Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I'm A Liberal

These are pictures, quotes, policies, etc., that either helped make me become a liberal, made me stay a liberal or emphasize liberal values to me (or show why the other side is wrong, emphasizing my liberalness). Today’s example:

New Kansas Blog

If you are interested in Kansas politics or if you like to keep up with what's going on in other states, a new blog has launched today Forward Kansas. I've added it to the blogroll.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Barack Obama's Eulogy For Sen. Ted Kennedy

(via Pushing Rope)


Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese." I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly-elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, "It’ll be the same in Washington."

This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.

But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, "...[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves." Indeed, Ted was the "Happy Warrior" that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:

As tempted more; more able to endure,

As more exposed to suffering and distress;

Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act –all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch’s support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his Chief of Staff serenade the Senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas Committee Chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the Chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the Chairman. When they weren’t, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said "Luck of the Irish!"

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"

But though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I’m sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?" It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. Senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that’s my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with "You wouldn’t believe who called me today."

Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, "On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love."

Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.

In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:

"As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us."

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

(via Smooth Like Remy)

Why I'm A Liberal

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

Hurricane Katrina and aftermath

President's Weekly Address: Lessons and Renewal Out of the Gulf Coast

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quotes About George LeMieux

What key Florida pols are saying about our new Senator...

Mel Martinez: “I congratulate George LeMieux for being appointed by the governor to fill the remainder of my term. George is bright, capable, and an accomplished administrator. My staff and I stand ready to ensure a smooth transition.”

Marco Rubio: “This is a disappointing pick for Florida. George LeMieux is a talented political operative and the governor’s best friend, but that doesn’t make him the right choice to represent Florida in the Senate. Governor Crist had a wealth of consistent and principled conservative candidates to choose from, all of whom would have been a reliable check and balance on the excesses of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.”

Kendrick Meek: “Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers’ expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience from Congressman Clay Shaw to Mayor John Delaney to various Hispanic leaders were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent.”

Jim Greer: “Once again, Charlie Crist has demonstrated his commitment to serving Floridians, by appointing George LeMieux who is well qualified, a dedicated public servant, conservative Republican and an excellent choice!”

Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo: “It’s shocking. We wonder why Gov. Crist didn’t just appoint himself if he was going to pick his former chief of staff and campaign ‘maestro’. “The so-called ‘People’s Governor’ has made clear through this appointment that he places personal loyalty and his own political benefit above the interests of Floridians.”

Bill McCollum: “I congratulate George LeMieux on his appointment as Florida’s U.S. Senator. I have known George for a long time, both as a friend and as a former Deputy Attorney General, a capacity in which he served this office well. I wish him the best in serving the people of Florida in the U.S. Senate.”

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Hari Sevugan: “With Florida’s economy in shambles, Charlie Crist could have selected a Senator who would be able to hit the ground running in Washington to tackle the problems that face Floridians. In appointing a political crony as a placeholder until he can run for Senate himself, Charlie Crist is using the Governorship to advance his own political ambitions rather than advancing the lives of the Floridians he was elected to serve.”

Robert Wexler: “In short, George LeMieux will make an excellent Senator. I wish him great success and look forward to working with him in any way I can.”

Republican operative Mac Stipanovich: “He was not the obvious choice.”

Marion Hammer: “The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida are very pleased with Governor Crist’s appointment of George LeMieux as Florida’s new junior U.S. Senator. George is rated ‘A’ by the NRA and will be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment in the U.S. Senate. Gun owners can count on George LeMieux to fight to protect freedom and the Second Amendment.”

Eric Jotkoff: “This is just one more example of the Republican leadership in Tallahassee putting cronyism and corruption above the people of our state. From Ray Sansom, to former lobbyist Bill McCollum, to George LeMieux, it is clear that we must stand together and pledge to end the Republican culture of cronyism and corruption in Tallahassee.”

Clay Shaw: “George is a very, very capable guy and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. He’s a quick study, he’s articulate, he’s very close to the governor. I think it’s a good choice.”

Ellyn Bogdanoff: “He’s a smart guy, politically savvy, a hard worker. There’s nothing negative to say about George….He’s certainly smart enough to wade through the issues.”

Kirk Fordham, head of the Everglades Foundation: “George LeMieux is the right pick for Florida. He has a deep understanding of a wide range of regional issues that are unique to Florida. When it comes to protecting the people’s water supply and restoring the Everglades, we couldn’t ask for a better ally than we’ll have in Senator George LeMieux.”

St. Pete Times: "Gov. Charlie Crist could have appointed a former congressman, a former legislator, a former Jacksonville mayor, a former state attorney general, or even a former U.S. attorney to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez. Instead, the governor chose his alter ego to keep the seat warm for 16 months as he campaigns for it. He might as well have appointed himself."

