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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

 

Tug's Boy

In the spirit of the late Johnny Cash and the living Willie Nelson, current country music icon, Tim McGraw has something to tell us all:

"It's innate in me to be a Democrat — a true Southern populist kind of Democrat. There's not a lot of those anymore,"
-Country Singer Tim McGraw

 

(Note: Tim McGraw, besides being a Country Western star is also the son of former major league pitcher, Tug McGraw, the great relief pitcher who played for both the 1969 World Champion New York Mets and the 1980 World Champion 1980 Philadelphia Phillies. He died of a brain tumor in 2004.)

My first reaction? "Get the @$*%& out of here!"

But, really, I must disagree. There are a lot of "populist Democrats", Tim, and we're going to rear our  ugly heads this November. The only question is will enough of us come out of our left-leaning closets to make a difference?

"The issues that matter to me are the social safety nets for people, health care, middle-class concerns. We need to take care of the middle class and the poor in our country. The chasm is getting larger between haves and have-nots, and that's something we need to close down a little bit,"
-McGraw


Are there enough NASCAR dads out there to say, "If Tim McGraw can say he's a Democrat, so can I!"? I believe there are.

Now all we need are a few NASCAR drivers to come out of their "garages" and tell the truth: that they are for health care for all; that they are for helping the poor; and that it isn't all about one pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and "
God helps those who help themselves." (I used "garage" instead of "closet". Clever... no?)

McGraw has even hinted at a political run someday:

"One of these days, if the opportunity's there, that's something I'd love to do. It's a high calling to serve the community, and if you can do it, I think you should."
-McGraw


Hey. Tim... We'll be watching you, and so will Karl "The Traitor" Rove.

-Noah Greenberg



Jeb Bush Endorsed Foley

"Gov. Bush campaigns for Foley's old seat"
-An Associated Press Headline


I can hear the pitch now from Governor Jeb Bush (REPUBLICAN-FL):

"... and you can trust me when I say that Joe Negron will not hit on young boys and has no closet to come out of."

That's the campaign strategy. One wonder if it will be a winning strategy.

Are they setting the bar low, or what?

And here's the catch: In order to vote for Jeb's boy, Negron, to win, you'll have to vote for former Rep. (and current pedophile) Mark Foley (REPUBLICAN-FL) whose name is still on the ballot!

"This election is not a referendum on Mark Foley,"
-Negron


I couldn't agree more, Joe. It is, however, a referendum on corrupt and callous GOP house members who deserve to be thrown out immediately. And it will be.

The people of the United States, both Democrats and the true "Compassionate Conservatives" know there is a need for change and this is the year where it must begin.

Hey... Just out of curiosity... since Foley hasn't been convicted of anything yet... and since his name appears on the ballot, what is preventing him from saying "I will serve out the next two years of my term," if he wins this election?

-Noah Greenberg



Jeb's Army Vs. Our Right to Peacefully Assemble and Petition the Government

PITTSBURGH AP-- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took refuge in a subway station supply closet when he was greeted by protesters on his way to a campaign event for a Pennsylvania Republican senator [Rick Santorum]. Officers used stun guns to subdue two protesters, saying they disobeyed orders to disperse, Bob Grove, a Port Authority spokesman reported. "It was a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him," Grove said. The protesters, members of the United Steelworkers union and an anti-war group, chanted: "Jeb go home."

Hallelujah! This made my heart sing!


-Forwarded and commented by Kelly Taylor



Mike Ferguson: Enemy of America’s Working Families

Every year at election time, I’ve noticed an ever-growing, dangerous trend. People on all sides of the political Ferris wheel arguing about abortion, gun control, saving the environment, saving and stopping everything and anything that the current owners of this great country of ours want us all to fight with each other about. During all these highly publicized battles, I kind of noticed that one important battle was missing. Maybe one of the most important battles there is today, or there ever was. This secret battle that has slipped off the radar is the one for the American working families in this country.

Now, I’m going to guarantee you that there will be some Republican supporter who will almost definitely write a counter letter to mine, but I promise that everything I’m about to write is fact. If you don’t believe it, you can go to a number of sites and fact check the voting records of all politicians, from all sides, but be very careful, you may learn something you didn’t want to learn.

Let’s start with our own 7th District congressman, Mike Ferguson. During his recent term, there have been serious key votes directly affecting working families—39 to be exact. Our beloved congressman, on these important issues, has voted exactly eight times in favor of working family issues. What are these issues you ask? Well there are many, but a few stick out in my mind. The rest you can look up yourselves.

