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Archive for August, 2006

Oh, The Irony…

For years now, what has been the overriding argument in favor of progressives supporting Harold Ford Jr?

Surely by now, you know the words to this song. I confess, I’ve sung it more than a few times myself. We need the Senate back, we need subpoena power, etc. To swipe a phrase from the verbally diarrheic Don Rumsfeld, he’s not the candidate we want, he’s the candidate we’ve got.

His supporters have complained for years that progressives walk away when their candidate doesn’t win. They complain that progressives go third party when their candidate doesn’t win. They “take their marbles and go home” to put it in the parlance I’ve heard from several Ford devotees.

There’s something sickeningly hypocritical about that position, though. The 9th District Congressional Primary didn’t go Harold Ford’s way so he’s… Taking his marbles and going home. Instead of doing as he asks us to do and endorsing the Democratic candidate, he’s holding out on his endorsement, ostensibly to help his unqualified younger brother in his third party bid.

This is what he had to say when he met Steve Cohen face to face:

“I can support you, but I won’t endorse you.”

The great Jackson Baker broke that story a little over a week ago, and Leftwing Cracker wrote a great post about it shortly thereafter.

I wanted to give it a few days. I was hoping that having his hypocrisy and craven duplicity in print might jar Harold into doing the right thing. But I’ve been patient long enough, and nice for far too long. It’s not really in my nature, and gives me the most vicious headaches.

Of course, this isn’t the only race where Harold lacks the testicular fortitude to do the right thing and back the Democratic candidate. He has disregarded the wishes of the Connecticut voters that voted against his “friend” Joe Lieberman just as he ignored the wishes of the 9th District voters.

No wonder Harold went on Imus last week and declared “Joe Lieberman is a Democrat”. He has no idea what being a Democrat is. I can’t even imagine how low George W. Bush’s approval ratings have to get before Harold figures out that he shouldn’t look like half of a conjoined twin set with him. As we speak, Republican candidates are doing more to distance themselves from Bush than Harold is. 2/3 of his Congressional district voted to fire George W. Bush in 2004— Not that Ford would know that— It’s not like he’s ever here. And when he is, he’s as connected with his constituents as I am to Jessica Biel (And sadly, I’m not connected to her at all).

We’re expected to ignore all of this and back him unconditionally because he’s “the nominee”.

But he won’t do that for Steve Cohen, will he?

George W. Bush just had a fundraiser for Bob Corker. They’ll be counting money for a long time; Fact is, they might be better off simply weighing it and making an educated guess based on the weight of a $100 bill. Early reports are that they may have raised as much as $1 million.

So Harold will soon be dunking for dollars himself.

So how pathetic is it that he’ll soon be asking all of us to do what he’s not willing to do himself— Back the Democratic candidate for office?

Not one red cent for him. Not until he grows a pair and does the right thing. Not until he learns to practice what he preaches, both here and in Connecticut.

If he can’t support Democratic candidates simply because they’re the Democratic candidates (If for no other reason), then he has absolutely no right to ask the same of us.

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Skyflowers

I saw Land of the Dead over the weekend. I was talking about it with a friend of mine from work, and he was asking me what the “political statement” of it was. He explained that George Romero had said in an interview that all of his “Dead” movies were intended partially as political allegory. I don’t really think there is on any partisan level— If there is, it’s so subtle that I didn’t notice. There’s a theme running through the films in that most of the humans you meet are actually worse than the zombies, and LOTD was no exception. But I don’t necessarily see that as political.

However, there was one part of the most recent one that I think was probably an accidental political point, but a salient one.

Early in the movie, you learn that humans have found an easy way to carry out their agenda. As they raid a town full of zombies to scavenge for supplies, they shoot up fireworks, or “skyflowers” as one of the characters calls them. The zombies are completely distracted from what they were doing, and stand in the street staring up at the fireworks. In the meantime, the humans walk right past them to take whatever isn’t nailed down, and often kill them where they stand while laughing their heads off.

