Thursday, July 31, 2008

Food For Thought

There are so many things that are keeping me up at night that I'm finding hard to find a single topic to write about, so I'll just put a bunch together, buffet style.

I think my favorite idea that the press is throwing around these days is the "why doesn't Obama have a bigger lead" storyline. It is almost identical to the "Why can't Obama close the deal" storyline of the primary season. I love it when the press throws around terms like, "the public still doesn't know him". I mean WTF??? The public doesn't know any of the people that run for President! Personally I'm still waiting for George Jr. to come to my house for dinner so that I can get to know him (of course I'm not sure he'd like what I'd have to say). The public knows him just as well as they "know" John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney. The reason for his lack of a lead is as plain as the color of the nose on his face and everyone in the press knows it. As I've stated before, I don't think that the majority of people who will vote against Obama are racists, but the life long Democrats who are now refusing to vote for Obama are certainly taking more than just his voting record into account. Does that mean that they want to string him up from the nearest tree? Of course not. But there's a big difference between wanting equal rights for minorities and wanting that minority dating your daughter or living next to you or (heaven forbid) representing you as your President. As my co-contributor Sandy would say, there are those who believe that a vote for Obama is a vote for a big black di@k in your mouth. The McCain campaign has shown over the past few weeks that their strategy is clearly going to be to make the American public as uncomfortable with Obama as possible (I'm still waiting for the ad that says, "Barack Obama is Black, and you know what that means America. Vote McCain, or else. "), so that even those Independents or Republicans who might be predisposed to vote for Obama will be given reason to pause once they get into the voting booth.

Tim Kaine (Governor of Virginia) would be a less than inspired choice for VP by Obama. He currently polls under 50% in his home state and I don't think that he would be able to deliver it in the election. Also, he is practically an unknown across the country, brings no foreign policy experience and would do nothing to assuage the anger of the multitude of disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters. Personally I think his name is being put out in the press as smoke screen for the real work being done. The Obama campaign has dreams of turning the red states of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana and Colorado into a blue heaven of sorts. In order to even have a chance to flip half of those states, his VP choice has to be a little more inspired than the unknown, unpopular Governor of Virginia, regardless of how well they get along. I've already made my opinion known on this subject and I would be shocked if Obama actually ended up picking Tim Kaine as his running mate. Of course, I have been wrong before.

The vote by the Judicial Committee in the House (to recommend a contempt charge against Karl Rove) is just another example of sound and fury signifying nothing. Nancy Pelosi has already stated that she won't even consider submitting this recommendation to a vote until September (when Congress gets back from it's month long summer vacation. It must be nice.), and even then there is no guarantee that it will make it on to the agenda. There are two reasons why Karl Rove will never have to testify in front of this Congress; first Nancy Pelosi is terrified of stirring up the Republican base and secondly Congress is afraid of being exposed as having no actual authority to compel testimony. The Justice Department certainly isn't going to force Rove to testify (having already decided that once the President even thinks the words "executive privilege" they are powerless to do anything), and the Congress doesn't really have any other way to get Rove to appear before them. Everyone on the Judicial Committee is aware of this fact, so this was all for naught. And seriously, what's with the Republicans on the Committee voting against the contempt recommendation? Karl Rove has ignored a subpoena to appear before Congress. Whether you agree with the reason for him appearing or not, it would seem a no brainer to vote to try and bring some sort of sanction against an individual who is openly defying the authority of the Legislative branch. Karl Rove is just laughing his fat jellyroll ass off at this whole thing.

By the way, did you guys know that Bill Clinton is planning on opening up a counseling center that will focus on teaching couples the importance of fidelity and the sanctity of marriage? No? That's because it's not true, but it should be just as believable as Pat Robertson having his own Law School for Christ sake!!! I still can't get over that one. Perhaps we should put Karl Rove in charge of the Center for Ethics in Politics. To quote Karl Marx, or was it Don King who said, "Only in America!".