One of my favorites is when he voted against an extension of unemployment benefits. You see, once your unemployment benefits run out, you’re not counted as out of work anymore, so, in a nice underhanded move, the current administration can say such untruthful things as we are creating more quality jobs and there are less people out of work, the numbers definitely don’t lie. You know the jobs I’m talking about, like, Wal-Mart for minimum wage, Burger King. Does anybody in New Jersey believe you can live and support your family on minimum wage??? Mike Ferguson does, because he also voted against raising the minimum wage. The rest of the list is interesting, too, from making sweetheart trade deals with other countries around the world, aid to other countries around the world, fast track trade clauses with other countries around the world (even some communist countries). I’m sure you get the point! And how about the one where he gave big tax breaks for a company to stay in the United States??? If you didn’t see that one, its because it never happened. And don’t start thinking that it costs too much to stay in America, or buy American. If everyone in this country wants to make top dollar, then they should expect to pay a little more for a good old Made In The USA product. It would be really nice if one of our elected officials would publicly stress buying American-made products. But I guess it’s not the trendy thing to do.

With all this in mind, and after careful thought, I’m throwing my hat into Linda Stender’s campaign. And I ask every hard-working American citizen to do the same. I’m sure you have all heard the brilliant commercial by Congressman Ferguson that states, “Stender the spender.” OK, will somebody tell me which politician doesn’t spend money???? Does Mike Ferguson really think the average Joe in this state is that stupid? I hope you’ll do the research and let Congressman Ferguson know just how smart we really are.

So please, at least show up on Election Day if you can, and send a strong Jersey message to Congressman Bush (oops!!!), I mean Ferguson, sorry. I sometimes get the two of them confused. And remember, if every person in America spent $5 a day on American-made products, it would create approximately 5 million or so jobs.

-Joe Lukac, a member of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 102 in New Jersey, in a crucial get-out-the-vote message for New Jersey union members, especially those in the state’s 7th Congressional District

 

-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane



Proving a Negative

First term congressman, Patrick McHenry (REPUBLICAN-NC) is setting us back some 300-plus years.

MCHENRY: Well, look, all the fact points lead to one question: Did Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi have any involvement on the strategic or tactical level?
BLITZER: Do you have any evidence at all that Democrats or others might have been behind the timing of this scandal? (The release of the emails and instant messages from former Rep. Mark Foley [REPUBLICAN-FL]to underage pages)
MCHENRY: Look, lets be honest
BLITZER: Do you have any evidence to back that charge up?
MCHENRY: No, no, actually...
BLITZER: Well, you don't have any evidence, though, right?
MCHENRY: Well, look at the fact points.
BLITZER: Yes or no, do you have any evidence, Congressman?
MCHENRY: Do you have any evidence that they weren't involved?

Go ahead... prove you're not a witch. The GOP and its members like Rep. McHenry have just set us back to Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600's. This must be what 1996 REPUBLICAN presidential candidate, and former Senator Bob Dole (REPUBLICAN-KS) must have meant by "building a bridge to the past."

-From a forward from many Madman readers, commented by Noah Greenberg



PERILS OF FAILED BUSH DIPLOMACY
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal Register Newspapers Inc.


In his monologue October 11th, Jay Leno joked “The Republicans finally got some good news last week–North Korea tested a nuclear bomb. It was so powerful,” Leno continued, “it knocked the Mark Foley story right off the front page.”

While the joke was in poor taste, there’s no question that the Republicans were desperately seeking deflection from the scandal over the pedophile Congressman whose sexual attentions toward a series of underage male congressional pages has rocked the party leadership, raising questions about whether the Republicans put House seats above child welfare.

Thus a collective–if short-lived–sigh of relief went up among Republicans when North Korea announced with pride that it had tested a nuclear weapon October 9th. The Bush Administration has consistently made saber-rattling the keystone of its foreign and domestic policy, and North Korea presented the perfect deflection from the domestic crisis within the party over the widening Foley scandal.
But was there actually a nuclear test? For days no detectable radiation in the air or water surrounding the peninsula was observed, which made international groups monitoring the alleged test question whether it had actually occurred. However, on October 13th, faint tracings of nuclear material were found in tests by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

With the test, North Korea became the ninth nation to have nuclear weapons technology.

