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Archive for December, 2010

A Christmas Greeting and Good Wishes

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

In a year that has held good tidings and ill—the usual ingredients with some new and sometimes startling arrangements . . .

We want to take a moment from our Christmas celebrations to wish you and your family and friends a good and cheerful holiday season. We wish you safe and smooth travels wherever you go, and good food and drink and fellowship as you gather with loved ones.

As ever, we pray especially for our fellow Louisianans and Gulf Coast neighbors displaced by the hurricanes and this year’s oil flood, and especially those lost to Hurricane Katrina. We wish them well, we honor the memory of those who are no longer with us, and we hope that others on higher and drier land will continue to remember them too—particularly those with the wealth and political power to lend a hand. (Heartfelt gratitude to generous volunteers everywhere.)

We think also of the men and women in uniform in the endless wars overseas, and those who are posted at over a hundred military bases around the world, and sailing the seven seas, keeping watch for the empire. We wish them safety, some warm fellowship around the mess hall and campfire, and hope they’ll be able to come home soon, safely, to their families.

To all of you we wish a good and healthful new year, a measure of prosperity and good luck with work (finding it or keeping it), endurance through the struggles to come, and some hope and good cheer because the hard times don’t appear likely to end in 2011. But we’ll be there with you in spirit and in action for the work to be done to make this a better, safer world, for humans and other living things.


Previous years’ Christmas and New Year’s wishes can be found here, here, and here. These wishes we still pray for, and continue to work for.


Dee-licious crawfish wreath designed by our friends at Dirty Coast. Visit their store at 5631 Magazine Street, New Orleans.

Yes We Can Pass Good Legislation

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Our last post was illustrated with a big YES and this can do no less.

Congratulations to the 111th Congress—especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (with emphasis on “Leader”) and the suddenly productive Senate in the last days of this so-called lame duck session. Not so lame, after all. Let’s set aside for a moment the regrettable extension of the Bush tax cuts, now properly called the Obama-Republican tax cuts, or “Kumbaya for Billionaires.” This extension, however hateful to us, seems to have opened the gates toward better things. We want to briefly celebrate the last few days’ repeal of the odious Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, passage of a health bill for 9/11 responder-heroes sickened by (some dying from) the toxic ash at Ground Zero, and Senate passage of the New START treaty with Russia that will reduce nuclear stockpiles and provide for closer monitoring of old weapons facilities in the former Soviet Union. (See “Hiroshima, 65 Years On” and “Nagasaki, Not Forgotten.”) (The photo above shows President Obama and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev signing the treaty in Prague in early April.)

We also want to thank the Republican senators who joined the Democratic majority and helped put these bills over the top. We understand that these votes were not politically easy for them, and we’re grateful for their votes of conscience. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, in particular, helped move his colleagues to vote for New START. The nation should be grateful to Mr. Lugar, one of the true grown-ups of the Senate, and the Republican senators who listened to him.

The bills approved in the last week were passed in a flurry of activity because they had been deliberately held up for an unconscionably long time by the Republican leadership. They—particularly Jon Kyl of Arizona—repeatedly delayed dealing with the New START treaty, then whined about being rushed into action. Senator John Kerry deserves praise, too, for his steady, patient leadership on New START. The GOP also stubbornly, coldly stonewalled passage of the 9/11 responders health bill until they were shamed into submission by Jon Stewart (dead serious on Comedy Central) and Shepard Smith of Fox News, to both of whom we tip every hat on the rack. How many sick and dying workers suffered needlessly as Republicans postured about fiscal austerity while pushing for the billionaires’ tax cut extension? (The bill, we note with dismay, was whittled down from the $7.4 billion legislation passed by the House to $4.3 billion.) New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand deserves great credit for her leadership on the DADT repeal.

While praising the accomplishments of the 111th Congress under the leadership of Senator Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, let us point you to a piece from just after the midterm elections, “A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern,” that shows the accomplishments of the House and Senate in the last two years. The Democrats, with scarcely a vote from the other side, passed an impressive, indeed historic amount of public-friendly legislation. They deserve our gratitude, which can come in the form of phone calls, letters faxed and mailed (see our Political Action page for contact info), and votes. Campaign volunteering, too.