And last but not least, I have a few more words for our distinguished Speaker of the House. Hey Nancy, I hope you enjoy your vacation. And while your taking a month to celebrate Labor Day (most of the rest of us have to make do with a long weekend), I want you to think about the fact that Congress' approval rating is even lower than that of our esteemed President. Think about that. This President, who has led us into an unjustified war, cost thousands of people their lives, rung up the biggest deficits in history, destroyed the Constitution and left our economy in tatters, is more popular than you and your associates (by a wide margin, in fact) who claim to represent the interest of the American people. Do you think that trying to enforce the laws of the land or protect the interest of the American people could really do you more harm than good? Just something to think about.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Justice is Blind

Yesterday the Inspector General, in a scathing report, concluded that the Justice Department broke the law by using politics to guide their hiring decisions. The IG office is expected to release a report on the firing of U.S. Attorneys in the upcoming weeks. It has been clear for some time that this administration has no shame when it comes to actually adhering to the laws of the land, but their practice of filling high profile slots with unqualified and incompetent people has caused irreparable harm to the American people.

By allowing the Justice Department to hire people based on questions such as, "Why do you want to serve George Bush" and "Why are you a Republican", they lowed the level of competency and impartiality in the arm of government that is supposed to ensure that the law of the land is followed. The person who was in charge of these practices was Monica Goodling, who graduated from Pat Robertson's law school (that's right, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club has his own Law School. The man who believes that there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, the man who said that the world would end in 1982, the man who called for the assassination of the leader of another country, the man who blamed the 9/11 attacks on abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians and the ACLU among others, has his own Law School!). Apparently her greatest strengths were that she was a conservative and that she believed strongly in the President and his mission. Oh, and she went to Pat Robertson's Law School (Surprisingly she beat out all the Ivy League graduates that year. Go figure)

She was obviously not the architect of this plan, but like Scooter Libby before her, there has to be a fall guy or girl for the administration. Alberto Gonazalez, who resigned under massive criticism from members of Congress and the threat of impeachment hearings, was clearly the one who gave the go ahead to implement this plan, but it is also clear that this was just business as usual for the Bush administration. The FEMA mess surrounding Hurricane Katrina is the most famous example of the Bush administration practices when it came to filling positions. The head of that department, had no emergency management experience before being named deputy director of that federal agency, which occurred just one year before he was named Director.

The U.S. Department of Justice is supposed to objective and independent, but under this administration, it just turned into another tool for the White House to carry out their plans without any possible oversight. Filling senior positions with sycophants from Pat Robertson's Law School is probably not going to lead to providing the American people with the best protection of their rights. The Justice Department is supposed to serve the American people and the Office of the Presidency, not serve the individual to the detriment of the American people. I know I sleep so much better at night knowing that the people who are entrusted with ensuring that the laws of this country are followed were hired because they came up with a good answer to the question, "Why do you want to serve George Bush". It comforts me to know that when I want to find the best and brightest in America, I only need to turn to one source, Pat Robertson. I think I'll go make a donation to the 700 Club right now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Fix Is In

The revelation from Scott McClellan on Friday that the White House was feeding talking points to Fox News is shocking on one level, but on another it is absolutely and completely in keeping with the standard operation of this administration. The idea that this administration was basically using a press outlet as a propaganda tool should outrage most of this country, but as we have seen throughout the past 7-1/2 years, the majority of the country is simply not paying attention.

It is against the law for the government to utilize a "private" media outlet in this manner. However given the public's seeming indifference to offenses such as government sanctioned torture, lying in order to enter a baseless war, treasonous retribution for political enemies, whole scale illegal wiretapping, etc., this latest revelation will certainly not cause anything that could be even akin to outrage among the general population. Last weeks ridiculous hearings to discuss the many "crimes" of this administration were did absolutely nothing to address the core issue. This administration has repeatedly and seemingly without fear of retribution, broken the laws of this country and infringed on the individual rights of citizens and caused the deaths of untold thousands.

Does one public hearing in front of a Congressional committee somehow make up for that? Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has already made it clear that impeachment is not an option. I understand that for political reasons, the actual removal of the President is next to impossible, however having this President have to stand up and answer for the multitude of crimes that have been committed on his watch would be worth the political cost. Would there be a negative reaction from the conservatives? Of course. Will the be some backlash from independents? Yes. But will the Constitution and the American people be served best by ignoring the problem or by this Congress standing up for the rule of law and the rights of individuals?