And it got me thinking about the skyflowers in our own society.

How many people are profoundly affected by the Jonbenet Ramsey murder? A dozen, perhaps? Yet there it is at the top of every news hour. We have a war going on (And not going well), a major city that is largely uninhabitable, gas prices through the roof, a war with Iran on the distant horizon, a steep increase in fatalities in Afghanistan, and yet… America is so captivated by a ten-year-old murder case that even questioning the wrong guy takes priority over all of that.

How many people know more about Tom Cruise being cut loose at Paramount than they know about current conditions on the ground in Iraq? Do we really care that Lindsey Lohan is getting drunk and showing up to a movie set late? Who is Paris blowing today?

Every time one of these non-stories comes up, Americans take their focus off of the world around them to look up at the skyflowers.

Who has been more effective at floating them than Fox News? Their brand of news for the escapist crowd has resulted in Americans knowing more about the Natalee Holloway disappearance than the current state of the war in Iraq.

By halfway through Land of the Dead, a leader has risen from among the zombies that encourages them to ignore the fireworks and focus on the task at hand.

Where is that guy?

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Just a little less than a year ago, I attended a lecture given by Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking. She travels the country speaking out against the death penalty, and she spoke at a Catholic church in East Memphis.

This was just a few short weeks after water topped the levees in her adopted hometown and laid it waste.

“The miracle of Hurricane Katrina” she said, choking up slightly, “is that it ripped the veil off of George W. Bush’s attitudes about the poor.” It was hard to argue with that. In fact, if any argument was to be made at all, it was that George W. Bush’s attitude was tucked under the flimsiest of veils, a tiny cloth that always seemed in danger of slipping off to reveal the true hideousness beneath. It was only a few days after the First Mother said rather cheerily in a “let them eat cake” moment that many of the people affected by the tragedy were poor anyway, so it “worked out well” for them. New Orleans was everything that George W. Bush was ill at ease with. It was sexy, spicy, and dangerous, but in that good way— She’s the girl that you know you can’t take home to mother, but you’ll have a great time with her until the bed breaks.

And most of all, it was black. It was full of working class people, jazz musicians, practitioners of strange religions, women who bare their breasts for cheap trinkets tossed at them— Definitely not the kind of people you find in Kennebunkport unless they’ve been hired to clean someone’s pool.

The official line was that the president had no idea it was coming. You’ll recall this excuse worked rather well for him on 9/11, at least until the commission established years later that he had ignored numerous warnings. It wasn’t until April of this year, after mud and feces stunk up the streets of a major city for eight months that the video establishing that he did in fact know was leaked.

The phrase “Heckuva job, Brownie” has become something of a catchphrase in the last year, even making it into an episode of “The Sopranos” when Paulie Walnuts colossally screwed up something as simple as setting up a merry-go-round for a street fair. It’s fairly indicative of what Sister Helen talked about— While 30,000 languished inside the Superdome (A building designed only to house people long enough to watch the Saints lose) with only 36 hours of food, the ultimate do-nothing federal government was patting itself on the back for a job well done.

Not that “Brownie” was the only one that screwed up. He was the most glaring and obvious (Gee, who could have ever thought there could be negative fallout from hiring a horse show judge to manage national emergencies?), but there was a catastrophic failure throughout the federal government.

The right wing noise machine tried to shift the blame to Ray Nagin by using an aerial photo of the New Orleans School Bus facility and spreading the rumor that 2000 school buses sat unused. This link goes to probably the best debunking of that myth that I’ve yet found. They tried to shift the blame to Kathleen Blanco by saying that she hadn’t requested aid soon enough, words that they soon had to eat.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this. No one has the resources at the disposal of the federal government. Should Blanco have deployed the National Guard? Sure. But they weren’t available because some raging fool sent them on the Great WMD Snipe Hunt, along with much of the heavy equipment assigned to the Louisiana National Guard. Turns out that some of the same equipment that helps you clear mud and trees out of city streets is also good for pulling wreckage out of the new democracy built in Baghdad.

