A blog on progressive news and politics on both the California and Nevada sides of Lake Tahoe which aims at helping to elect Democrats and Turn Tahoe Blue. The blog is written from Germany by a former German exchange student at George Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Charlie Brown New DFA Grassroots All-Star!

You did it! Everyone of you who voted for Charlie Brown in the DFA Grassroots All-Star contest helped the campaign out in a major way. Not only did Charlie get a $2,000 contribution from Democracy for America, after he won the contest a fundraising letter will be sent out by Jim Dean to all DFA members asking them to contribute to Charlie. Here's the letter:

Thousands of votes came in from around the country. DFA members pushed hard getting out the vote for all three Grassroots All-Star finalists -- generating incredible support for each campaign. In the end, there can be only one winner.

Lt. Colonel Charlie Brown is your 2007 DFA Grassroots All-Star!

Now it's up to us to back the endorsement up with real action. Please contribute to his campaign right now:


After Charlie Brown came within 3% of winning the district last November, Karl Rove put eight-term Republican incumbent Rep. John Doolittle on his "Priority Defense" list. You can bet that Rove will pull out all the stops to keep this seat for Republicans in 2008.

However, not all is going well for Republican Doolittle. Since the last election, the FBI raided his personal residence and has stepped up the investigation into his dealings with convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Within a week of the raid, Doolittle stepped down from his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Ousting Doolittle from this rural California district will not be easy. Charlie Brown will need everything we've got and then some to beat back the GOP machine. Please contribute right now to jump start the campaign:


Last year after you made Jerry McNerney your DFA Grassroots All-Star, you helped lead him to victory against so-called unbeatable Republican incumbent Richard Pombo. Now, if we work together, we will do it again! Victory in 2008 depends on you.

Thank you for everything you do,

Jim Dean

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Vote Again for Charlie at the DFA Grassroots All-Star Contest

Your vote in the first round went a long way as Charlie was among the top three vote getters which automatically means a $2,000 contribution by DFA. Now, in the second round you can help Charlie win the big price: a DFA fundraising letter on Charlie's behalf, potentially worth tens of thousands dollars.

Help Charlie win. Vote for him now!

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California Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald has Died

California Congresswoman and Chair of the House Administration Committee Juanita Millender-McDonald has died from cancer at the age of 68.
A few of her admirable actions while in Congress:
Republicans controlled the House during all but the last few months of Millender-McDonald's tenure, constraining her opportunities to enact legislation. But she occasionally demonstrated a flair for dramatic political gestures.

In 1996, she brought then-CIA director John Deutsch to Watts to address allegations that the agency was using profits from crack-cocaine sales to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The incident led Glamour magazine to describe Millender-McDonald in a 1997 article as "one of 11 women who will change the world."

In 1999, she staged a "sit-in" at the office of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) to force the confirmation of former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) as ambassador to New Zealand and Fiji.

In recent years, she has made security at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach a priority.

Read more on her life and political career in this obituary in the LA Times.

May she rest in peace.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Doolittle Compares Himself to Duke Lacrosse Players

After giving up his seat on the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, Congressman John Doolittle today had the audacity to compare himself to the Duke lacrosse players during a press conference:

I have been an effective representative for the region and shall continue to be one despite this situation. Finally I will just say that if there is anything we should have learned from the Duke lacrosse case, it is that the destruction of the reputations of innocent people can occur when the government, the press and the public jump to unfounded conclusions. I ask everyone to withhold judgment until the all facts are known and the truth can prevail.

It's really time that this disgrace of a Congressman leaves not only the Appropriations Committee but Congress itself. However, Doolittle stated he will not resign and will run for re-election:

First I would like you to know I have no intention of resigning from Congress and I have every intention of running for reelection again. Over past last two days the support I have received from colleagues in the House and elected officials from my district has been overwhelming.

Well, you can actually do something about forcing Doolittle out of Congress. You can support Charlie Brown in his attempt to succeed Doolittle. In the last election Brown gathered 46% of the vote compared to Doolittle's 49% in a heavily Republican district.

Help Charlie Brown by contributing to his campaign and by voting for him at the DFA Grassroots All-Star contest.