Five nations are members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which means they have nuclear weapons but will not continue to develop new ones, are devoted to decreasing nuclear weaponry worldwide and are pledged to not using the nuclear weapons they have. Those nations are the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China. India and Pakistan have developed and tested nuclear weapons, but have refused to sign onto the NPT. In addition, Israel does not declare that it has nuclear weapons, but is generally believed to have approximately 200 in its weapons arsenal. Former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has asserted in the past that Israel would use nuclear weapons if attacked, underscoring the international presumption. Iran has been developing uranium enrichment technology for weapons purposes, and has already received criticism form the United Nations and the international community for seeking nuclear armaments.

On October 14th, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on North Korea for the nuclear test. The Security Council stated that North Korea’s actions posed “a clear threat to international peace and security.”

Negotiations over the language of the resolution took the better part of two days, with Russia and China as reluctant signatories. The U.S. pushed hard for the resolution.

In 2002, President Bush referred to North Korea, Iran and Iraq as “the axis of evil” and soon after invaded Iraq. Bush has consistently refused to negotiate with North Korea and has severed all diplomatic ties with the nation, as he has with Iran. These actions are roundly seen in international circles as contributing to the current nuclear crisis.

Now the U.S. is left to depend upon China for aid in diplomacy with North Korea, a situation that neither China nor the U.S. appears comfortable with. China sits on the border to North Korea and has been the nation’s closest (and for the most part only) ally since partition more than 50 years ago; China’s investment in maintaining diplomacy with North Korea is vital.

North Korea immediately rejected the UN resolution, however. North Korea’s UN ambassador, Pak Gil Yon, stormed out of the Security Council, but not before asserting that U.S. actions were suspect. The Ambassador declared that the resolution was “gangster-like” and ignored the threat of nuclear war posed by the Bush Administration. Yon stated that North Korea was interested in talks, but said North Korea would consider U.S. pressure a declaration of war.

North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world.

The resolution condemns the nuclear testing and demands that North Korea divest itself of all nuclear weapons. The resolution rules out military action against the country, a condition imposed by Russia and China. However U.S. Ambassador John Bolton warned North Korea that any proliferation of nuclear weapons would result in the U.S. seeking further action.

The U.S. last made a similar declaration about Iraq. Several weeks later the U.S. invaded.

In addition to the condemnation and resolution, the UN Security Council demanded that North Korea immediately return to six-party talks aimed at persuading the North Korean government to suspend its nuclear program. However no nation with nuclear capability has ever suspended its nuclear program without incentive to do so. (Seven nations have done so thus far–mostly members of the former Soviet Union as well as South Africa, all with incentives.)

No one should expect the UN resolution to have any impact on North Korea. The nation is one of the two most sanctioned countries in the world (the other being Cuba), and previous sanctioning has done nothing to alter the behavior of radical North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il.

China and Russia are correct, if self-serving, in their desire to limit the sanctions on North Korea. The Bush Administration would do well to look to the past when dealing with Pyongyang.

The failure of the Bush Administration to engage in substantive talks with North Korea has indeed helped to precipitate the current crisis, which cannot and should not be minimized. Whereas Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq posed no threat when the U.S. invaded in 2003, North Korea poses a significant threat, particularly with nuclear weaponry.

The differences are instructive and important to recognize as the U.S. considers what to do next.

First, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. North Korea does. It only takes one nuclear weapon to do significant damage, as witnessed by the U.S. use of nuclear weapons on Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Second, it is evident what damage a destabilized Iraq has done to the region as a whole. By all accounts, including the Pentagon’s, the war on Iraq has only served to increase the threat of global terrorism, inciting Islamist radicalism and counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East.

Should the U.S. threaten North Korea–a threat it cannot possibly uphold since the U.S. simply does not have the military force to invade North Korea or even station significant troops in the region–the U.S. could precipitate destabilization of North Korea which would be disastrous, and on a far greater scale of disaster than the damage the U.S. has done in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein was dangerous mostly to his own citizens. And while the rest of the civilized world was rightly horrified over the crimes Hussein committed against his own people, the Iraq regime in 2003 posed no true threat to any other nation. Nor, it was clear, was Hussein interested in anything other than living out his despotic life in the comfort of his many palaces.

Such is not the case with Kim Jong Il, who is not only a ruthless tyrant to his own people (he recently participated in the starvation deaths of more than three million North Koreans in less than two years), but Kim Jong Il has an inflated sense of his own power and a desire for more, as evidenced by every action he has ever taken, including this nuclear test. The North Korean dictator is roundly seen as megalomaniacal and eager to prove to his populace how much he holds the rest of the world in his thrall. This nuclear test is a step in proving that.

