Saturday, June 27, 2009

Listening to the drumbeats

Maybe drumbeats isn't the correct term - this is Iowa, full of rhythm-less white folk, and Republicans to boot. But I want to mention Kay Henderson's blog on the Sac County Republican prayer breakfast which gave the 2010 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls a chance to preview their stump.

It doesn't get anymore Iowa Republican than this - we're running to the right for the deep pockets of campaign donors and early name recognition. Those of you familiar with the GOP Iowa Straw Poll or any pre-pre-primary event know the game and what every candidate is looking to do.

What it also does is allow us to see what Iowa GOP thinks are it's strong arguments and candidates. The IGOP is in the same miserable position that the national party is - out of power in both legislative houses and the executive, and short on potential good candidates. This is our first glimpse of a party whom knows it needs to improve it's message and is taking the first steps on the road to recovery.

At least in theory. Because it seems to clear that the four candidates either running or considering are spweing the same bullshit to the same safe crowds that Republicans believe will deliver the same success prior to 2006. Because the 4 men (all white of course), still represent the same Republican party that got us into our common mess.

Bob VanderPlaats is the current social conservative favorite, but Bob has been running for the same office with the same core of religious support for going on 8 years now. Prayer Breakfasting in Western Sac County - the seat of Steve King's 5th District support - for him is akin to eating Capt'n Crunch in front of the mirror every morning. Bob seems to have caught that the GOP must offer real alternatives to the Democrat's ideas, but he and this crowd must think that the same ones that got them to 2006 are still the best ones.

Chris Rants has been big player in the state GOP since becoming Asst. House Majority leader in 1994, only two years after being elected for the first time to office. Both Rants and VanderPlaats are from uber-conservative Sioux City -- needing a way to define himself, Rants worked the economic and fiscal half of the GOP bible. He wants to Sell Iowa (which if you think about it, it does correctly conceptualize the GOP goals on the free market and privatization) every minute of every hour, every day to enterprises that will garner us jobs and revenue. And lower taxes. And ban gay marriage - which got him his second applause line.

Rants did say something interesting: "Rants repeated Barbour's assertion that party building is "about addition and multiplication. It's not about subtraction and division," suggesting the party has to be home for both social and fiscal conservatives. "We have to be about embracing both of those concepts," he said. This got applause, the first time Rants was interrupted by applause. "We need a nominee who can bridge both gaps." While not an outright attack on his biggest opponent, VanderPlaats, it was certainly aimed at him.

The other two candidates, sensing that the GOP's weakness is their opportunity to run in the big show, are legislator Rod Roberts of Carroll, another Western Iowa town which is defined by its Catholicism in a sea of Calvinistic Protestant Dutch Reformed, and State Senator Jerry Behn of Boone, near where I live in central Iowa. Roberts believes that a 'wind of change' will lead the GOP back into state governmental power while only pledging that the state can be more efficient and streamlined. (Paging Grover Norquist . . ) Roberts then hit homosexual right, stating that "We could do better" in responding to the Iowa Supreme Court verdict that granted marriage equality, compared to the Democrats in power. I think everyone responded better to the verdict than the Democrats - it was obvious that they were caught flat-footed & spineless. It's just that Roberts and the GOP probably would have tried fortifying all 99 county recorder offices from the fabulous hordes sure to descend from Minneapolis & San Francisco.

Behn hit most of the same buttons - specifically stating that he voted for Iowa's version of DOMA, and that a state constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage should be placed on the ballot, and that the Supreme Court justices whom endorsed the ruling be targeted for retention votes. (Iowa is one of the handful of states that where appointed justices must win periodic retention votes from the electorate. Very few have ever been thrown out of office.)

If this is representative of the national party, Republicans are in deep trouble. There's nothing new here, because while they have a few party members recognizing that the voting coalition has divided and moderates have left, no one seems to be able to articulate a reason for them to return while speaking to the faithful. It's the faithful, whom have been pushing the moderates out, whom need to show they welcome more than just moderate's votes back to the tent.

Reading between the lines, it becomes obvious what the GOP thinks will be it's winning strategy: gay marriage reactionaries in another culture war ballot. Of course that ballot may be lost, but these voters will also vote GOP, and if they can peel off enough moderates voting fiscally GOP while socially liberal or moderate, they can win the magic number of 51.

