actions.
Indeed, despite consistently stating that they can't accomplish anything because they lack a filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats failed even to block an Attorney General who equivocated on torture.
They have taken no action on the International Criminal Court.
They have failed to appoint a Special Prosecutor to provide for high-level accountability.
They failed to restore habeas corpus.
They have done nothing to enforce the Constitution or any of our laws against torture.
This must change. If Congress won't act, then our next President must.
The next President must be clearly and unequivocally committed to changing our country's stand on torture, and that is exactly what I pledge to do. Strong leaders are not afraid to be held accountable, nor are they afraid to hold others accountable for acts that we all know are wrong.
As soon I am inaugurated, I will order investigations to find out who is responsible for torture -- those who allowed it, those who sanctioned it, and those who carried it out. We can and will find out who is responsible.
Richardson's chances of winning are extremely slim, but he's right on so many issues. With the media circus focusing on Clinton/Obama trivia, this statement by Richardson will not get the notice it deserves. But I, for one, will say "Bravo, Bill."
Monday, December 17, 2007
I felt old.
These days, I work in a catering business for to earn a livin. If you didn't know this- sorry to shock ya'll- only persons of fair-to-middling or extraordinary wealth can afford to call a caterer. So everything has to be presented extra goddamn mutherfuckin fancy. That's my job. Specially this time of year-"The Holidays"- when lawyers, doctors, museum fatcats and the like loosen their purse-strings a bit to throw catered parties.
The answer is no. Absolutely not, if you were wondering if maybe there is some pecuniary trickle-down avalanche of prosperity for me. But this isn't really the topic I want to discuss here.
It is that the millionaires always request more than they and their guests can consume. 90% of the time, I tell ya. And because it must be unseemly, during some event involving white linen tablecloths and a crystal goblet containing a splash of the finest gewurtztramener.(sorry I'm a beer-drinker) for one to say aloud-"May I have a doggy bag" for this whatever the fuck it may be, could be salmon flown in from Peru, consequently, barques of what we so steadfastly send out, return, sailing elegantly into soup-pots as it can.
I carved 4 turkeys this week, transmogrified 5 styrofoam cases-"baby coffins"- of salmon into steaks that went with cilantro-macadamia butter or some other OOVY GROOVY FOOFOO CRAP. Hmm, yep it's been a long week. Yesterday we sent out a veggie lasagne dinner with garlic bread and stuff . It was a 30-banger, we were told. 5 persons showed up.
But y'now, you know, I know, methinks, well over half this planet's population will never experience the variety and immensities of the food I work with everyday. Or its ghastly, ghastly wastefulness .
Say you had my job, m'kay, and all this perfectly sound food comes back. You might wonder how long the line at the mission is, just down the road, or maybe you have a friend, or friends you know are not eating so well. So you might be considered a conscious philanthropist if you take all this food home or whatever. But here is yer boss- ie- the fella who pays you to create too much bourgeoisie viddles- and he thinks he pays you well (dumbass) and you know he kinda wants to be your buddy kind of (which creeps you out a little) but he is actually a pretty decent (dumbass) guy. So, could you shovel leftovers into your backpack before his very gaze? Then he thinks yer not able to get by on what he pays you. Not to mention, being an employee in a commercial kitchen and slipping out the back with a pillowcase of grub is always everywhere considered nefarious at best.
So December in Affluent America is a lucrative time for the owners of catering businesses, when whose kitchen garbage cans it takes two grown men to lift.