Read the entire transcript of the press conference here. You'll notice that Doolittle declines to answer most questions. And here's the audio.

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German Music Friday: "Texas Lightning - No No Never"

"It's not a joke - it's country" is the motto of the German band "Texas Lightning." Yup, it ain't no joke that a German band thought about doing country. Surprisingly, they're both good and successful.

Last year Texas Lightning represented Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens, Greece. Somehow, not all of Europe grasped the concept of the band and came in 15 out of 24.

In Germany "No No Never" was a hit and was number one for several weeks.

Among the members of Texas Lightning are drummer Olli Dittrich, a German comedian who was a cast member of the German version of Saturday Night Live and vocalist Jane Comerford who is a vocal coach and was born in Australia.

In June of 2006 the members of Texas Lightning were made "honorary Texans" by proclamation in the Texas State Senate. I kid you not.

So, are you ready for German country?

More Texas Lightning videos at YouTube.

Texas Lightning's official website.

Texas Lightning on Wikipedia.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Doolittle Gives up Appropriations Committee Seat

John Doolittle must know he's in real trouble now:

Rep. John Doolittle, facing escalating legal uncertainties because of his connection to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, announced Thursday that he is stepping down from his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Doolittle is the only California member of the panel's Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee which allocates money for flood control projects. His departure comes just as the Congress is ramping up work on improvements to Folsom Dam necessary to bring 200-year
flood protection to Sacramento and other levee improvements along the Sacramento River.

Doolittle requested a temporary leave of absence in a letter to House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-OH.

"I understand how the most recent circumstances may lead some to question my tenure on the Appropriations Committee," Doolittle said. "Therefore I feel it may be in the best interest of the House that I take a temporary leave with seniority from this committee until this matter can be resolved."

Clearly, Doolittle is no longer capable of serving the interests of his constituents. It's time Doolittle resigns.

Charlie Brown would represent California's 4th congressional district honorably. You can help Charlie succeed in a very easy way. Click here to vote for Charlie in the DFA Grassroots All-Star contest.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Doolittle's Home Raided by the FBI

Congressman John Doolittle's home in Virginia was raided last Friday. Breaking from the Sacramento Bee:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Virginia home of Rep. John Doolittle and his wife Julie on Friday, executing a search warrant for materials related to Julie Doolittle's company, Sierra Dominion Financial Services.

The raid apparently is in connection with the ongoing federal investigation of the political corruption scandal stirred by Jack Abramoff, a one-time Republican star who had a close relationship with the Roseville Republican.

Republican Party sources told The Bee the raid occurred on Friday as a former Doolittle staff member and lobbying colleague of Abramoff, Kevin A. Ring, abruptly resigned his job with a Washington law firm, raising the prospect that the FBI was focusing on Doolittle.

The article also has a run down of all the Doolittle scandals in case you're not up to date.

Other recent headlines at the Sacramento Bee:

Former Doolittle aide abrupty quits

Doolittle campaign still in debt

Doolittle's going down. At this point it's uncertain whether he'll actually make it to election day next year or whether he'll have to resign before that. Either way, Charlie Brown is gonna need all the resources he can get, so consider donating to Charlie's campaign and vote for him at the DFA's Grassroots All-Star contest.

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Make Charlie Brown the DFA's Grassroots All-Star

Democracy for America is having a contest on who their first endorsee will be. Here's what it's all about:

This month, Democracy for America is hosting an online vote to determine which Congressional candidate will receive the first endorsement of the 2008 cycle. All of the candidates in the competition ran in 2006 and lost in close races. They're now determined to win a rematch, so we need to support these candidates early to build towards an even larger Democratic majority in 2008.

You can help Charlie big time by voting for him. Getting the first endorsement of the cycle by DFA would be a major coup for the Brown campaign!

Vote now!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Ad Campaign Against Dean Heller Started Today

Americans United for Change started their ad campaign against Dean Heller and 5 other Republican members of Congress today.