Although we’ve been harshly critical of the president about the tax deal among other issues, we thank him for his steadfast push on New START and applaud his careful, strategic planning on repeal of DADT (he wanted to build military brass support + Senate repeal rather than letting the courts kill it). The president says “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.” We can hope, but we expect insane and raucous fights, often over nothing, in the 112th Congress. We pray that the president and (still) Senate Majority Leader Reid and congressional Democrats have learned a few things about standing up for what they believe in, persisting, getting the message sharp and clear, and not backing down. The tax bill was a horrible, costly, long-damaging error that didn’t have to happen. It hurt Obama’s relations with his own party, but may have earned a little goodwill from a few members of the opposition party (we’re not holding our breath). Let’s hope Democrats have learned some lessons in fighting. And let’s keep after them to keep the gloves on. They’ll need them.

These positive developments, after so many months of obstruction and passivity, all make for a merrier holiday season. They will bring a healthier new year for the long-suffering 9/11 responders (not just New Yorkers: volunteers poured in from every state), some relief for military service members oppressed by the unjust, 17-year-long DADT policy, and a safer new era for every person and nation endangered by aging and unsupervised nuclear stockpiles and weapons systems.

Now, back to writing those last Christmas cards (including ours to you) and wrapping a few last gifts . . .


Obama/Medvedev photo by Doug Mills/New York Times

U.S. Capitol by E. McKnight Kauffer

Good Riddance to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

This will make for happier holidays.

We applaud the long-awaited, hard-fought repeal of the destructive policy commonly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by a Senate vote of 65 to 31. It is good for American society and its individuals, and it’s good for the U.S. armed forces and for national security. After weeks of depressing developments, something we can say “Yes” to. Now, we admit this is not one of the issues we’ve been working on, though we’ve given DADT repeal a lot of thought—it makes sense in so many ways and it’s the morally right thing to do. For months now it has been high on the list of issues about which we’re “this close” to writing a piece and making phone calls and faxing letters to members of Congress to get with it already. (As we understand it, the House of Representatives had already passed repeal twice; as usual it’s the filibusted Senate—or a certain obstructionist minority therein—that’s holding everything up.)

The endless, disheartening news reports of Arabic-speaking translators outed and fired for no offense other than being quietly, discreetly gay (as if the U.S. can afford to dismiss even one trained Arabic translator) . . . the personal accounts of army, air force, and navy personnel and military institute students on The Rachel Maddow Show . . . articles about  the U.S. armed forces’ desperate recruitment of mentally challenged youths to meet quotas . . . and the serious, thoughtful advocacy of Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates—not exactly radicals—all these have demonstrated to the nation that it’s far past time to repeal the policy and focus our attention on more pressing concerns. The nation has been held back socially and militarily by this misguided and backward policy, and America’s service members have been put under undue and unfair torment, for far too long. (As if military service were not stressful enough already.) This policy should never have been instituted in the first place, and to it we say good riddance.

Here’s a map and list of which senators voted “aye” and which “nay.” It would be a good thing to phone or fax your senators to thank them for their “Yes.” An aye for an aye.


Sanctimonious Purists Unite

Friday, December 10th, 2010

“People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position, and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves, and sanctimonious about how pure our intensions are and how tough we are.”

President Obama, in reply to a question about “what your core values are, what specifically you will go to the mat on”

White House press conference, Tues. Dec. 7, 2010


An Open Letter to Obama and Biden


Unfair, Unaffordable  |  No “Kumbaya” for Billionaires

Dear President Obama and Vice President Biden:

You can denounce us “sanctimonious purists” if you like, but one thing you should understand is that we’re not just disgusted with the deal you’ve struck with the Republicans; it’s your timing, and the fact that this desperate compromise did not have to happen. What we oppose is your habitual over-readiness to compromise, your unwillingness to fight before you get backed into a corner. We’re not interested in your readiness to fight Republicans next year (we’ll believe it when we see it); we’re angry about your failure to fight them on these issues in 2010. For the past year you could have been speaking out loudly, publicly, in a sustained fighting-mode campaign, for the continuation of unemployment insurance benefits and against the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Instead you signaled a willingness to find “common ground.”

You never pushed for the unemployment extension when you had a chance, and when you had big Democratic majorities in Congress. You didn’t take the lead to embolden Congressional Democrats before the midterm elections, making big speeches in the districts of the wavering, cautious members of Congress up for reelection. (They weren’t bold, either, but had you taken the lead they would have had more calcium in their spines.) You didn’t meet with Congressional Democrats before you cut this deal with the Republicans, according to Senator Mary Landrieu, who denounces this deal’s “almost moral corruptness.” Now, if Mary Landrieu is disgusted, then the outrage cannot be said to be limited to “liberals.”

