Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Your letters can help

[More from Julie Smith's letter]

Friends & Family Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

I am asking for your help. New Orleans cannot rebuild unless congress supports levee protection that will not fail when a storm comes. New Orleans is an important American city. Would people say to give up on San Francisco or Chicago or Miami or Anchorage or New York because it was just too expensive to protect? Well that is what I am hearing from the media across the country and from individuals in congress.

The fate of greater New Orleans' levees lies with the committees and lawmakers below. Please contact them in some way and let them know that New Orleans matters. However you communicate, use your own words, and speak from the heart. Please share this email with as many people as you can. Maybe in this way congress will hear that America really does care about New Orleans. If, by chance, you know any legislator personally, please contact them.

Letter to Lawmakers

Here is a sample message. Feel free to just copy, paste and send it to all of these listed below.

[NOTE: When a web site is listed, look for the "Contact" link at the site, which will take you to an email form. --J]

Dear Sir;

I write to implore you to support legislation solely involving the re-securing and re-building of New Orleans. It is imperative that appropriate and immediate funding for the proper and timely construction of the levee system around the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area be approved.

New Orleans plays an important part in the economic welfare not only of the area but for the entire country! North, South, East and West depend on the vital traffic of goods and services that New Orleans and its people have always provided through its port.

Thank you

Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn)
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3344
Web site:

Sen. Thad Cochran, (R-Miss, chairman)
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-5054
e-mail address:

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va., ranking member)
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3954
e-mail address:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington,D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3004
Web site:

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H., chairman)
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3324
Web site:

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D., ranking member)
530 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2043
Web site:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla., chairman)
453 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-4721
Web site:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont., ranking member)
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-265
e-mail address:

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-2976
Web site:

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
217 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
20515; (202) 225-6536
Web site:

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif., chairman)
2112 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5861
Web site:

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis., ranking member)
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3365
Web site:

Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa, chairman)
303 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-2911
Web site:

Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C., ranking member)
1401 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5501
Web site:

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif., chairman)
2411 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-1947

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va., ranking member)
2307 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3452

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, chairman)
2111 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5765
Web site:

Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn, ranking member)
2365 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-6211
Web site:

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

. . . Austin Peace March

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The turnout was less than I expected. Lots of reasons for that, I suppose – beautiful Spring day, competition from south by southwest, no/little publicity (I only knew about it because I got an email from CodePink.) But still.

I am totally clueless about how to estimate crowd size, but the march itself seemed to be three or four blocks long, if that tells you anything. We ended up at our new city hall. This being Austin, the music was great and speakers not too bad, either.

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This one's for Tom Kertes. Veterans for Peace. American flags. Alternatives to the draft. What more could you ask, Tom?

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Jackie Goodman, City Council member and mayor pro tem was speaking when I arrived at City Hall.

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Music from Slaid Cleaves.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comRobert Jensen spoke next. Impassioned. I’ve been a fan of his writing for some time – he has op-eds in the Austin American Stateman from time to time. See A Defeat For an Empire and Sinners or saints: The contradictions of conservative Christian politics for samples of his work. I agreed with everything he had to say – except – when he attacked Democrats as no better than Republicans. The problem is power, and that those who have power protect it at all costs, he said. Yeah, I get that, Bob, but I really think that the first priority is to get the maniacs currently in power out of power and I think the Democrats are the only hope we have of doing that.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comEliza Gilkyson up next. Unbelievably powerful song, “Man of God.” It was a message to George W. “you are not” a man of God. I wish I could make a link to it, so you can listen, but I couldn’t find it, and it doesn’t seem to be on her new album. But if you can find it anywhere, by all means, Go Listen. It’s awesome.

She also did “Highway 9.” Sample of the lyrics:

Well, the white god said to the little man
we're gonna fulfill scripture in the holy land
between the Tigris and Euphrates, it's a lot like hell
go on and liberate my people and the o-i-l.

Got your big trucks rollin' down hiway 9
put on the armor, it's party time
gonna dance with the devil of our own design
get your big trucks rollin' down hiway 9.

So the little man gathered all his chicken-hawks in
and the neo-cons and his daddy's kin
With their own clear channel and a helluva spin
and a white man hidden in a black man's skin.