I've been planning on starting a blog on Dean Heller. Because of this ad, I decided to start the blog a little early:

"Helluva Heller" will focus on everything Dean Heller, with the aim of ousting Heller in the next election. Read more about the new blog and watch the ad at:

Helluva Heller

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Charlie Brown Gives 10% of Contributions to Veterans Groups

You can give 15% of the contributions you received to your wife (and not tell your contributors) or you can give 10% of the contributions you received to Veterans Groups and let people know in your fundraising letters. Charlie Brown chose to do the latter:

Lt. Col. Charlie Brown Will Distribute Funds to Local Veterans Support Groups at Press Conference in Roseville on Today

Brown asks Politicians, Businesses, and Individuals to “lead by example on troop support”

Roseville: Retired USAF Lt. Col. Charlie Brown will be presenting financial contributions to a number of local veterans support organizations at an event scheduled for this morning (11 a.m.) at the Roseville Veterans Memorial Hall.

The event comes just days after Brown’s son deployed for his fourth rotation to Iraq , and in the wake of growing concerns about the wide spectrum of post-combat aftercare needs confronting veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan .

“We’ve all heard the troubling trends concerning PTSD, homelessness, suicide, divorce, and the myriad of other challenges that have faced past and current generations of veterans,” Brown said. “Many people may not be aware of the vital role that local groups play in delivering services to those in need, and how much they count on the support of private donors and volunteers.”

“This event is about highlighting their work, their needs, and what others can do to help,” Brown added. It’s about the shared obligation of people of all stripes—politicians, businesses, and individuals--to come together, put their money where their mouth is on troop support, and address a common challenge that will be with all of us for decades to come---no veteran left behind.”

Brown, who is exploring the possibility of a second run for Congress in 2008, issued a challenge to supporters back on March 13th to help raise $25,000 online by the end of the month, with 10% of all proceeds going to support local community based organizations that serve veterans and their families. Monday’s event will distribute the funds generated by that campaign to the Sacramento Stand Down, Nevada County Stand Down, and Sierra College Veterans Club.

Joined by other local veterans, Brown and representatives from each organization will deliver brief remarks at the event.

Lt. Col. Brown spent 26 years in the Air Force, and was a candidate for Congress in California ’s 4th District in 2006. His wife Jan is also a veteran, and his son is currently deployed to his fourth rotation in Iraq with the Air Force.

WHO: Lt. Col. Charlie Brown, Area Veterans, Representatives from Sacramento Stand Down, Nevada County Stand Down, and the Sierra College Veterans Club (including 2 recently returning veterans of the Iraq War).

WHAT: Check Presentation to local Veterans Support Groups with Press Interview Opportunities

WHERE: Roseville Memorial Veterans Hall, Front Steps, 110 Park Drive , Roseville

WHEN: Monday, April 16, 2007, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Americans United for Change to Air Ads Against Dean Heller

Patrick O'Connor at the Politico reports that Americans United for Change are to start a new ad campaign next Tuesday against 6 vulnerable House Republicans.

Among them: our very own Dean Heller!

The ads are a response to Heller's Iraq war votes. O'Connor writes about Heller and the other targeted Republicans: "Each could face a difficult reelection challenge if the war persists." Yeah, no kidding. More:

The ads come at a critical time in the showdown between Bush and congressional Democrats over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The first ads will air Tuesday, a day before Democratic leaders are scheduled to meet Bush at the White House.


Next week’s ad campaign is expected to be sizable, if not overwhelming, according to the same source. The group is expected to spend “several hundred” thousand dollars on the ads, running approximately 500 gross ratings point in each market.

Sounds like this will be the opening call to see to it that Heller won't be re-elected in 2008. What can television viewers in Northern Nevada expect? Well, here's the script for the ad against New Mexico's Heather Wilson:

[T]he ad begins with the president's now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech from the deck of an aircraft carrier when he declared, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

His speech is followed by a montage of chaos on the ground in Iraq, including footage of Humvee hitting a roadside bomb.

Wilson is then shown appearing with Bush as the announcer says, “Heather Wilson is still voting with the president on Iraq” followed by a reference to her vote against the supplemental spending bill to fund the war.

“Tell Heather Wilson, after four years, it’s time to end the war,” the ad concludes.

