Jul 27, 2005

SCOTUS, Bears & Water Guns: What a Summer is All About!

It's been very hot around here in the northeast, though much of the country is suffering from the same high temperatures. I guess the rapture index has climbed a notch or two. I'm thinking of a tall, sweatin' glass of Long Island Ice Tea , sitting under an umbrella at a quiet, white beach, while the blue-green waters of the soft surf cooling my feet. Ah, that's life. On a related story, as life goes, I'm hitting the pavement these days lining trying to line up projects of gainful employment, so I can maintain my lifestyle, which includes having a few hours a week to dream about the finer points in life! I should be a political consultant getting the big bucks and well-deserved vacations in order to recharge my batteries and clear my head.

By now, you must have heard that Bush has found a new prince for SCOTUS. The introduction was short and sweet. How lucky we are to have someone on the Supreme Court of the United States who loves his family and his dog! Oh, and his name is John G. Roberts--a very nice waspy name if you asked me. Why would the Democrats want more information on this guy? He seems smart, polite, and well groomed! [I mean, com'on, he's not a Borg, or is it, Bork?] Anyway, the game being played is hide & seek. "OK, let's see what you're holding behind your back, Johnny," the Dems are saying. "We can't show you the paper trail while he worked for pappa Bush (1989-1993), because it'll spoil the surprise we're preparing for you," the White House shouts back. "Did we tell you that Roberts collects art, gives to charity, supports the troops, loves apple pie and his mother," they add. Well, folks, now you have it. What more could you ask for? [it's a rhetorical question, not a real one, so stop asking]

Since I'm feeling a bit generous today, I'm going to give some free advice to the Democrats. If they find it useful, they can support this site by making a nice contribution (I mean monetary, though comments are also welcome). First, I'd advise them not to come out against Roberts, not right away. They should coordinate their questioning efforts in the Senate Judiciary Committee to reveal as much as possible about him. Then, if he's coy, or if the senators don't get direct, clear answers, they should pick one, or, maximum two issues to oppose him. Yet, there is little doubt in my mind that, unless Roberts has a skeleton in his closet, he'll be confirmed.

Let's not forget that the American people don't like "obstructionists," so the Dems must be careful how to play this. Also, Bush will get another 1 or 2 SCOTUS appointments. I'm certain that Renquist will definitely leave the court before the Dems take over (hopefully) any Congressional chamber in January 2007. I understand the frustrations of many on our side, who want to come out swinging hard against Bush's nominee, but we have to be smart. In the "normative sense" things would be different; today, we must deal in pragmatics. Like General Washington, we have to pick our battles wisely when our numbers are smaller.

Elections have consequences. We knew this, just as we knew that Bush would pick a very conservative person for the high court.We know that "reasonable" or "mainstream" Repubs are an endangered species and definitely in no position of influence or with the guts to stand up to the highjacking of their party (and their traditional conservative ideology). The way to really change this bad situation is to change the power relation in D.C. starting with the mid-term elections next year. By being reasonable (read: smart) today they will be in better shape to fight tomorrow. And, gosh, do we have so many battles ahead.

If the Dems make significant gains next year, I think Bush will try to nominate an even more conservative judge when Renquist leaves. Such move, if successful will solidify the extreme right tilt of SCOTUS for many years. If unsuccessful, the Republicans will have an issue to keep their base on alert and motivated for the next elections. Likewise, the Dems can use the Roberts' nomination to mobilize their troops in 2006. Just a few percentages higher of voter turnout can have a huge impact in a traditionally low voter participation in a midterm election.

And, keep hanging Rovergate around the president's neck. Stop asking Bush to fire his trusted advisor. The damage to our national security is done already. They should now pay the price, long and hard. Let special counsel Fitzgerald do his job. He's said something about "crimes committed," and "the plot against Wilson." This gets juicier by the day. Anyway, the terrible failures of this administration are many, and it has started to show in the public's attitude. So, keep making the case for change. I like Rep. (D-IL) Jan Schakowsky's
recent article where she argues that the Dems shouldn't be timid, "Americans like tough, even when they don't entirely agree with the substance. Voters like tough; voters don't like tentative." But, being tough is one thing. Hunting bears with waterguns is another. In addition to your resolve, you have to show purpose. Eliminating the static and forming a clear, concise message (something of a novel approach for the Dems) would be very helpful too!

Cheers! Aaaah, that felt good!