Big trucks rollin' down hiway 9
pulverize the public, it's payback time
who's tax dollar is it? your's and mine
keeps the big trucks rollin' down hiway 9.

Listen to a sample here.

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There were the Protest Warriors “counter-demonstrating” across the street. Truly disgusting signs. Cracked me up when the anarchists went over and put their signs in front of them, so the Protest Warriors had to hold their signs up higher.

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And then one of my long-time favorite singer songwriters, James McMurtry. Started off by saying that there was plenty of dancefloor space in front “if you’re not a Baptist. And if you are, pretend you’re a Methodist, because we can’t tell the difference.”

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Well, I’m not a Baptist or a Methodist, but if James McMurtry’s playing and there’s room to dance, I’m not missing the opportunity. I look across the way and there’s a fellow “woman of a certain age” dancing too, so I danced over to her and the two of us old fogies showed the young lefties how it’s done. (I’m the one in the yellow shirt.)

James shouted out for us to come up close to the stage “because we play better that way” so we did. Others joined in. Felt so good, but with an underlying sadness, since I couldn’t help but remember dancing on the main mall at UT during Vietnam era protests. Same insanity. Different war. 1970.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThirty-five years and it comes around again. I was 21, now I’m 56. I danced this time for the same reason I did then – because this is what life is supposed to be about. Springtime. Music. Kids and dogs and people who care.

The “counter protesters” were gone. Guess their arms got tired. Wimps.

McMurtry ended with “We Can’t Make It Here.” Go Download.

By the time he finished, rain clouds were coming up from the southwest. Lightning and thunderstorm and hail soon after.


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. at DemFest

Rep. Jackson and Rep. Lloyd Doggett led a panel on Legislative Updates.

I had never heard Jackson speak. I swear I'm surprised the walls of the buildings at Huston-Tillotson University (where DemFest is being held) are still standing. The passion of the man is beautiful.

Here's what he had to say:

The republicans have a simple theme: Less government, lower taxes, strong defense. It doesn't matter which Republican is running for whatever office - the theme is consistent and clear. Democrats don't have a theme. We wait for the presidential candidate to tell us what the theme is, and we rally round. Four years later - a new candidate sets a different theme, and we rally round it. Then four years later - another candidate, another theme . . . We wait each time to be told what the theme is - what Democrats stand for - this time. It's time for us, the people, to say what Democrats stand for and for the candidate to take our message to the country.

Image hosted by We need to start standing for people's rights. What rights do the Democrats fight for? . . . . NONE! We fight for policies.

Now there's nothing wrong with good policies - but every time, the Republicans co-opt our policies, distort them beyond all recognition and pass them into law. Marian Wright Edelman worked to give every child an equal, high-quality education. She called on America to "leave no child behind." Instead of her vision, we now have the travesty known as NCLB, courtesy of the republicans. Prescription drug benefits. Protecting Social Security. Ad nauseum.

Republicans use constitutional amendments as a weapon. In non-election years, they introduce constitutional amendment after amendment - to ban gay marriage, to ban abortions, to ban flag-burning - on and on - one amendment after another. Why? It is unlikely that any of the amendments will ever make it all the way through the process and become part of our constitution. (Thank god.) They do it because during non-election years they can force votes on these proposed hateful amendments and then use the votes as a wedge when elections roll around.

Republicans use proposed constitutional amendments to define what they are for - even though what they are for is hateful, telling people what you are for is always more powerful and persuasive than telling people what you are against.

Democrats can use the same amendment process to define what we stand for. Rep. Jackson has introduced three amendments.

Did you know that we do not have a constitutional right to vote in presidential elections?

In Bush v. Gore, justices in the 5-4 majority reinforced their belief that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote..." Although their statement refers to electoral votes for president, it reinforces the view that voting is merely a state function and a privilege granted at the discretion of those in power.

Rep. Jackson has introduced HJR 28 - an amendment to the constitution that would give us a constitutional right to vote.

He has also introduced HJR 29 The Right to A Public Education of Equal High Quality Amendment and HJR 30 The Right to Health care of equal high quality.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhat is Rep. Jackson's theme? "Toward a more perfect union."