Kim Jong Il is indeed dangerous. North Korea is perhaps the world’s most isolationist country, with no real contact with any other nation except China on whom it relies for trade and income. Factor in the disturbing reality that North Korea’s main export is weapons, and the threat seems exponential.

It’s been 44 years since the Bay of Pigs debacle. That should have taught the U.S. that taunting nations with nuclear weapons is not diplomacy, but a precursor to war.

Kim Jong Il and George Bush have intransigence and arrogance in common. These factors make the current situation precarious. Bush has staked his entire presidency on his ability to force other nations to their knees. That strategy has failed in both Afghanistan and Iraq; there is even less reason to believe it could work in North Korea.

Which leaves diplomacy, something the Bush Administration has never shown an interest in nor a facility for.

Yet that is the only path that is open between Washington and Pyongyang at present.

Bush also has to consider the neighborhood. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan may feel the need to acquire nuclear weapons on their own for self-protection against Pyongyang. As the only nation to endure a nuclear attack, Japan has consistently refused to embrace nuclear weapons. But as the second richest nation in the world and the most technologically astute, Japan could develop nuclear weapons within a few months, should it choose to do so. South Korea, one of the world’s scientific leaders, has the same capability. And Taiwan, privy to much of the technology available in China–a nuclear power–has the same capability.

Which means unless there are incentives for these nations *not* to develop nuclear weaponry, they very well might feel compelled to do so, even if they are ethically squeamish about it. Which will only escalate the nuclear threat in Asia.

The other wild card is destabilization. If Pyongyang feels threatened, as the North Korean Ambassador suggested it did by U.S. intervention, then Pyongyang might lash out in a pre-emptive manner, as did the U.S. with Iraq. A full-scale nuclear war between North Korea and anyone else would lead to chaos and catastrophe in Asia and would inevitably draw in Russia.

If North Korea destabilizes, South Korea would suffer tremendously from attack as well as an influx of millions of refugees. Other countries in the region might feel the need to intervene, causing a full-scale nuclear war which could easily lead to a global nuclear conflict and, in the not-implausible worst case scenario should world war ensue, the nuclear decimation of the planet.

In his 2002 State of the Union speech in which Bush proclaimed the axis of evil, he threw down a gauntlet of sorts to those three nations. Iraq ignored the comments, but North Korea and Iran did not; both nations have systematically worked toward having nuclear capability and it is difficult to imagine that Bush’s saber-rattling wasn’t the precipitating rationale.

Now North Korea presents perhaps the greatest threat to the Bush presidency. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice have prided themselves on ignoring diplomacy. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was a proponent of diplomacy and he was forced to resign or be fired. But the triumvirate of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice have ignored diplomacy throughout the six years of the Bush Administration and the perils wrought by this failure to perceive the importance of maintaining dialogue with nations that are on the political margins has been catastrophic.

The U.S.-proffered UN resolution only serves to further isolate North Korea and perhaps force Kim Jong Il’s hand. The resolution bans the import or export of material and equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. It orders all countries to freeze the assets of and ban travel for anyone engaged in supporting North Korea’s weapons programs. Since weapons’ sales are the primary trade of North Korea, it seems that these sanctions are in name only and are not likely to result in any actual stoppage of trade in weaponry. The U.S. had requested a complete ban on the sale of conventional weapons by Pyongyang, but backed down when Russia and China balked at the idea. The final resolution limits the Pyongyang embargo to tanks, warships, combat aircraft and missiles. The resolution also demands that all other nations inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles. But since North Korea has been dealing in arms trade for decades, it seems unlikely that those countries already doing business with the outlaw nation will cease to do so.

The Bush Administration has once again been caught up in its own failures. The Foley incident is but a small domestic skirmish in the larger arena of where and how President Bush’s policies have failed to actualize any meaningful change anywhere–at home or abroad.

In 2000, Bush campaigned on a refutation of nation building, but his entire presidency has been devoted to dismantling and rebuilding nation after nation.
It hasn’t worked elsewhere and it definitely won’t work with Pyongyang.

The Bush spin network spent most of last week placing blame for the current situation with Pyongyang on the Clinton Administration, but since diplomacy was indeed a hallmark of that Administration, that spin simply doesn’t fly–especially since there have been six years during which the Bush Administration could have opened talks with Pyongyang, but not only failed to do so–*refused* to do so.