Jul 18, 2005

Spitting Against the Wind: Not Advised! Why Do They Do It?

Remnant of people past
Much of the political talk these days is about whether Rover pissed on the carpet, and whether his owner will take him to the pound if it is determined that Rover's action was illegal, that is, a violation of the White House lease. So, they tell us that the determinant factor in one's behavior is not a tad above what the law prescribes [how convenient!]. OK, I can live with that, but I expect more from those in the highest echelons of our government. I expect that they have acquired the notion of what's right! [read: correct] Competence would be nice too. Avoiding petty vindictiveness would also be very nice. Admitting mistakes, learning from them, and changing one's ways would definitely be welcome. Not rewarding failures by giving presidential medals and promotions would show that serving the country well is above allegiance to Caesar. While Bush keeps raising the tolerance bar in order to keep his elephants around him, they're getting bigger by the day, bloating from their own air of arrogance! Some special counsel Fitzgerald, I heard, is running around with a prick in his hands looking for trouble. He's talked about "the crime being committed," and, "the plot against Wilson." We shall see.

By the way, Rover had been known to be a carpet pisser many times before the latest leak. For a dog, he's a natural. Bush 41 kicked him out of the house, but junior was all to happy to see his pitbull mortally wounding McCain in South Carolina in 2000. The stench coming from this one-party government is now becoming overwhelming. We better open the windows and let some fresh air in. We'll have a chance to do just that in 2006 and again in 2008. Otherwise, our old trusted friends won't be visiting again and we may find that our only choice would be shady characters who lurk in dark alleys. We've associated with them before, and it was a bad experience; let's hope they're a thing of the past.

Speaking of fresh air, I came across Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. [read a recent interview
here] The author examines past civilizations [like the Aztec and the Maya, the Greenland Norse, and the inhabitants of Easter Island] and the underlying reasons for their extinction. Obviously, there are many causes for a civilization's collapse, but the environment is of utmost importance. It plays a great role in fostering a civilization or eventually dooming it! Invariably, the losers had made the decision to destroy their immediate environment. Today, we are doing it in a much greater scale and the results are evident already! The scientific community is in agreement about global warming. Granted, the earth may be going through temperature cycles, but no scientist (except those who work for the fossil fuel industry) refutes that human activities are affecting the planet's climate on a grand scale.

I don't know about you, but I like fresh air, clean environment, and the thought that future generations will have a nice place to live in. Our best tool of understanding--science--tells us that we've been very careless in the last 100 years. The 1990s were the hottest on average in the last 1,000 years. The oceans are absorbing huge amounts of carbon (the result of burning coal and oil) which has been altering the water's acidity, influencing water temperatures, current flows, intensity and frequency of hurricanes, etc. The negative effects of environmental deterioration would be felt most severely by the poorest people on our planet. So, if we are to promote a culture of life, shouldn't we care about the conditions under which people live and try to improve those conditions when it makes a difference?

There are those who are adverse to science, either because they "don't get it," or, because it makes them uncomfortable by revealing truths they don't like. The Bush administration has been actively distorting scientific data. The NOAA scientists report political interference with scientific determinations. The government-funded agency is directed to keep silent if the facts don't fit the White House policy. Morale is low, and funding is cut. In other words, the conservatives are not for conservation and long-term stewardship of our common treasures like the environment.

I learned, very early, to appreciate the natural beauty and the great outdoors as it was introduced to me by my father. He taught me to respect and protect our environment so my children and future generations would also marvel at this unique and beautiful world of ours. He also told me that we humans are part of this ecosystem--which in essence gave birth to us--so we should be grateful and become good housekeepers. We shouldn't pollute and destroy our only house! Stupid behavior is not advised, just like spitting against the wind. Personally, I wouldn't mind if some ignoramus got his face soiled from feeling the effects of his stupid actions, but this is our house too; we must protect it and keep it clean.

For starters, Rover has to go. His master and the rest of the cohorting clique should follow soon because they've been partying too much at our expense, damaging the reputation of our house, while running up huge bills for us to pay. I've already picked up my broom and can't wait to use it.

Jul 11, 2005

From Srebrenica to Darfur: Humanity Under Attack

We Cannot Afford to Be Uninformed. It's A Matter of Life & Death!
It was 10 years ago, these days, when the Srebrenica massacre took place in Bosnia. [read here the account of those dreadful days in July 1995] It's named after the city that the United Nations had declared as a "safe zone" and where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed by the Serbian nationalists under the leadership of the indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. It was a horrible failure by the west to stop this genocide. Such shameful inaction should haunt the entire civilized world, and especially those who had the power and the opportunity to act.