Everyday I ask myself how we could have possibly gotten to this point. It would be easy to just blame the Bush administration, but clearly they had to have a lot of help in order to pull this off. The Democratic leadership has clearly been complicit in many of the illegal activities of this administration. It is a desperate situation that we find ourselves in when our elected officials are no longer working in the interest of those that elected them. We now find ourselves having to rely on the whim of the Justice Kennedy (who now stands as the swing vote on the Supreme Court bench) in order to try and preserve what little is left of the Bill of Rights. We also have to rely on Justice Stevens continuing to serve until his 89th birthday.

We are in a seemingly hopeless situation. Perhaps I'll turn on Fox News tonight and listen to the latest talking points from the White House. Perhaps the fantasy of our safety and economic stability will make all my concerns just float away. And if you are waiting for the November election to provide some relief, I offer you this quote from a story on Politico as one voter describes why she as a Clinton voter is now planning on voting for McCain:

"I feel John McCain is a true American and I want to support a true American,"
But isn't Obama a "true American?"
"I don't know," she said after a measured pause. "I question it."
"I don't know — maybe because of his name?"

That is level of political discourse in this country. Good luck America, but I think we're F#$@ed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

See you in October.

I’m going on a hiatus from "Random Thoughts" until October in order to devote more attention to a film written by this blog's founder Michael Hew, which I directed entitled "The Likes of Us".

I want to thank the 3 or 4 of you who read this blog regularly for your responses, contributions and feedback.
Being invited to write on my friend’s blog, regarding just about anything that comes to mind or worries me has been a great privilege and largely responsible for what's left of my sanity in these times. Michael asked me to write about whatever came to mind. Increasingly what has come to mind this year has been politics and the law.

I’ll return to what will surely be a hurricane (or shit storm) of politics, crime and scandal, just before the presidential elections. I hope to also start contributing to the blog Michael Hew has created devoted to the motion picture we are racing to finish as well, with news and updates of our struggles in the festival circuits and with the distribution channels.

Good luck to all,
…and to our friends in Louisiana, Canada and France -Bon chance!


Friday, July 18, 2008

A Tree Falls in the Woods III

We here at Random Thoughts should have called this series, “A Bunch of Trees Fall” or “A Bunch of Shit Happens” parts 1 through whatever... The truth is, I think Michael Hew and I are continually stunned at the lack of backbone shown by the so-called Democrats in the Senate. Their roaring battle cry seems to be “Business as Usual!!!” these days as the new and ineffectual majority. “A Tree Falls in the Woods” was never intended as a series because we didn’t think the Bush Administration would continue unfettered with the tacit permission and approval of the Senate, The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the media, press and the American people in 2008.
Yes, I’m a Goddamn sucker for believing in the unlikelihood of anything, anymore, ever again.

Once again, a tree falls in the woods, and since there is no one there to hear it, or more accurately no one there to acknowledge it, not a sound is made:
President George W. Bush is invoking Executive Privilege to prevent Attorney General Michael Mukasey from complying with a House panel subpoena for information and materials related to the leak of CIA operative, Valerie Plame's identity.

Remember? The self-same leak our president claimed to know nothing of? The self-same leak which is essentially treason under U.S. Law? The self-same leak that George W. Bush said was unacceptable? That pesky fucking leak that our President said would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? Our president is flip-flopping because he has some ugly things to hide.

The House Oversight Committee is acting upon the crashing sound of timber it heard five years ago. Congressman Henry Waxman of California has been calmly going after the truth.

House Oversight Chairman, Congressman Henry Waxman, has issued a subpoena. What he is asking for on behalf of the American people are FBI interviews of Vice President Dick Cheney, -but more importantly, Waxman is asking for the series of notes about the 2003 Presidential State of the Union address. President Bush uttered the infamous “16 words” in that address that are largely responsible for the war in Iraq:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of Uranium from Africa.
-President George W. Bush, 2003
The full 2003 Presidential State of the Union address is available here.

That statement is now being called a falsehood in the press, to leave room for everyone to say that our President may have simply been repeating something that was untrue, or that he somehow got the facts wrong.

I’d like to call it what it is. I’d like to call it a lie.

It was in direct response to the President’s statement about Uranium that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson wrote a NY Times Op Ed piece: “What I didn’t find in Africa” and it was because of that Op Ed piece that Valerie Plame’s identity was revealed to reporters by a least a few of the president’s men including Dick Armitage and Karl Rove. She was a CIA agent serving this country, and her outing put her and everyone she ever worked with at the CIA or in the field at risk.