The ad against Heller will likely be similar. A couple of weeks ago Americans United for Change started their first campaign against 3 incumbent Senators. Watch the one against New Hampshire Sen. Sununu:

Now it's upon Nevada Democrats and new Chair Jill Derby (Heller's '06 opponent) to find a suitable and credible challenger for Heller, assuming that Jill Derby herself will not run again.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

German Music Friday: "Ayo - Down On My Knees"

So, what'd you expect when you read that headline? I guess, I don't even wanna know.

Anyhow, I have a new favourite song right now and thought I'd share it with you. And make a little regular series out of it while I'm at it.

Ayo has released her first single in Germany this February. She has started her career in France, where she has been very successful and has done a big concert tour last fall. Ayo's Nigerian father came to Germany in the 1970s to study, her mother is a German gypsy.

"Down On My Knees" is the current single in Germany from the album "Joyful" which was produced by Jay Newland who won a Grammy in 2003 for his work on Norah Jones' album "Come Away With Me."

More Ayo videos at YouTube.

Ayo's official website.

Ayo's MySpace.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charlie Brown's Son Re-Deployed to Iraq for the 4th Time

CA-04 congressional candidate Charlie Brown's son was re-deployed to Iraq today for the 4th time. Charlie wrote a very moving and powerful post about this over at Daily Kos. It is up on the rec-list as I write. His post has also been front-paged at Calitics.

Here it is in its entirety:

Most Americans woke up this morning ready to read the morning paper, listen to the news, and check their computer to see what the day would bring.

Jan and I woke up knowing that today our son deployed for his fourth rotation in Iraq. We woke up knowing that for the next several months, the last thing we do at night and the first thing we do in the morning will be checking the internet for news out of a war zone...for word from our son.

We are in the minority: parents, spouses, and friends with a loved one in Iraq. Knowing from experience about the true cost of war, we questioned the justification and execution of this policy before it was popular. We learned first hand about the lack of proper equipment before others read about it in the newspaper. We checked prices for top quality body armor to send our son while the GOP led Congress fiddled. And long before the Walter Reed scandal broke, we followed the aftercare problems facing our troops, their families, and surviving dependents as our son talked about the injured and dead his unit flies out of Iraq.

The truth doesn’t only set you free, it strengthens your resolve to fight for what’s right.

Like many other veterans and military parents, my wife (who served as an Air Force Nurse) and I have borne the burden of far more truth than is typically presented to the general public. We learned about contractor fraud from an auditor I used to fly helicopters with who monitors contracts in Iraq---about the slower than reported progress on Iraqi civil infrastructure projects from a Marine civil engineer who was stationed in Iraq---about our long since discredited intelligence on the war from people on the ground who I worked with during my own 26 year military career. And, as a longtime subscriber to ‘professional’ military publications, I learned years ago that the military has not been quiet about the problems it is facing--you just had to know where to look, and you had to be willing to listen to the experts on the ground.

Now that this information is more public, most Americans disapprove of U.S. policy in Iraq, and are justifiably outraged over the care given to our troops when they come home.

Welcome to our world.

We thank those of you reading this for caring, for working to spread the truth, and for helping to elect a new Congress in 2006 that is fighting for change. That’s what "supporting the troops" is all about, but it is only a beginning.

Representatives like my 2006 opponent John Doolittle are still voting to send people like my son into combat without proper equipment, training, or a plan for success. They are still refusing to make personal sacrifices to support our armed forces, or hold the administration and Iraqi politicians accountable for results instead of rhetoric.

I suppose that’s easy to do as long as it’s someone else’s child fighting and dying, but it is not the American way, and it is certainly not patriotism.

We need good people in the military, and we owe those who serve the benefit of competent civilian leadership, and seamless aftercare when they become veterans. Families like ours know this truth all to well. We know that resolving these issues at a human level is not about having all the answers---it’s about having the right priorities and the courage to ask the right questions.

We are proud of our son and the troops who protect our beloved country. They truly are our best and brightest.

And that’s why Jan and I are as determined as ever to ensure we have a government that cares as much as we do about the safety and success of our men and women in uniform.

Be safe son. And come home soon.

Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Olberman: Gibbons "Worst Person in the World"

When a governor, even an obscure one, goes all nutty over a conspiracy theory, people take notice. So was the case with MSNBC's Keith Olberman last night:

But our winner... Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the FBI is investigating him for having allegedly accepted unreported gifts or payments from a military contractor, while the Governor was a U.S. Congressman.