Was Ray Nagin’s performance good? Of course not. When your city is built on the same design principle as a soup bowl partially submerged in a bathtub, you do not piss around when it comes to ordering evacuations. Was Blanco’s performance good? I’ve heard conservatives say it wasn’t, but I’ve yet to see one offer anything tangible that could have or should have been done better.

But the federal government failed so thoroughly that the stench of failure hangs over the Potomac the same way the stench of mud and shit hang over New Orleans. FEMA was saying they couldn’t make it in safely, but Sean Penn found a way. So did Harry Connick, and come to think of it, even the rough-and-tumble Al Gore managed to get into the city before FEMA did. When the federal government was pretending it was unsafe to go into the city, Anderson Cooper was wading in knee deep water.

When this nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, the federal government not only managed to put together a plan (The last actual plan ever devised under Bush), but managed to put together an international coalition and fly the 6,750 miles to Afghanistan in time to put special forces in and start shelling on October 7. Twenty-six days. Clearly, the federal government can manage a brisk pace when they feel the need.

It took two to get to Louisiana, where lives hung in the balance, where every moment that passed made a rescue scenario less likely and a recovery scenario more likely.

When “children of a lesser god” are to be killed, George W. Bush rushes in. When “children of a lesser god” need to be saved, there’s always something else to do. In this case, the end of a vacation, a photo op with John McCain’s birthday cake, and playing air guitar with Mark Wills all took priority, just as trout fishing took priority over a memo called “Osama bin laden Determined To Strike Inside the United States” four years earlier.

And what has happened in the year since then? We’re no closer to rebuilding New Orleans than we are to rebuilding Iraq. Perhaps that’s because the checks for both of those projects are deposited into the same bottomless bank account.

As different as they are, there’s one stark similarity between 9/11 and Katrina. I remember being told that Osama bin Laden was “wanted dead or alive” just as clearly as I remember being told during a speech in Jackson Square that George W. Bush was ready to “do what it takes”. He still has that same lack of follow-through, which at least partially explains his torpedoing of Representative Richard Baker’s (R-LA) bill to allow New Orleans homeowners to recover 60% of the values of their homes (Which seems 40% shy of a fair deal, since we’ve allowed insurers to default on paying the claims without consequence).

For those people who voted for George W. Bush and cite “security issues” as the reason for it, the time has come for you to face the music.

Do you want to see what a catastrophic attack on the United States would look like? Look at New Orleans. New Orleans is how ineffective this government is with close to a week’s advance warning.

How bad would it be with no warning at all?

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The Larsha Incident

As I’m certain most people are aware by now, a member of the Shelby County Democratic Party Executive Committee, William Larsha, plans to sponsor a resolution that the executive committee back Jake Ford in the upcoming election for Tennessee’s 9th District Congressional seat. West Tennessee Liberal and Leftwing Cracker have both written magnificent pieces about it that all should read, and Desi Franklin has written terrific responses in all corners of the blogosphere that should be read as well.

I don’t personally know Mr. Larsha. If I’ve ever met him, I’m unaware of it. All that I have to base an opinion around are the statements of others, and he seems to be almost universally respected. He’s an older man who lived through black Americans’ struggle for equality, so his perspective is going to be a bit different than mine. He came of age in an era before Dr. King; My parents married a few months after Dr. King died, but I wasn’t to become anything other than a vague idea for another four years.

It’s hard to blame someone who has survived what Larsha has survived and seen what he has seen for not wanting to surrender what he undoubtedly sees as a sign of black progress.

Does that mean he’s right? Not a chance.

My anger when I first heard about the resolution has been replaced by sadness on many levels. I’m sad that white politicians have been so traditionally unresponsive to the needs of black constituents that some believe only a black candidate is willing to fight for them. I’m sad that as a result of all that, someone with no record to run on is seen as a viable alternative to someone that has a long record of fighting for the oppressed.

I’m also sad for Mr. Larsha, as I think his position is an attempt to roll the clock back to good old days that have long since passed.