I suppose the fact that this shit-heel of a president and his thugs went after a guy’s wife when they couldn’t get him to play ball will resonate more with Americans than the reckless criminality of these acts of revenge against a CIA agent serving her country.
Congressman Waxman immediately rejected Michael Mukasey's claim that Vice President Dick Cheney's FBI interview on the CIA leak could be protected by Executive Privilege and not surrendered to the panel. Mr. Waxman also stated that he thinks Attorney General Mukasey has earned himself a contempt citation. I agree with Congressman Waxman entirely:

"This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person, if the Vice President did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?"
House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman, (D) California
July 15, 2008

What indeed Mr. Waxman, what indeed?


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Together Again for the First Time

Barack Obama is coming off a near record month in fund raising and he is currently holding a 4 point lead in the RCP average of polls, however his standing heading into the convention next month will depend a lot on his choice of Vice President. There have been many candidates discussed since Obama clinched the nomination at the end of the primary season. There are candidates who are favored because of state considerations (Even Bayh of Indidana, Senators and the Governor of Virginia, Ted Strickland of Ohio), experience (Sam Nunn of Georgia, Joe Biden of Delaware), party balance (Chuck Hagel - Republican from Nebraska ), gender balance (Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano), and even though they all have their pluses, I have come to the conclusion that the only logical choice, is the most obvious one, Hillary Clinton.

I know that there are Obama supporters who will scream bloody murder if she is added to the ticket and there are those that will claim that she will do more harm than good, but as time goes on, it becomes clearer to me that she is the best choice. Her most often quoted negative is that having her on the ticket will energize the Republican base. Her biggest negative as Vice President would be her husband Bill Clinton running around the White House with nothing to do. These are valid points, but I don't think that they outweigh the positives that she can bring to the ticket. She has a very loyal base of support, and while they do not number the 18 million that some of her supporters like to claim, they are very vocal and would add a great deal of enthusiasm and money to the Obama campaign. Since Obama has turned down public financing, he needs all the money that he can get to compete against the Republican attack machine which will undoubtedly get rolling soon.

Bill Clinton can also be a great asset in the White House. I think a bored Bill Clinton might be some trouble, but as a former President and still a greatly admired figure all over the world, he would be able to play a much larger and more important role than any second spouse has ever done before. He could become a sort of roving ambassador for an Obama administration. Also having the full support and cooperation of the Clinton's over what will certainly be a very combative fall campaign is invaluable. Hillary can spend the campaign talking to those "white working class" voters that she claims have trouble supporting Obama and Bill can "feel the pain" of every working class family in the country.

There are Hillary Clinton supporters who will still not be happy with her in the second slot on the ticket, but the vast majority of her support will be more willing to join her for the ride. I have already stated here that I don't think that Obama can win the election in November (and I'm sticking to that thought), but outside of picking a Republican or an independent to run with him, Hillary is the choice that will make the greatest impact on fund raising and in his poll numbers. At this point, I think the only thing that is really stopping him from making her his running mate, is his pride. At the end of the primaries, Hillary's supporters were openly campaigning for the VP slot. Obama could not have chosen her then because he would have been seen as bowing to pressure. Enough time has gone by, however, that I believe that he should now be able to see things a little more clearly.

My personal choice for VP would be Joe Biden, because of his experience and his willingness to mix it up with the opposition over controversial topics. I think he would make a great second in command and would bring a level of competency and integrity to the position that clearly is lacking in the person who currently occupies the position. That being said, I don't think picking the "best qualified person" for the job is what is required here. Obama needs a bold stroke. Earlier in the season, I suggested picking Chuck Hagel would make an appropriate choice for someone who had made his campaign about more than partisan politics. But the reality of the situation is that Chuck Hagel, while he has been steadfast in his opposition to the war, has a very conservative voting record in the Senate. I don't think that he would be able to honestly support the progressive policies of an Obama administration.