Cliff Stearns: “I am concerned by Governor Crist’s selection for the U.S. Senate seat today, which appears to serve as a placeholder for the Governor, rather than serving the people of Florida as their U.S. Senator."

The DSCC: "Charlie Crist came as close as he could to appointing himself to this position. At a time when so many Floridians are unemployed, and many others facing foreclosures, we have learned nothing is beyond the pale for Charlie Crist. Today marked another Charlie Crist choice that significantly impacts the state of Florida but is ultimately about promoting himself."

Karen Thurman: "Today, Charlie Crist decided to play political games with the public's trust by appointing George LeMieux to the U.S. Senate. This glaring example of political cronyism is the last thing Florida needed while we face these tough economic times and the Congress is tackling critical issues such as health insurance reform and global warming. In appointing LeMieux, someone who has made millions over the past several years selling access to Crist to the highest bidders among Tallahassee's special interests, Charlie Crist once again put his own political ambition above doing what is right for Florida."

Senate Guru: "To fill the U.S. Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of unpopular Republican Mel Martinez, Gov. Charlie Crist has selected his former Chief of Staff Georgie Lemieux. Politically speaking, this is the worst possible selection Crist could have made."

Senator George LeMiuex

What Floridians are saying about our latest Senator...

The New Argument: LeMieux’s FEC Railway Conflict Persists

The New Argument: Crist Picks LeMieux

Florida Speaks: Ron Stone Doesn't Like LeMieux Pick

Smooth Like Remy: LeMieux Who?

Bark Bark Woof Woof: Senator LeMieux

Why Now?: Senator LeMieux

The Reid Report: Charlie’s brain to fill Martinez’s Senate seat

Progressive Pensacola: Crist appoints former aide to U.S. Senate

Why Now?: Lobbyist Is Florida’s Senator Pro Tem

The Penile State: George LeMieux is who?

Equality Florida: Crist picks LeMieux for Senate Seat

Pensito Review: Breaking: Florida Gov. Picks Senator to Replace Martinez

Sherman Dorn: Charlie Crist, George LeMieux, and higher ed searches

Blast Off: It's Senator LeMieux

AMERICAblog: Crist picks former top aide as new Senator from Florida

Daily Kos: Crist Gives Nod To Former Aide for Senate Vacancy

Pam's House Blend: Former Crist Staffer George Lemieux To Replace Exiting FL Senator Mel Martinez

The New Argument: George LeMieux For Senate? No Way

Huffington Post: George LeMieux Picked By Crist To Replace Sen. Mel Martinez

Ron Stone Doesn't Like LeMieux Pick

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More on Kennedy

Barack Obama:

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

Joe Biden:

Democratic National Convention:

Tributes to Ted Kennedy

Here's what Floridians are saying about the Lion of the Senate.

Radio or Not: RIP Teddy.. and Ellie too...

Smooth Like Remy: What Is The Price?!

Heather Beaven: A Lion By Any Other Name…

Doug Tudor: Remembering America's Senator

Seminole County Democrats: The Lion of the Senate

Dan Gelber: Ted Kennedy Will Be Missed

Betty Cracker

Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida: Ted Kennedy -- An Appreciation By Ed Slavin

Smooth Like Remy: Classic Teddy


Pushing Rope: Remembering Ted Kennedy

songweasel: Ted Kennedy: God Knows

virtualista's posterous: RIP Liberal Lion: A Life in Pictures

The Spencerian: R.I.P. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Though the Cause Endures...)

Seminole County Democrats: Edward M. Kennedy, 1932 - 2009

Natch Greyes: Senator Ted Kennedy Dies

Blue In Miami: Sen Ted Kennedy

Florida Speaks: The cause endures

The Reid Report: Good night, Teddy

Smashed Frog: Edward Kennedy

Smooth Like Remy: RIP Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy

Talk to Me: Edward Kennedy

Eye on Miami: Senator Edward Kennedy is Dead

Rated "R" Revolution: Ted Kennedy Passes Away

Bark Bark Woof Woof: Teddy

Members of the Florida Congressional Delegation: Florida tributes to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart: Diaz-Balarts mourn Kennedy

Robert Wexler: Robert Wexler issues statement on Kennedy

The cause endures

(via Americablog)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Father

My father and I had a complicated relationship. Well, it was complicated for a while, but it neither started nor ended that way.

My father was born in Montreal and lived there until he was a little past 18. My father was never a religious man. He came from a strongly religious background, but he always said that he saw his mother, who was deeply religious, suffer a lot, and he couldn't reconcile those two things -- her belief and her suffering. He had a typical Canadian childhood as far as I can tell. He always told us stories of street hockey, jumping off rooftops into snowdrifts and collecting comic books and hockey cards. He used to wax eloquently about the huge comic book collection that was put into storage and his favorite character -- Blackhawk. He collected these things back in the old days, too, before the markets for comics and sports cards were destroyed, so he had a pretty good bit of value saved up -- if his parents hadn't gotten rid of them, the same old story.