Why should a Democratic-majority Congress vote for a measure Republicans want, a deficit-deepening measure for which the GOP will later hypocritically blame them? This is part of the GOP strategy. Let Dems do the lifting, then blame them. You know how Republicans operate.

We’re very concerned that if the tax cuts are extended, their cost to the Treasury will be used (again) as a rationale for cutting Social Security, Medicare, health care reform, and other social safety-net programs. As Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont has written in his letter to Speaker Pelosi, “Without a doubt, the very same people who support this addition to our debt will oppose raising the debt ceiling to pay for it.” You didn’t address this, and you can’t blame the “sanctimonious purist” liberals for this predicament.


Mary Landrieu Slams “Obama-McConnell Plan”

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

“I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. . . . This is beyond politics. This is about justice and doing what’s right.”

If we had three hats* we’d tip them all to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who today blasted the Republican–Obama plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for another two years. Levees Not War faxed a letter to Senator Landrieu’s office this morning urging her to oppose the deal; we had no idea she was so passionately opposed to the immorality of the giveaway. We salute her forceful statements and hope she will firmly vote “no” when the time comes. Please join us in phoning Senator Landrieu’s office to thank her for her stand against the unfair and unaffordable “Obama-McConnell plan”:


WDC:  202-224-5824  |  N.O.:  504-589-2427 |  B.R.:  225-389-0395


WDC:  202-224-9735  |  N.O.:  504-589-4023  |  B.R.:  225-389-0660


“It’s what I’m calling the Obama-McConnell plan. We’re going to borrow $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically to give a tax cut to families in America today, that despite the recession, are making over a million dollars. I mean, this is unprecedented. Unprecedented.”

Senator Landrieu was quoted on MSNBC’s The Ed Show Tuesday night as saying that before Obama met with the Republican leadership to work out the tax extension plan he did not meet with the liberal Democrats, the moderate Democrats, or the conservative Democrats. Her remarks were reported by Ryan Grim in the Huffington Post (and on Dec. 8 by TalkingPointsMemo’s Brian Beutler under the title “Landrieu Blasts ‘Obama-McConnell’ Plan for Selling Out Black Voters”: full text below):

Mary Landrieu: ‘Obama-McConnell Plan’ Is ‘Almost Morally Corrupt’

Huffington Post, Dec. 7, 2010 | by Ryan Grim

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a conservative Democratic from Louisiana, lashed out Tuesday at President Obama’s deal with congressional Republicans that allows tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended for two years.

Extending the tax cuts for those making more than a million dollars a year is borderline immoral, Landrieu charged. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy,” said Landrieu, walking into a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats. “This is beyond politics. This is about justice and doing what’s right.”


Is Barack Obama a “Manchurian Republican”?

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

Are you a Manchurian Republican? When we sent money to your campaign and went door-to-door to get out the vote and made phone calls for Obama for America, were we helping elect a (soft) Republican? If not, then prove you’re a Democrat.

Thus begins our latest letter to the president. More riveting excerpts below. We suspect it will get more attention from you, gentle readers, than from the Oval Office.

We posed the Manchurian question in a letter written in frustration after Obama’s failure to stand up firmly against extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%; his silence amid chatter about curtailing or privatizing Social Security and Medicare; his chronic lack of any definite, robust job-creation plan for Main Street (Wall Street’s been taken care of); and, the hottest-burning frustration just now, his repeated capitulations to our Republican tormentors and his . . . captors? Friends? BFFs?

The letter was sent after his post–midterm election summit meeting last week with McConnell and Boehner—the meeting that had been scheduled earlier but was abruptly canceled by the GOP leaders because of unspecified “scheduling conflicts,” a slap in the president’s face. Once the “no compromise” Republicans deigned to meet with the chief executive, he apologized for not having reached out to them more in the past two years. (We don’t know yet whether he crawled in to that meeting on his hands and knees; the White House press office has not replied to our inquiries.) Just the day before the meeting, Obama had announced his cynical decision to freeze federal workers’ pay for the next two years in order to save $5 billion—less than the U.S. spends in Afghanistan every month. Does he not realize that taking away these workers’ income, besides being morally wrong, also reduces their spending power and thus sets the economy back even further? (This is why unemployment benefits are stimulative to the economy generally.) Politically astute, too: what a way to win federal workers’ votes in 2012. What will he do when Republicans actually shut down the government, as they’ve been chattering about doing for months now? Find “common ground”?