But he has an explanation. "I have heard," he says, "that the Democrats have paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written."

Governor, don't you think, if the Democrats could get good coverage out of the Wall Street Journal by paying for it, they might spend the money on a little higher-value target than the Governor of Nevada?

The Wall Street Journal, for cryin' out loud!

Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada... Today's Worst Person In The World!

You can view the video here.

Gibbons himself now seems to be channeling George W. Bush, in that he endlessly repeats himself and I just don't understand what he's saying at all:

"Is there a double standard?" Gibbons said. "I don't think there should be a double standard. ... Let me say that I'm one who has been subjected to a lot of false rumors that have been published by people -- statements created and fabricated against me. ... So I don't think there should be a double standard."


"I'm not paranoid," he said. "I'm not thinking people are out to get me. I just repeated that what I had heard was what was asked of me. ... The question was had I heard, and I said yes, I had heard."

Gibbons was asked multiple times whether he believed the rumor.

"Do I believe it? I don't know if I believe it or not. It's a rumor," he said. "I have no way of knowing. ... It's just a rumor. There are rumors all the time, and I'm one who's always subject to rumors being published. So I understand the fact about rumors. They're just rumors."

Meanwhile, basically everyone thinks Gibbons has gone to a new low, to put it mildly. There are quite a few fun comments in there. My favourite is this one:

Community College of Southern Nevada historian Michael Green said anyone with common sense would have laughed off that conspiracy scenario, but Gibbons appeared to have taken it seriously, revealing an "amazing view of the world."

Green also called Gibbons' comments "mind-boggling," "ridiculous" and "memorably bizarre."

"What Gibbons is doing is sounding like a guy broadcasting from his bedroom on public access on the far end of the AM (radio) dial in Buttflap, Alabama," Green said. "It doesn't come across as coming from a governor. It doesn't sound like someone in a state that's trying to be taken seriously."

Gibbons was also the top story on KVBC Las Vegas. They report on the recall efforts. You can view the video here. Notice how prominently Nevada Scandalmonger's blog "Vote Gibbons Out" is shown in the report. This prompted him to write a post that his blog is not the official recall site and to link to every single Gibbons scandal. So, if you want an overview that's really the best place to go.

And Gibbons has an approval rating below Bush's at 29%.

And the Las Vegas Sun is also making fun of him.

And the Nation also joins in ridiculing Gibbons:

Rumors? Has anyone heard rumors about the Wall Street Journal being on the take from the Democratic Party? If that's the case, Democrats -- aside from Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman -- ought to ask for their money back. No newspaper has more consistently editorialized in favor of the Bush administration's failed policies, and the initiatives of Republicans at the state level, than the Journal.

It's gonna be one heckuva summer.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gibbons, Nixon - Is There a Difference?

Is Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons now channeling Richard Milhous Nixon?

Is Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons in the same league with those who believe Elvis was abducted by Aliens?

Is Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons America's nutty Governor?

The answer to all of the above is probably yes. Here's why:

Is there really a conspiracy between Democrats and the Wall Street Journal? are Democrats in fact paying the WSJ to get Gibbons?

Jim Gibbons seems to believe so. Asked by the Reno Gazette-Journal's Ray Hagar whether he heard conspiracy rumors Gibbons replies:

“I have heard that the Democrats have paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written,” Gibbons said. The Journal has reported that Gibbons is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly accepting unreported gifts or payments from a Reno company that was awarded secret military contracts when Gibbons was in the U.S. House.


“When I met this guy, (Wilke), he was brought to Elko by the Dina Titus campaign and that is where I met him. So I don’t know what his agenda is, but there is nothing there with any of these allegations.”


Gibbons said the ties between the Democrats and the Wall Street Journal are about politics.

“What this is about, I believe, is that this is about the 2008 election,” Gibbons said. “And it has very little to do with me. It is just that they want to deal with what their interests are in 2008.”