A black representative no longer means that blacks have representation. It’s been ten long years since the 9th District has been represented by someone that I’ve seen really take any kind of a stand on behalf of black Americans.

Larsha’s resolution is flawed because it is based on the premise that only a black representative will represent the interests of black constituents. If he was thirty years old, I could easily write this off as blatant racism. Larsha remembers the days when that was true.

I sympathize with the man based on that. But here’s the real reason he can’t be kicked off of the executive committee for this.

Is this or is this not the party that got into a huge row over the endorsement on non-Democrat judicial candidates recently? How did that turn out?

Has anyone put forth a resolution condemning Deidre Malone or any of the other Democrats that endorsed Bill Gibbons?

If Mr. Larsha is to be shown the door for this, then there’s much more housecleaning to be done within the SCDP Executive Committee.

Larsha’s resolution should be called out of order and spiked before it gets to a vote, just as he undoubtedly knows that it should based on the bylaws he helped to write.

But should his be the only one?

I know that some of the “Democratic” (In quotes because TN judicial races are supposed to be nonpartisan) candidates in the judicial races were grossly underqualified, and Steve Cohen is anything but underqualified. That’s certainly a mitigating factor in the executive committee’s judicial endorsements.

But at the end of the day, the question is very simple; Is the executive committee in the business of endorsing and supporting non-Democratic candidates or not?

I support Steve Cohen. I think the very fact that people believe Jake Ford’s presence in this race is anything but superfluous is an insulting underestimation of Cohen, whom I believe will end up being the greatest champion that people of all races have had since Paul Wellstone died.

All I ask is that as people deliberate the fate of William Larsha, they try to look through the eyes of an old man who has seen the bad old days and is terrified that they’ll return.

It’s easy to show mercy to a staunch ally. It’s much more difficult to show mercy to an opponent, but it’s the hallmark of great leaders. Julius Caesar pardoned those who supported Pompey Magnus in the Roman Civil War. Abraham Lincoln waged war with the goal of returning Confederates to America again.

And the SCDP Executive Committee faces the same challenge— To defeat an effort without destroying the individual that supports it.

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The Maverick

If Joe Ford Jr. isn’t careful, he could end up with a repuation as a renegade.

Then again, I’ve always liked renegades, so I’m quite cool with that.

For those unaware of what I’m talking about, Joe Jr. posted this comment on another blog:

I am a Democrat. Unless or until there is reason to do otherwise, I will be supporting the Democrat nominee which is Sen. Cohen.

I still wish the best for Jake and feel that he will garner significant votes no matter who may or may not be supporting him. I wish him the best! However, party unity is very important to me and as a Democrat, I have a duty to support fellow Democrats.

First, I would like to congratulate him. He’s shown something that Nikki Tinker, Ed Stanton, Julian Bolton, et al have failed to show: That the interests of the people of Tennessee’s 9th District should be placed ahead of personal ambition. He gets that. They don’t. They lost, so they can’t bring themselves to care what kind of shape they leave the party in.

But first and foremost, he’s done the right thing for his family. If Harold Ford Jr. is to have any chance of beating Bob Corker this fall, he’s going to need a Democratic Party that is in prime fighting shape. He doesn’t get it if his younger brother splits the party and fuels resentment along the way.

I hope that Joe Ford Jr. sticks around. Personally, I’d like to crack open a brew or two with him sometime, talk to the man, and see what his plans are for the future.

Thanks, Joe.

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Snakes on a Race

Mover over Tinker – It’s “Joke time”!

And just when you though things were going to chill out, here we go again. Indeed, temperatures in Memphis are not cooling down and -evidently- hot races in Memphis aren’t either.

The election of Steve Cohen as the Democratic candidate for the 9th Congressional District and the debut of Joke Ford as his opposing independent candidate, have once again ignited the racial debate across the blogosphere. TMB blog has become the main stage of this debate, in which people have forgone all political correctness and decorum in expressing their beliefs and launching corresponding attacks. Blacks are calling whites racists; whites are calling blacks racists; blacks are calling each other racists; yo’mamma is calling yo’ass racist… so on and so forth. There are some motherf@cking SNAKES on this motherf@king RACE!!

