Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Attention Senate Democrats: It’s Time for Spine

Here’s what happens: A majority of the Senate wants to discuss and vote on legislation of crucial importance; legislation touching on basic civil liberties and a disastrous and unjustified war. A minority doesn’t want to discuss or vote on this legislation.

The Republicans threaten a filibuster. The Democrats go for a cloture vote but can’t raise the required 60 votes. At this point the Democrats wring their hands and whine that they’re helpless to do anything. Poor pitiful Democrats.

Excuse me? Of course the Democrats can do something: Let the minority launch its filibuster. Let’s force the Republicans to filibuster. I’d like the nation to see some team of lonely suits reading from the Congressional Record in a nearly empty Senate chamber rather than do the nation’s business.

When the Democrats back off after a failed cloture vote they hand the Republicans the equivalent of a successful filibuster, but without any effort on the Republicans’ part.

Let’s at least make ‘em work for it.


On September 21 the NY Times published an editorial from which I offer the following clips:

“If you were one of the Americans waiting for Congress, under Democratic control, to show leadership on the war in Iraq, the message from the Senate is clear: “Nevermind.” The same goes for those waiting for lawmakers to fix the damage done to civil liberties by six years of President Bush and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress.”

“On Wednesday, the Senate failed to vote on two major bills. One would have restored basic human rights and constitutional protections to hundreds of foreigners who are in perpetual detention, without charges or trial. The other was the one measure on the conduct of the Iraq war that survived the Democrats’ hasty retreat after last week’s smoke-and-mirrors display by Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush.

“There were votes, of course, but not on the bills. They were cloture votes, which require 60 or more Senators to agree to cut off debate, eliminating the possibility of a filibuster, so Senators can vote on the actual law. In both cases, Democrats were four votes short, with six Republicans daring to defy the White House.

“We support the filibuster as the only way to ensure a minority in the Senate can be heard. When the cloture votes failed this week, the Democrats should have let the Republicans filibuster. Democratic leaders think that’s too risky, since Congress could look like it’s not doing anything. But it’s not doing a lot now.”


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ken Burns-- The War

I hurried home from the theater Sunday and hunkered down, along with an estimated 18.7 million other folks, to re-live (in my case) my childhood. I was 12 years old when the war started on December 7th 1941.

I was in the Loop (Chicago)seeing a movie with my mother and father. I don’t remember which movie, but when we left the theater we noticed a long line of young men standing outside what we later learned was a recruiting office. That I do remember.

As soon as I graduated from grade school I was expected to work during school vacations and during the summer. As you can imagine it was easy for a kid to get work during the war.

One summer I worked as a Western Union messenger. (Forty cents an hour, 16 dollars a week, minimum wage.) Notices of MIA status and of deaths were delivered by telegram, but not by messenger boys. An older man in the office had that job.

But one day a mistake was made and I was handed one of the starred envelopes to deliver. We were busy, so rather than tell the office a mistake had been made I went to the edge of our delivery district…like an angel of death in a brown Western Union messenger’s hat...with sorrow wrapped in a yellow envelope.

The address was a six-flat with a blue-starred service flag in a first floor window. I rang the bell and someone came to the door. (Odd, I can’t remember whether it was a man or woman I delivered that death knell to.) What I do remember was thinking I would never do that again.

I never again wanted to be that close to changing a blue star to gold.

My worst memory of the war.

Monday, September 24, 2007

End of The Run

The Rogue Theatre closed its three-week run of The Cherry Orchard with last Sunday’s matinee. This is the Rogue’s third season and I’ve been proud to be a Rogue in five of the theatre’s productions. I mention this in the interest of full disclosure, not to call attention to my own modest contributions but because I want to recommend this company and you should know where I might stand.

To begin with this is the kind of theater I adore…the kind that makes you want to get together with friends after the show, open a bottle of wine, and talk. There are all kinds of theater, or course, and each has its place. There are times only a light and refreshing May Wine is what you want, but there are times and tastes that only a big booming Zinfandel will suit; one that practically begs to be chewed on to release its flavors.

The Rogue is “Big Zinfandel” theater. It’s wonderful to play in and wonderful to see.

There is an audience for this kind of theater in Tucson and the Rogue has been slowly building it. Theater is a business as well as an art, and like all start-up businesses a new theater company must have the staying power to last through a sometimes dodgey period of ‘customer base’ building.

Judging from the respectable size of the house at a matinĂ©e on the last day of a three-week run it looks like the Rogue will be around for a while…as it continues to find its audience and its audience finds it.

There’s more exciting theater in store for Tucson area audiences. You can get a good sense of the Rogue by clicking through the archives and you can read about the rest of the current season here.

If you're new to the Rogue you can get a good sense of what it's about by looking over its past seasons, here.

Incidentally, the Rogue has a Manifesto, if you're so inclined. I love 'em, myself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Edwards on Hillarycare

It’s almost enough to get me sucked back into actively supporting a Democratic presidential candidate. What’s that, you ask? Well it was Edwards address to the SEIU convention. You can view the whole speech here.