Yup, Gibbons seems to believe the "rumors." And one has to wonder where these rumors are coming from. Here's Gibbons' spokeswoman's take:

“We believe that there is a significant effort on behalf of the Democratic Party to aggressively attack my boss’ legislative agenda and provide further distraction, not allowing us to move forward leading the state,” Melissa Subbotin said. “As far as the Wall Street Journal story goes, we don’t know. We don’t know who is providing it but we do hear rumors just like you do.

But getting back to reality for a second. Here's the response of Senate Minority Leader and frm gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus:

“I think the stress is getting to the governor. Now he’s looking for a conspiracy,” Titus said.

“I have never met this (reporter),” Titus said. “I’ve never talked to him. He has never asked me for a comment. I have no connection to him whatsoever.”

More voices from the reality-based community:

“I find it hard to imagine that anyone paid the Wall Street Journal to fabricate stories about the governor,” Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas said. “The Wall Street Journal is generally considered a conservative newspaper, perhaps run by Republicans and not Democrats.”


“The very idea that a newspaper of that caliber is going to accept money to make up stories about a governor is far-fetched, to say the least,” Buckley said.

“We don’t have that much juice,” added Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas and the chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

Of course, this whole rumor deal doesn't explain why the Governor is under investigation by the FBI. Are Dems now paying the FBI as well? You only really grasp the craziness of the whole deal when you listen to the first part of the conversation between Ray Hagar and Jim Gibbons. Yup, there is a tape. This really is like Nixon reloaded. Listen to it here.

There have been so many stories involving Gibbons in the past year that it's really hard to keep track. The WSJ is trying to and in Nevada local blog Vote Gibbons Out is really doing the best job. He posted a timeline on Jim Gibbons and his wife Dawn and their involvement with the Defense Department contractor and their holiday trips with the owners of said company.

All this leaves only one question: when will Gibbons be recalled. Nevada law only allows for a recall after the Governor has been in office for six months, so proceedings could start in July and Nevada bloggers and activists are gearing up for it.

Here's a petition for you to sign.

PS: Conveniantly, this story has already been picked up by the AP. Hope it'll spread far and wide.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Book Review: Jason Carter "Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders"


In Gogo's mind, she translated the word "hope" to the zulu word themba. "Themba" means not only "hope" but also "believe." For Gogo, "hope" is not a possibility but a certainty.
Too often, perhaps, we lose hope because we fail to look for it where we least expect it - among poor black people in a South African homeland or an American inner city, or poor white farmers in clapboard shaks in south Georgia. But there it is.

Hope and believe, or "themba," that's what it is ultimately all about. Jason Carter, the son of last year's Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Jack Carter and brother of blogger Sarah Carter, comes to this conclusion at the end of his book, at the end of two years in South Africa.

Jason arrived in Lochiel, a little settlement on South Africa's border to Swaziland, on April 8, 1998 - nine years ago yesterday. Lochiel is really just that, a settlement, people were forced to move there when the South African government in the 1970s decided to establish "homelands" for South Africa's different tribes. The Swazi people in townships outside Johannesburg, Pretoria and other places were rounded up and brought to KaNgwane. However, none of the homeland gained real independence or autonomy. People had to commute outside of their homelands if they wanted to find work and survive. Each night they had to go back to their homelands to sleep without any rights, much less any comfort:

[T]he trucks dropped people off in the middle of nowhere, and the government was not going to provide much assistance. There are famous pictures of the "houses" that the government provided in the "relocation camps." They look like rows and rows of outhouses, or cube-shaped pens, with sides of corrugated iron and a dirt floor.

In Lochiel, Jason was the only white person among the 200 families living there. At first, the locals were apprehensive but soon got used to his presence. He worked in the local schools helping to implement the government's new education program.

In post-Apartheid South Africa, Jason was in a unique position. As a white American he had few difficulties blending in the industrialized, rich and white South Africa. Though, oftentimes he felt more than uncomfortable, not only because of the abundant luxury so few miles away from the poor townships and settlements like Lochiel where he spend most of his time, but also, or maybe even more so, because of the blatant racism by many.

One would think that a white American would have a tougher time in a black South African community than a black American. Surprisingly, this was not really the case. South Africa, because of Apartheid, is a very complicated country. Jason soon discovered a tool that put black South Africans more at ease with the presence of a white man - their language. He soon picked up enough quite a bit of Siswati and Zulu to easily communicate with people in Lochiel and elsewhere.