My father attempted to enlist in the military to fight in Vietnam, but he wasn't physically eligible, so he went to the U.S. instead. He had a child and a wife in Canada, but the relationship ended badly and in the divorce he was prohibited from seeing my half-sister again. Her name was Joy and I've never seen or met or talked to her.

My father wandered around the U.S. spending time in Haight-Ashbury, doing some work for the druglord featured in the movie Blow, doing things that you'd read about in Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey books. Eventually he ended up in Tallahassee, where he met my 17-year-old mother, who had previously -- not kidding here -- dated Tom Petty (long before his fame). They met and fell, I guess is the word for it. Their marriage lasted a mere eight years, but it produced me and my brother and about ten thousand screaming matches.

As early as I can remember, my father looked like one of the guys from ZZ Top. Not just a little bit, so much so that his nickname was always ZZ Top or ZZ Topper or some variation. Around the house, he always wore t-shirts with things on them like "AC/DC Highway to Hell" and "Disco Sucks." He helped influence my musical tastes in some ways -- taking me to see the Police, Aerosmith and, of course, ZZ Top. In other ways, we parted tastes -- I always liked rap, like disco some and can't stand AC/DC.

My father's career always involved working on cars or some construction and the like when available. He was pretty good at restoring cars, even winning awards at it later in life. At times, it also involved selling drugs. Usually marijuana, but from time to time he tried other things, including the coke deal he tried when I was in tenth grade that sent him to prison for most of a year.

Towards the end of my high school years, we hit a really rough patch. I'm not really sure now what the root of it was. We got into some kind of disagreement and he accused me of things that weren't true. I reacted poorly and we didn't talk for a few years.

Oddly enough, what brought us back together was fantasy football. My cousin Sean set up a league and invited us both to participate. We did and slowly over the next few years we started talking again and became not only friendly, but better friends than we had ever been.

Most of the last decade, our relationship was great. Best of all, that meant that he was around for the full time possible with his three grandsons. In his later years, when he started to decline in health, he moved away from automotive and construction work towards being a full-time role selling stuff on e-bay and at the flea market. He went around to the storage sheds that people left their stuff in. When people stopped paying their bills, the companies auction off the contents of the sheds to a group of people who went around to all of them and bought them. The managers open up the sheds and the buyers bid on them based solely on what they can see from the doorway. Sometimes that means they get great deals, sometimes not so much. My dad was one of those buyers, reselling the items for pretty good profit much of the time. The upshot of it was that from time to time, he would come across cool items for the kids or collectible items he thought I might like (like a original copy of the New York Times from the day after the moon landing).

He still did some work restoring cars from time to time and around the time the twins were born, he was restoring a Rolls Royce and he got the brilliant idea that the twins should come home from the hospital in the Rolls. And he worked his ass off to make sure that the car was ready and Jack and Miles took their first ride in the back of a very, very nice Rolls Royce.

So for years, we'd talk about sports and politics -- my dad became a pretty liberal Democrat as he got older -- and kids and family. I'd help him with computer stuff, he'd give me and the kids cool stuff he found. We'd take turns helping each other out financially when money was available, although he helped me out a bit more than the opposite. All in all, it was the best time we ever had together.

And then his health began to decline. Every few months there would be some new problem -- some big, some small. Some annoying, some life threatening. There were times when he had to be hospitalized, there were times when he had trouble breathing, there were times when his feet became so bloated he couldn't walk, there were times when he lost coherence and didn't know who or where he was. He had new pills and clinic visits and no health insurance. His ability to work or make money began to decline and he had little money. At the time, he had probably been the most well-off person in the family, which wasn't saying much. But it wasn't enough and the doctors had a lot of trouble diagnosing what was wrong with him, particularly since he was going to public clinics and not getting the best medical care available. One thing he did have was his Canadian birth.

About a year ago, he moved back to Canada for the health care he had as a right there that he couldn't get here. They quickly figured out what was wrong with him and got him into a pretty good state and he probably managed to live six months longer than if he had stayed here. By the time he got back to Canada, it was too late and his various health care problems were too far along to fix. I hadn't seen him since he left, but we talked a bit when he first moved up there, but he began moving back and forth between the hospital, the hospice and a lung-related clinic and it was hard to keep up with him. A lot of the time, his mental capacity wasn't there to have conversations. I did talk to him a week or so before he died, though and we got to talk one last time and I got to say goodbye to him one last time.

The saddest part was that he had to spend the last year of his life in a country he hadn't visited in decades because he couldn't find the health care he needed here. So when people get childish and political about health care reform, I take it personally. I didn't get to see my dad the last year of his life because we are the only modern, industrialized country that doesn't take care of its own people. He lived out his days not always coherent and not always sure of where he was and without people who knew him and loved him. That makes me angry. That makes me more committed to fighting the people who refuse to help other people over some misguided philosophy on how the world works.