So I'm back where I started. Picking Hillary Clinton would be a bold and historic choice (I know it didn't work out too well the last time the Democrats picked a woman, but even her most vocal of critics would have to concede that Hillary is a much better choice than Geraldine Ferraro was). Will picking Hillary Clinton cause some headaches for Obama? Without a doubt, but I think the upside is far greater than the potential pitfalls. And of course the final point, if Obama is going to go down in what should be an easy win for any Democrat, then he might as well take the Clintons down with him. I'm sure he doesn't want to take the blame alone for screwing the unscrewable pooch.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Will Not Be Cancelling My New Yorker Subscription, However...

Wow. For once I want the week to blow by for some reason other than that it's Monday.

Sometimes you see what is already a bad idea to start with, executed so awkwardly that it achieves the antithesis of what one assumes was the intended effect. Such is the minefield of satire and art. Mistakes are not excused.
You wonder how on earth it was allowed to happen. This week’s The New Yorker cover is simply king among weird moves made by the print media recently.
As you know, the current cover of The New Yorker is an illustration depicting the Obamas dressed as radicals or (radical terrorists if you prefer); Barack Obama dressed as a presumptive Muslim or Al Qaeda terrorist (it’s unclear in this context), his wife appears as some caricature of Angela Davis with an AK 47 slung over her shoulder, in the Oval office with a picture of Osama Bin Laden hanging over the fireplace and the American flag burning below.

-And they are bumping fists… the significance of which I’ll get to later in this post.

It is important to plainly state that, more than any other people on earth, for Black people, not Afro Americans, African Americans, not Negroes, not People of Color but for BLACK PEOPLE, all actions are emblematic in the American imagination:
If Michael Jordan and Will smith are rich, then all black people are rich, or can be if they want to and therefore there’s no hardship or discrimination being visited upon blacks, repeal affirmative action etc., etc.
If OJ Simpson is a criminal, then all black people are criminals and they are always “getting off” because they play the race card, etc. etc.
These are the chief reasons why satirical images of Black men or Black women will almost always fail and often create unintended statements and meanings more damaging than the ideas they attempt to comment upon.
-Because that’s often what happens when people other than Blacks attempt to comment on Blacks.
The fact that this cover illustration’s intentions have to be explained, means it did not work as a joke. Any joke in need of explanation is not funny. I think the direct consequence was not that many readers thought that Barack Obama was a terrorist, but that they didn’t understand how The New Yorker could so awkwardly raise the issue. So it wasn’t a case of unwelcome bluntness in citing the ridiculous “disconceptions” surrounding Obama’s religion and his patriotism, but deep revulsion at the thought that something as symbolically and virally powerful as a magazine cover on a newsstand might actually perpetuate these untruths about this Black man.
Mad magazine has been doing a better job of this kind of satire for decades by the way.
So now, once again, discussions surround whether or not The New Yorker had the right to do what it did, or whether Black people are being too sensitive. It’s a stupid angle and as stupid a question as:
“Why can’t I say the word nigger too?”
One has every right and at least the ability and freedom to do and say whatever you like in this world. What happens after you say it largely depends on how astutely you judged your audience, and the people within earshot. Does one always assume that everyone will understand and appreciate one’s irony? The New Yorker did in this case, and they were wrong, probably because the media has too long a track record of playing to and in some cases embodying the basest aspects of American prejudice.
For my part, I looked at the image and was puzzled. Clearly there were elements of pure post 9/11 jingoist fantasy in this caricature of the Obamas… but they were also pictured “bumping fists”, which is something Barack Obama actually does. There’s no way to put quotes around that act to underline Fox News Channel’s desperate attempts to slander this man. The bumping of fists stands as a curious piece of factual reality in a sandbox of caricature, exaggeration and sarcasm. Then again, I’m not sure leaving the “fist bump” out would save this image from its own quagmire.
I guess for me and the guys I grew up with, it’s hard to forget BLACK is a political color. Whatever calculated embraces of the term were made in the 1960s by African Americans, the fact of the matter is that, it was a term devised and assigned with no smaller purpose than to relegate a person to individual regions of rightlessness, worthlessness and immateriality. It's a damn hard thing to joke about. The image of Michelle Obama reduced to a shitty drawing of Angela Davis, demeans them both, and it really burned my ass.
The Obamas can not escape their blackness, and neither can we. Nobody can run that fast. Not in America. We can't pretend that making fun of the country's attitudes about a Black candidate won't ever backfire or be misunderstood.