While there were many uncomfortable situations for Jason, he had less trouble than some of his fellow Peace Corps volunteers from the US. African-American men had to endure the racism and frequent bad treatment by white South Africans just like black South Africans did. African-American women had to cope with the extreme macho attidudes against women in South Africa's black society on top of that.

Yet, these few paragraphs don't begin to grasp the complexity of the situation in South Africa as Jason also discovered a willingness among both black and white South Africans to cross the racial divide, to overcome fear and prejudice. However, looking at race relations in America more than 140 years after the end of slavery and more than 40 years after the civil rights legislation one has to wonder how long it will take South Africans to overcome Apartheid.

30 years prior to Jason joining the Peace Corps in South Africa, his great-grandmother Lillian Carter, at the age of 70, went with the Peace Corps to India. Her experience there is wonderfully described by former President Jimmy Carter, Lillian's son and Jason's grandfather, in the introduction to
Power Lines. However, compared to Lillian Carter's life outside of Bombay, Jason's was quite different. The so-called first and third world were just a few miles apart. The first world actually drives by Lochiel on a daily basis, as it is situated on Highway 17, connecting Johannesburg and Swaziland's capital Mbabane, where luxury hotels and casinos lure many white South Africans.

Jason Carter easily manages to capture the readers attention by not just describing his two years in South Africa, but rather by drafting a story and taking the reader along for the ride. By doing so, he takes the reader beyond the usual image of black Africa portrayed in the media - poverty, despair, war and AIDS. He takes us inside the daily lives of the family he stays with, goes along on a trip for a family wedding, treats us to scenes in the family kitchen and takes us to a funeral, and another one, and yet more funerals. For that is the reality of South Africa. The country has to battle with HIV/AIDS and in no other place does the utter despair of this situation become more visible than in the current of funerals:

Saturday, umbgcibelo, is the day of burial. Death became a part of my life to a greater extent than I had ever experienced. In my two years in Lochiel, I went to more than 30 funerals.

However, just as many as died from AIDS-related illnesses, "died from sicknesses and a lack of health care, in addition to car accidents." And all that in a country where first rate health care is available. But only for those who can afford it.

And yet, there is hope and believe - themba. In this short book review I was only able to capture a fraction of what Jason wrote in Power Lines. I'll therefore leave the closing remarks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his praise for the book:

In Power Lines, Jason Carter writes insightfully of strength, commitment, and idealism, his own as well as that of the many South Africans whose stories he tells.

Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders
By Jason Carter
National Geographic Society
Washington D.C., 2002

Power Lines is availabe at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Powell's.

Jason Carter has not only written this book about his time in South Africa. He has come back from South Africa with a set of ideals, a willingness to get involved and themba. He has recently co-founded "Democrats Work" with Thomas Bates. The motto of Democrats Work is "putting our values into action." Check out their website and find out how you can put your values into action.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Joe Lieberman Still a Democrat - According to Harry Reid

Joe Lieberman is still a Democrat. That is, if you believe the website of Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid:

Now, according to Joe Lieberman himself that is not the case. Here's what he has to say on his official Senate website:

In 2006, Senator Lieberman was elected to a fourth term as an Independent, because of the strength of his record and his accomplishments for the state. He won the general election by more than 100,000 votes. He remains committed to caucusing with Senate Democrats, but will be identified as an Independent Democrat (ID-CT).

You heard the man. He's an Independent using the term "Independent Democrat" for official purposes. Now, why doesn't Harry Reid get it? Why still identify the man who defected from the Democratic Party and ignored the will of Democratic Connecticut primary voters as a member of this party? Just an oversight? I don't think so. Just look at this screenshot:

Notice something? Bernie Sanders is missing. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is apparently not part of the Democratic majority, while Joe Lieberman is. As Barbara Boxer recently noticed: "Elections have consequences" Joe Lieberman defected the Democratic Party. That should have consequences. When you list Joe Lieberman as a "member" than identify him correctly and include Bernie Sanders. Otherwise just drop him from the list. Joe's not a Democrat anymore.

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