A few hours later at Stubb's, Rep. Jackson had the crowd roaring with his powerful support for Howard Dean. The Backbone Campaign fought their way to the stage to present him with a Golden Backbone trophy.

And damn straight he deserves it. The Congressional Black Caucus is saving Democracy.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

. . . into the real world

As a Texan, GWB terrified me from Day One of his first so-called "election." I'd seen what he'd done to my state, and now he threatened to do it to our country. But of course, I had no idea just how  bad it would be. Like many of us, in those last few months before the last election, I felt like I had to do something to get him out of power. But I have no political experience. Totally clueless neophyte. But I had to do something.

I went to a Democratic party meeting at a local pub. They were swearing in volunteer voter registrars so I filled out the form and raised my right hand. I think I registered 11 voters. I picked up, paid for (no money from the DNC for this deep red state - "swing state strategy," - remember?) and distributed about 20 Kerry-Edwards yard signs. I went by the county Dem office to pick up signs and found it closed. Turns out, they went to a meeting every Friday and locked the office for the afternoon. This seemed like a Very Bad Idea to me, so I talked them into letting me sit at the front desk and answer the phone while they were at their Friday meetings.

Glen Maxey, who was heading up the coordinated campaign, sent out an email that they needed more registration forms Xerox'ed. I went to the local copy shop, made 50 copies and took them to his office. Introduced myself to Glen. Asked if there was anything else I could do. Stayed for a couple of hours to fold up little boxes to put them in.

Went to my first MoveOn house party. This was very hard for me. I went alone. I had to practically force myself to get in the car, drive to a complete stranger's house, and walk into it. Didn't know a soul there. But it wasn't so bad. I survived. Went to a couple more house parties. Went to a Democracy for Texas (our DFA) meeting. Spoke to Glen again. By now I'm starting to see familiar faces. Sat at a table with a couple of those familiar faces and got to know them a little better. Saw them again at the Peace March a few weeks ago.

Went to a meeting of our neighborhood Dem group (SouthWest Austin Democrats) - it was the endorsement meeting for the city council race next month. I sat next to a woman who introduced herself by saying, "Didn't I see you at the Peace March?" Got to know something about our city council candidates. For one place, there's a candidate that will probably win - he's experienced, solid environmentalist track record. But another candidate intrigued me - he's young, this is his first race. It made me think of Christine Cegelis' diary on dKos You have to run twice. I hung around a bit to talk to him.

Another DFT meeting tonight. Same city council candidates. Talked to the young guy again. Told him I hoped he'd stick with local politics and try again even if he doesn't win this time. He's already planning his next race - if he doesn't win this one - against a guy who really needs to go. And oh by the way, I asked him, do you know how you go about serving on one of the city boards or commissions? (I'd heard that there are always vacancies.) He said, well, you know someone who knows someone, Send me an email, I'll see what I can do. Who knows? Maybe that's my next "step."

My point is - if you want to venture out into the real world, just make yourself get out there, one step at time. Eventually, those "familiar faces" will make it easier each time. And let us know how it's going.

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Out in the real world - of my back yard.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

An Image, Deconstructed

There is an image of a little girl, crouching on the ground, and it is an image of war. Or an instant of war; a blameless moment, an unavoidable horror. It was dark. Perhaps her father did not see the uniforms, and only saw the guns. Perhaps she and her brothers and sisters were playing too loudly in the back seat, and why couldn't they be quiet (don't make me come back there, I told you before) and he couldn't hear the shouting outside the car, and then it was loud, and now it is quiet.

And she looks like my daughter.  Same face, same nose, same hair. The spitting image. Same tiny hands, same wailing face. The same face my daughter gets when a favorite toy breaks, but this time her father is dead, her mother is dead, their blood is everywhere.

I go outside, out of my haphazard home office behind the garage. I walk towards the back field, stop at the edge, and crouch down to be nearer the weedy grass.  It is green, and beginning to grow again, now that the winter rains have soaked the ground.

--An Image, Deconstructed
Hunter, at Daily Kos

Click the link to see the image and read the rest.

More writing on the same image, A Christian's Images of War