Although the early beginnings of this debate where somewhat engaging, lately, it has acquired that common and predictable tone of W’s press conferences (It’s the terrorists! 9/11!). It’s old, it’s stale, IT’S BORING!!

Granted, racial pandering and demagoguery bring out the high passions and low ethics that make politics somewhat bearable, at least in the entertainment sense. But come on now, can we get a little creative here? Let me elaborate a bit further.

Clearly, the zenith of all controversy centers around the concept of “candidate qualifications.” This sub-issue has reached epic proportions. Simply put, by “traditional” standards, one candidate is qualified while the other one is not. Jake Ford’s supporters claim that these standards where designed purposely to sink underachieving candidates.

Although I disagree, I would like to try to see things from their point of view. Thus I propose that we give in their arguments and set a whole new of set standard to judge competing candidates for the 9th District. How about we settle this race by say, a wrestling match perhaps? Boxing, anybody? Karaoke? Dance-off? These are just some of the alternatives out there that seem to work better for some candidates.

Evidently, by rearranging qualification standards, one of these candidates would have a considerable advantage over the other one. And the winner would be the buffoon-elected to represent us in the circus that takes place at the capitol in DC. Further, the proceeds of the match should go straight to educational programs, to ensure that future voters get the resources and knowledge to discern well between a right choice and a joke.

(Thank you TMB, for giving us something to blog about during work hours…)

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Jake

I was looking around at the activity on other blogs over the weekend, and one thing jumped out at me.

Thaddeus Matthews, who had correctly been referring to “Joke Ford” has now started referring to him by his semi-proper name, Jake, and seems to be pushing the absurd idea that “only a black” can represent the 9th District (Which means that Thaddeus was ostensibly against him before he was for him).

So… How well has the 9th District been represented over the last ten years by a black man that votes like a white Republican? The black community supported a Ford over Steve Cohen last time this seat was open— How well has that worked out?

Did you end up with a strong advocate for African-American issues, or did you end up with a congressman that constantly runs interference for the Bush White House on Iraq?

Did you end up with an advocate for the poor and working class, or did you end up with an advocate for the banking industry that voted for the bankruptcy bill?

The idea that you would be better off represented by a high school dropout who failed to “get over” as a wrestler than by a State Senator with well over two decades of progressive politics in his rear view mirror is absolutely counterproductive. Unlike Jake Ford, I care enough about the needs of the black community that I don’t want to see them shoot themselves in the foot by sending someone to Congress that they simply cannot trust to represent their interests.

Harold Ford Sr. was a magnificent Congressman that truly looked after the needs of his community. His record as a progressive was unassailable.

But his sons, much like George Bush’s, have proven why inherited political power is a terrible idea. Unlike the Bushes, Harold Jr. has proven that the apple can indeed fall far from the tree.

Where does that leave Jake? Who in the world knows? He has no record as a politician. In fact, he has no record of employment anywhere that a family member wouldn’t be filling out his evaluations.

It’s well past time that we look past the politics of racial demagoguery that have plagued Memphis for far too long. I don’t care about the skin color of a candidate.

Imagine for a moment that the roles are reversed. A black candidate has 24 years of experience as an effective progressive leader in the State Senate, and a white candidate got kicked out of multiple schools, has never held a non-family job for any impressive amount of time, and has no political experience whatsoever.

Do you think for a moment that white voters would have a tough choice to make?

I’ll even go a step further: If all other things were equal, and both were seasoned progressive leaders that were imminently qualified, there’s still a 50% chance I would have gone for the black candidate.

So the idea that anyone would look to skin color as a qualifier for holding public office is absolutely foreign to me.

***While we’re on the subject, please see this excellent post in Crackerville. He’s got an interesting theory we should all look at.

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