Today we heard a ton of
apologies from world leaders, but these leaders must feel the heat from the people. We have to demand that our government's policies reflect that human life and dignity is above politics, it transcends ethnicity, religion, race, or any other artificial division. We have to demand that the news media give us the news and not give us the world as a big informacial. We cannot afford to be ignorant because the price humanity pays is too high.

I think most Americans across the political spectrum value life. From the religious conservatives to the secular progressives there can be a common interest and course of action in preventing and punishing crimes against humanity. Words after the fact--and we've experienced so many atrocities just in the last few decades--sound hollow if we don't learn how to prevent those crimes against humanity. At least, when these crimes do take place, the world community must be quick to mobilize and act to stop them. I want to ask all those leaders who
spoke on Monday about the tragedy in Srebrenica what have they been doing in Sudan's Darfur where another genocide is taking place.

In the last couple of years, 2 million people have been displaced by a campaign of terror launched by the Sudanese government and its paramilitary units which still operate (rape & pillage) right outside the UN refugee camps in Darfur today. Several estimates show that up to 400,000 people have been killed in an ongoing genocide. Foreign aid is trickling in, but nothing has been done to secure the long-term safety of the refugees. Sudan doesn't seem to be of any political or military interest to the world at large, so the will to intervene is not there. Public pressure hasn't materialized either, partly because the media is not doing their job. In the US there were more than 8,000 reports on trivial matters--like Jacko's trial, the "runaway bride" and other mindless celebrities--and only just over a hundred references to Darfur last month!

Most Americans get their news from television and radio. The mainstream media, like ABC, CBS, NBC/MSNBC, FOX, CNN seem to treat the news as a revenue source and as a vehicle to provide entertainment by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Talk radio is abysmal. It's dominated by the conservatives and the extreme right. Even the Bible-thumbers on the religious radio shows are pre-occupied with everything else but some genocide in Africa. The only bright spots are the public radio stations that are running reports from NPR, PRI, and, of course, PBS which has frequent analyses, updates from Darfur, and special in-depth documentaries on the subject.

The world has to be a witness. You, too, can
Be A Witness. Demand better information. Genocide is news. Tell the media to be a witness. [click the link to learn how]

Jul 7, 2005

We Are All Britons Today

Photo By Reuters
A Smart Democracy Can Render Terrorism Futile
The news from London isn't good. Many people have been killed and injured in a massive terrorist attack in the British capitol on Thursday. Britons will bounce back--they've been through worse--but my hope is that they won't follow the US example after 9-11. Although I don't think Tony Blair is about to invade a country [surely Bush have told him about Syria and Iran, right?] but I hope that his government is a quicker study of present-day terrorism.
The US president has often said, "We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities." Obviously this hasn't worked all that well. Perhaps we've been lucky here in America and haven't had an attack by Al-Queda, but all the experts say it's a matter of time. Our infrastructure is very vulnerable, and our government hasn't done enough to secure the rail system, our chemical & nuclear plants, and screen the ships filled to the brim with containers from overseas. On Tuesday we learned that major terror attacks tripled in 2004. The White House raises the terror attacks to 3,200.
It's worth remembering that the terrorists are fighting us because of our foreign policy in the Near/Middle East, and because of our way life. It's religious fanaticism at its worst. They despise our freedoms, our "godless hedonistic culture" [wait, I've heard the same from our American Taliban], our emancipated women, the freedom of & from religion, our scientific methods that debunk the superstitious and the supernatural, and our refusal (still) to subjugate the state to the religious dogma.
The terrorists and all those perverse ideologues don't have to score a military win, take over our country to claim victory. If they make us change our way of life, take away civil liberties, become isolationists and intolerant, then, in effect, they would indeed have won. There is a creeping totalitarianism in our country and we must fight it. We have our own extremists here and they shouldn't prevail. Urge your elected representatives not to expand the Patriot Act. There is a bipartisan effort in the House to bring the Patriot Act within the lines of our Constitution, so it's good to see reasonable Republicans on the side of reason. Click here to push for the reform.
Read this article by an "alleged terrorist" who says, "I'm being accused of a serious--even treasonous--criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no opportunity (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. My ability to earn a living is threatened..." If you think it doesn't affect you, think again. If senator Ted Kennedy was put on the list and was prevented from flying on a couple of occasions, you can be next. Secret government and a system without checks & balances is bad, really bad.
We are all Britons today. We are all against the terrorists and anyone whose hatred and small mindedness drives him to commit crimes against humanity. Yet, although people can react in different ways to the horror and the shock of bloodshed, we can certainly find a common thread in compassion and our love for life.