Where does that leave the U.S. now? In a position of uncomfortable subservience to China on the matter of negotiating with North Korea. In six years the Bush Administration has dismantled U.S. strategizing and diplomacy to such an extent that now the U.S. is reliant on an eviscerated UN (eviscerated by this Administration which deliberately chose John Bolton as Ambassador; Bolton declared prior to his appointment that the UN needed dismantling) and other nations like France with Iran and China with North Korea to do its negotiating by proxy.

Not only is this a humiliating turn of events, but it’s also a dangerous one. China is not the most trustworthy of nations and they naturally have their own interests foremost. Can the Bush Administration depend on Beijing to soothe Pyongyang and quell the current crisis? Should we ever have been put in this position by President Bush?

The North Korean debacle is another unpleasant October surprise for the Bush Administration. Where the President might have hoped at the beginning of last week that it would provide another stage for him to posture as “the decider,” by week’s end it had only proven one thing–Bush’s policies and strategies do not work in the real world when other world leaders choose to ignore his bullying.

Would the world be safer if North Korea did not have nuclear weapons? Unquestionably. Which leaves the international community with only two choices: diplomacy and more diplomacy.

Threats don’t bother Kim Jong Il; they make him more intransigent. This is a man who allowed three million of his countrymen to starve to death rather than accept food from the West to avert a wholesale famine.

Diplomacy is essential. The North Korean ambassador was clear at the Security Council meeting: talks are welcomed, but U.S. saber-rattling will be viewed as a threat of war.

The President and his Administration need to recognize that the U.S. cannot continue to threaten nations when it has no military to bolster those threats (more than half the soldiers in Iraq are on their third tour of duty) and when those threats put the entire globe in jeopardy.

Elections are but a few weeks away. There can be nothing more important in America today than that the dangerous radicalism of the Republican stranglehold on Washington be loosed. The Bush hierarchy has proven two things–it’s not capable of protecting our kids in the halls of Congress and it’s not capable of protecting our nation from terrorism and nuclear threat. It’s time for a change, or at the very least a means for diluting the radical tactics of the Bush Administration which grow more desperate and more disturbing every week.

Two facts were revealed this week that were buried by the Foley scandal and the North Korea debacle: more than a half million Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invaded in March 2003 and the Pentagon expects to keep the troops already in Iraq there through 2010.

The war on Iraq was Bush’s first strike at his so-called “axis of evil.” Whether or not one agrees that these nation’s leaders are evil–and I personally do, predicated solely on how they have treated their own citizenry–since when did the U.S. take on the job of deposing dictators through endless wars with no resolution?

In September the Bush Administration was threatening sanctions against Iran. In October it sanctions North Korea. Both nations have already called Bush’s bluff. Which means once again, as he did with his ill-conceived adventure in Iraq, the President has put our entire nation at risk from nations that have nothing to lose in wreaking havoc with us or with the world.

It’s time for the American people to sanction George Bush for what he’s done to threaten the stability and prestige of our nation. Come November, remember that every time you vote for a Republican candidate, you strengthen the out-of-control Bush Administration and its dangerous policies.

Republican values have ceased to be American values. We cannot afford another two years of rogue Republican antics that put our nation, our children and every one of us at risk.

North Korea may indeed pose a serious threat, but so does George Bush and he is in our own back yard.



In response to, "paltry $5.15 an hour to $7.25 will cost jobs and drive the economy down. But 650 economists, including several Nobel Laureates, today said that’s just not true. In fact, raising the minimum wage will have little effect on jobs and will help lift some low-wage workers out of poverty," Rhian writes:

Excuse me? As a single working mom, with two kids, I have to say, $10 per hour is the very minimum needed for a living wage, for one person. It costs one person an average of $750 per month for a place to live. Food for one person is a minimum of $75 per week. By the time utilities are subtracted, transportation costs come out, there is nothing left.

Who are these economists who think $7.25 per hour will actually give workers money for medical insurance? Lift them out of poverty? It won't even get them off food stamps.

The economists and Nobel Laureates who think $7.25 per hour will lift some poor people out of poverty, are boy toys being supported by rich ladies, right? Or maybe they are perpetual students without families, living off grants for research? Whoever they are, they make it obvious they are completely out of touch with the financial responsibilities of jobs, kids, mortgages, car payments, etc., that 96% of American people shoulder.


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-Noah Greenberg