His comment on the Hillary strategy of giving everyone a seat at the table in planning health care was spot on. If you give the insurance companies and the drug companies a seat at the table they’ll eat all the food.

Edwards is the only candidate who is aggressive enough on the health care issue to satisfy me. (Or possibly Kucinich who, if I remember correctly, simply proposes Medicare for all.)

NY Times: Free On Line

The New York Times announced today that starting tomorrow it will terminate its TimesSelect service and offer complete access to the paper free of charge. This means that access to NY Times columnists, archives, and other services for which subscribers have paid, will now be free.

You can read the Times announcement here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bush on Bush...Mail This Link

X4mr, the keeper of the blog “Sustainability, Equity, Development,” has posted one of the best criticisms of Bush and his administration I’ve read. I imagine that Lefty Blog readers have already read it; we are, after all, the choir we all preach to.

This neat reminder of what Bush and his administration have brought down on us- nearly all of it in his own words- needs a wider audience. I’m mailing the following link to everyone in my e-mail address book.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Support Your Local Union

In November of ’08 I’ll be voting Democratic. It won’t much matter to me who the Democratic presidential candidate is. The most I hope for is that he or she will put the brakes on neocon dismantling of civil liberty protections, the aggressive favoring of the rich over the poor, and the favoring of corporations over other economic stake holders.

Even with a Democratic presidency and Democratic control of Congress I doubt we’ll see a reversal of Republican tax cuts, universal single-payer health care, or a withdrawal from Iraq. At best I expect a series of slightly more liberal judicial appointments and a less fundamentalist approach to a spectrum of women’s issues.

Although greatly weakened, the American labor union movement is the last organization, or group of organizations, still actively committed to economic democracy, the defense of the poor and, generally speaking, the progressive social ideals that were once the heart and soul of the Democratic party. There are no “Blue Dogs” in the union movement.

Therefore, rather than volunteering for, or giving money to, the Democrats I’m going to look for ways to support the growth and influence of my local unions. Collectively they are the best alternative to a progressive 3rd party.

Let’s hear from Union folks out there…how can those of us who are not union members best help?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Naked Bike

The latest fad in powerful street bikes is the "Naked Bike," a bike stripped of all body work so that the structural elements of the motorcycle are exposed. This bike carries nakedness to an extreme.

I don't know if this is actually rideable and, because the photos were forwarded to me, I can't credit either the builder or the photographer. Can anyone out there help?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surge is Working!

It’s hard for me to find new ways to express my despair and disgust with Democratic collapse in the face of our continuous, yet failing, involvement in Iraq. We are mired up to our ear lobes in the quag and Dems dither their way into inheriting the war and being forced to make it their own. I’m speechless.

Fortunately, other bloggers have been saying what needs to be said in new way, so I will pass the wisdom of others along.

Consider, please, these clips from Frank Dwyer’s “Working” Stiffs blog at the Huffington Post:

“The surge is working, of course. More than that, it has been a tremendous success. Who can deny it? Who?

“It has not achieved all of George W. Bush's goals in Iraq, whatever they are. It will not create a strong new city-on-a-hill democracy in the Middle East, which the US can benevolently oversee and protect (in a spectacularly lucrative arrangement) from large permanent bases to the end of time. It will not restore any real, lasting order in the chaos of Iraq (though it can provide some ideal photo-op pockets of peace and quiet-inside big Camp Cupcake, for example, where our stealth warrior-hero wannabe just had his picture taken). It will not stop the tribal bloodbath we have so innocently, ignorantly, criminally provoked (though it can turn it into a trickle, here and there, for a little while). It will not even help us identify which Iraqis we ought to be trying to kill and which are on our side. (In fact, with our selective and isolated applications of American power-not to mention our timely bribes-it makes that basic questions much harder to answer.)

“The successful surge has achieved none of the shifting list of goals that have been advanced to justify this war. It has only "worked" to accelerate the astonishing neocon assault on our fundamental security, our reputation, our national honor, our economy, and our soldiers. But it is working, nevertheless. How?

“The surge has sewn debilitating doubt, confusion, despair, and division in the enemy.” ---The Democrats. Read the whole post here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Democratic Suckers

I know no polite way to put this: Progressive Democrats are being betrayed by Congressional Democrats and presidential candidates, who seem incapable of standing up against a continuation of the Iraq fiasco. They are suckers for the Republican ‘moving goal post’ trick.

The Democratic majority in Congress is the result of opposition to the war and the desire to move our troops out of Iraq as rapidly as their safety during withdrawal allows; yet Democrats wring their hands and whine that they are helpless to act in the face of a Republican presidency.

Sorry, but I’m underwhelmed. Consider the following U Tube piece submitted by David Sirota. Then, if your annoyance-and-despair level will allow it, consider these opening paragraphs from Paul Krugman’s column in Friday’s NY Times.

"Here's what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he'll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq -- as long as you don't count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.