Edited later: I just watched Frontline's "AlQueda's New Front" on PBS. I suggest you check it out and follow the links. PBS will be rebroadcasting it this week in light of the attacks in London. It's an eye-opener on AlQueda's work in the West.

Jul 3, 2005

They Declared Independence & Forged a Nation. What's Our Duty?

The Declaration of Independence gave birth to our country, but it was one of the many important steps that made us who we are today. In addition to taking the time to watch the 4th of July fireworks and enjoy other leisure activities, we should take time to reminisce about out nation's history. Pick up a book, take a few moments to think what the United States means to you, discuss your views with your friends and family, and make a pledge to help your country by being informed and engaged. When Benjamin Franklin was asked by a passerby in the streets of Philadelphia 229 years ago what the founding fathers were doing, he replied, "we made a country, now it's up to you to keep it!"

Jul 1, 2005

Watch The Fireworks But Mind The Thieves Around You

Sandra surprised us by leaving the Supremes before Renquist, but it was a matter of time before we faced the music. We knew what was in store for us on November 3rd, 2004. Renquist, a very conservative justice, may be replaced by another arch-conservative so this wouldn't change the balance on the high court. But, with O'Connor retiring, the balance may shift. The Democrats in the Senate have to stick together and try to get someone "moderate" to replace her. Unfortunately, we are not dealing from a position of power, as the Republicans control all branches of the federal government, so, friends, don't expect anyone even remotely close to our progressive views. That's why I called the last election the Armageddon election. The federal justices get life-time appointments, and their rulings can shape politics, law, and our own social agenda for generations.

Bush has had plenty of time to think about these possibilities. This is going to be a well-planned, orchestrated effort from the right. Watch their talking heads for the next couple weeks. It will reveal their strategy. They've already started by painting O'Connor a "liberal!" In my estimate, the rhetoric will escalate and several names of extremists will float around as potential nominees. Those extremely conservative persons will enable Bush to "play fair" and to nominate a less extreme but nonetheless a very conservative judge to the Supreme Court.

Clinton consulted with the Senate Republicans before appointing Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), then senior Republican on the Senate's Judiciary Committee, appreciated the president's candor and said of Ginsburg, "she's going to make an excellent justice!" The Senate confirmed her by 96-3! Later, Hatch expedited Justice Breyer's appointment too. In his autobiography, Hatch even takes credit for suggesting these two to Clinton! The big Bubba tried to build a consensus and nominate persons with a greater acceptance, not lunatics of any stripe or inept jurists. Don't expect the same from the current president. Bush deals in-your-face politics. We've seen this already. He has renominated previously-defeated extremist judges for federal courts; he has shown that he has no interest in consulting with the Democrats. And, he's using his minions, like Hastert, Delay and Frist, to shove legislation through, operate in secret, pass laws with no congressional review, and evoke the "nuclear option" to destroy the opposition and the Senate's role as a deliberative body.

Despite all the crazy talk about the flaming liberals who want leftist extremists on the federal bench, the fact is that the Democratic presidents have nominated mainstream, able jurists. That's not the case with Republican presidents. Do you remember Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas? Or, the recent appointment of extremists like Pryor, Brown, and Owen? Now, the name of "Mr. Torture is OK" Alberto Gonzales is being mentioned to replace O'Connor or, later, Renquist. Who's bringing in the lunatic fringe? But, unfortunately, the lunatic fringe is not marginal any more. It has influence and power and it is increasingly becoming the sturdy political base for Bush and the far right Republicans. It will remain so until the American voters render a severe verdict next year and move the country back to the center.

I've learned that last week the fundies established a "war room" to push for a religious conservative nominee! Coincidence? I don't think so. At any rate, the far right has been preparing to change the Supreme Court. We have to respond. Be creative, get involved. Here's how you can contact your senators, and here's how you can help the campaign to Save the Court as well as links and information from the People For The American Way.