It's almost as if 2006 and 2008 never happened to these people.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

An Open Letter to Rep. Cynthia Davis, (R-MO. 19)

Representative Cynthia Davis
Missouri House of Representatives
201 W. Capitol Ave., Room 112,
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Dear Rep. Davis,

Recently, you remarked on your lack of support for funding summer-school lunches for underprivileged youth in your district. Your statement was not only ill-informed, but callous and barbaric. Shame on you. This is not why I'm writing, however. I'm writing to point out that your statements--in their vacuous entirety--received national coverage tonight on Olbermann.

As a red-state resident, veteran, and proud patriot, I see no problem with letting my taxes fund meals for students in summer school. See, it's called civic duty. It's what taxes are for. So I have to wonder: why don't you? And how would you justify that lack of human empathy to the 1 in 5 minors in your district who would rely on those lunches, many of whom aren't even of legal age to work?

For all you know, maybe those kids need that meal to stay focused and turn their grades around. Maybe with a decent meal and adequate funding for their schools, they might actually become functioning citizens and escape the drab, oppressive, stultifying ignorance of their small-town lives. Maybe they might go on to do some real good in the world, maybe even bring back money to your state. Or maybe they'll turn out like you: sneering, half-educated, miserly modern-day Scrooges. Tired and poor, indeed. Who needs them, right? Certainly not an elected official.

Anyway, to conclude, I look forward to your answers, and by all means, enjoy the publicity. I hope you know that the entire nation, and not just your constituency, now sees you for what you are: trite, out-of-touch, and irrelevant. You, and your entitled selfish ignorance, are what is wrong with America. Thank you for making our night, Rep. Davis.


Milo Freeman

P.S. Your "Contact Us" page needs a choice or two other than just "Great Job."

Click here to send Rep. Davis a message!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009


I've been watching it all unfold for the last several days.

At first, there was a glimmer of fascination, a sense of promise. A people rallying, a people banding together peacefully against injustice--I found myself drawn in, hopeful. I caught myself combing the news channels, nervously hoping for some new update. Even thought there were reports of danger, of violence, my belief did not dim. The silent resolve of those people in the streets, flare-ups aside, re-kindled a bit of faith in my fellow human beings. If perhaps I didn't pray, then perhaps I at least nurtured some secular equivalent thereof.

I have felt, stealing glimpses of the headlines from my work computer, a sense that something has been happening, that some aspect of the world I inhabited has been changing before my eyes. For the first time, I have witnessed true evidence that nonviolence can work, that despite the dangers, a people, in the face of cruelty, can still fight a war by means other than taking up arms.

It is not my war, and I understand that. I have no true stake in this hoped-for victory. I have also understood that such an effort could not be without costs. All the same though, I have combed the tickers, and followed the updates. And for the first time I have felt as though I, myself, was not ready to look those costs in the face.

Her name was Neda Agha Soltan. She was 26, and she was killed by a sniper while marching in protest with her father. In a culture where women are supposedly escorted by a male relative when outside of the home, she should have been safe. By the most literal interpretations of her faith, she was a Good Muslim woman. But that couldn't protect her from the most militant supporters of her own theocratic government.

She was shot, through the chest, in broad daylight, by a pro-government partisan firing from an apartment window. She was singled out, just a target in a crowd, and then shot center-mass, one-shot-one-kill, like an animal. Her final moments were recorded on the fly for all the world to witness, bleeding out in her father's arms while we uploaded it to YouTube. She has died every two minutes, over and over again, since the videos became public.

I wonder, why her? That's not the kind of shot one makes purely by accident. What drew the shooter's eye to her? Were there not plenty of others? When that gunman sighted in, what was it about her that made him decide she was the one? Why not her father, or some other protester? Was she just the clearest shot? Had she left herself exposed somehow? Or was she simply singled out for being there, for protesting a government's divine authority, as a woman?

Something's changed now. But I'm still not sure just what.

I hear that the video is available on YouTube, and like some Zapruder moment, some Fall of Saigon, some Tank Man snapshot, I understand that something in the world has changed. In these horrifying images, I sense a counterpoint, a harmony to what I first felt on the morning 9/11. Our world is changed by this, and I feel compelled to stand and bear witness. But I'm not sure that I can, or should.

I feel like I should see it for myself, that unless I do I can't truly understand. But I'm not sure I can permit myself to do so. It feels wrong, voyeuristic, peering into the last few moments of this woman's life. I wonder how she died, how she faced it, and if she knew. I wonder: was she afraid? Did she cry out? Was she able to take comfort from the proximity of her father, or were her final moments ones of panic and terror? Will all of it have been worth this? Did she at least die for something?

I'm not sure that I can ever truly know. And I'm not sure that I want to.

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