"Here's what I'm afraid will happen: Democrats will look at Gen. Petraeus's uniform and medals and fall into their usual cringe. They won't ask hard questions out of fear that someone might accuse them of attacking the military. After the testimony, they'll desperately try to get Republicans to agree to a resolution that politely asks President Bush to maybe, possibly, withdraw some troops, if he feels like it."

Fortunately the entire column has bee posted at Read it here.

And for Keith Olbermann’s take on the ol’ move-the-goal-post strategy click here.

Does anyone really believe these Democrats are going to do anything even if they do win the presidency? May I sell you a bridge?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Proud To Be a Rogue

The Data Port’s political commentary has been pushed into the distant background by rehearsals for The Rogue Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard. We launch with a preview performance this evening and an official opening night tomorrow. You can visit the Rogue site here.

Performance times:

Thursday–Saturday 7:30 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM
Preshow music begins 15 minutes before curtain

Preview Night Thursday September 6 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Will Nights Thursdays September 13 & 20 7:30 PM

The Rogue’s performance space is Zuzi’s Dance Theatre, Historic YWCA, 738 North Fifth Avenue at University Boulevard.

Director Cynthia Meier notes:

"Anton Chekhov completed The Cherry Orchard in 1903, just seven months before his death. He wrote it for the Moscow Art Theatre led by Konstantin Stanislavsky. Chekhov was convinced he had written a comedy; Stanislavsky was equally convinced it was a tragedy. Set at the threshold between two worlds, the play is about a specific family, a specific time, and a specific estate, yet The Cherry Orchard speaks to the universal human experience. What is it we love? What does home mean to us? Does our ancestry shape our future? Is it possible to transcend class distinctions? Each of the fourteen characters in the play is caught in the interplay of social and economic forces which defined turn-of-the-century Russia, but each is also caught in questions of his or her own. We hope The Cherry Orchard will offer similar reflections for you. At The Rogue we feel very fortunate to have spent the last several months looking at and living this masterpiece."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Labor Day

I wrote what follows several years ago. It appeared in Tucson’s Desert Leaf.

Labor Day

Everyone loves Labor Day. It's a great three-day weekend, with a paid day off. The weather's fine and the back yard and patio look as good as they have all year. If you're not going to the mountains, lakes or seashore... kick back, light the grill, and suck down a brew.

You might also remember to thank the men and women of organized labor, many of whom were beaten, murdered, or run out of town so that we could enjoy the eight hour day, paid vacations, pensions, and guarantees that women and children would not be exploited in the workplace.

You may have forgotten, but the eight hour day and the paid vacation are not part of the natural order of things. They represent labor union victories.

I am now about to use a certain word. It's not a bad word, it's just a simple noun. I guarantee you I do not freight it with any nasty emotional overtones. Ready?

Capitalism. Our economic system is Capitalism. It is a nifty system; it really works. But it is intrinsic to that system that it treats labor like any other raw material and will always try to buy it as cheaply as possible. It will go overseas for it; it will confine it in little cubicles; and it will buy a lot of it part time so it doesn't have to pay benefits.

That's the way the system works...for labor. It doesn't work quite that way for other kinds of raw material. Sure, a contractor will try to buy cement cheaply, but he has to dicker with the cement guy, who will raise or lower his price until the two can agree to do business.

In the sports world, when a college basketball star hires an agent to negotiate with team owners we think nothing of it. The agents bargain with the owners for the players' services and the athletes refuse to play until they have a contract. But if a group of carpenters gets together to do the same thing it's socialism...or worse.

On the 2nd of November in 1909, during what became known as the "Uprising of the 20,000," female garment workers went on strike in New York. Many were arrested and a judge told those arrested: "You are on strike against God."

Wow...who'd have guessed?

There's nothing unpatriotic about the union movement; it's as American as apple pie. Boston carpenters walked off the job in April of 1825 in the interest of a 10-hour workday. Ten years later, children working in the silk mills in Patterson, New Jersey went on strike. Of course they had an outrageous demand: A six-day workweek of eleven hour days.

Sweatshops, eleven-hour days, inadequate wages and wretched or dangerous working conditions are largely a thing of the past. The result is we tend not to notice or care about Capitalism's continuous attack on the power and even the existence of the union movement. This may not be a good thing.

A union is the average hourly worker's only defense against the economic power of a system that always tries to buy raw materials at the lowest possible price. It's not dumb, if you're an hourly wage person, to remember you're just so much raw material to that system.

The union maid and her guy aren't opposed to Capitalism. If you stop and think about it, the fact is that just the opposite is true. These folks simply want to behave exactly like all the other links in the capitalist chain of supply and demand. All they ask for is the right to bargain for the price they get for their labor and the conditions under which it is supplied.

Why should they be the only players in the game denied that right?

But for now, enough. Get the ol' hammock swinging, pop another brew, and dribble mustard on your shirt. Enjoy the day off with pay. It looks like we've all profited from the American labor movement, even if we've never belonged to a union.

On Labor's special day let's all heed the old organizing slogan and "Take it easy...but take it."