I don’t believe The New Yorker should be censored, boycotted, picketed or protested. I do think this cover merits serious comment and criticism, which is what I tried to do here.
Now let’s move on. I need to vote for this guy in a hurry.


Friday, July 11, 2008

You Better Recognize.

The floor recognizes the distinguished lady from New York… and so do I.

Hillary will run again, maybe in the next election cycle, and no it’s never too early to talk about any Democrat running again; what with the past eight years a nightmarish reinvention of the Nixon White House, and now a McCain presidency a foregone conclusion. Democrats will likely have my vote for life, but I never forgot Senator Clinton’s Iraq vote. I felt betrayed as a New Yorker who was, and is one of her supporting constituents, but here’s something else I won’t ever forget:

She opposed the FISA bill on Wednesday… again.

In a statement, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said of the bill:
"Any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues who negotiated this legislation, and I respect my colleagues who reached a different conclusion on today's vote. I do so because this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, I could not vote for the legislation in its current form."

Amen. This is what I expect from my Senator. She went on to remind the cowards who didn’t stand with her what their job is:
"Congress must vigorously check and balance the president, -even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used - and used within the law - for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress."

Well reasoned, and well said on my behalf. Thank you Senator Clinton. That is an example of government at work for the people. Of the senators who voted opposition to FISA a year ago in June 2007:
Senator Akaka, Senator Baucus, Senator Biden, Senator Bingaman, Senator Brown, Senator Byrd, Senator Cantwell, Senator Cardin, Senator Clinton, Senator Dodd, Senator Durbin, Senator Feingold, Senator Kennedy, Senator Kohl, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Leahy, Senator Levin, Senator Menendez, Senator Obama, Senator Reed, Senator Reid, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Sanders, Senator Schumer, Senator Stabenow, Senator Tester, Senator Whitehouse, Senator Wyden.
-most returned with “nays” a year later:
Senator Akaka, Senator Biden, Senator Bingaman, Senator Boxer, Senator Brown, Senator Byrd, Senator Cantwell, Senator Cardin, Senator Clinton, Senator Dodd, Senator Dorgan, Senator Durbin, Senator Feingold, Senator Harkin, Senator Kerry, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Lautenburg, Senator Leahy, Senator Levin, Senator Menendez, Senator Murray, Senator Reed, Senator Reid, Senator Sanders, Senator Schumer, Senator Stabenow, Senator Tester, Senator Wyden.
Senators Bingaman, and Boxer among a few others made sure they registered their opposition this time… but not the senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.
I am well aware of the reality of Barack Obama’s liabilities as a candidate this late in the game. Everyone knows he has an uphill battle convincing many Americans that he will be tough on terror… (Frankly the Republicans have an uphill battle convincing me and any sane person who looks at their actual performance since the Bush administration took office but that’s beside the point) but, capitulating to these crooks in the oval office, so clearly convinced of their criminality that they are now trying to change the law, is unacceptable.

Barack Obama has acted no differently than a Republican, NeoCon or Bush appointee, -his reservations about immunity not withstanding. One must be willing to lose short term to beat these imperial elitists in the long run. That means to be willing to lose the presidential campaign, even lose your seat in the senate next time around.
Because this bill was more important than who gets to be president.
The passing of this bill was a huge victory for everyone who thinks that concepts and doctrines like checks and balances and our bill of rights are inconveniences to their own individual pursuit of wealth and power.

I contacted Barbara Boxer’s office in 2004 about her position on a bill I took issue with; their response was that since I didn’t live in a California zip code, they would not pass along my communication to her… I beg to differ on this policy, as all the aggregate votes of all senators affect me, you and everyone in this country. Barbara Boxer opposed FISA at this crucial time, and so did Senator Clinton, as she has every time, courageously.

Senator Barack Obama didn’t.
Barack Obama ain’t president yet, and he may never be, if my estimation of this country’s maturity is correct. I have to live with the consequences of Senator Obama’s vote and the votes of all the other Democrats and Republicans who think it’s just too unpopular to oppose this administration, regardless of where they reside and what region they represent. We have bought into the lie that the presidency is the most important office in the land… passing legislation like this, makes that lie an eventuality.

Much praise is due Senator Clinton and those she stood with.

Senator Dodd, offered these words of hope:
“While I am deeply disappointed by the outcome of today’s vote in the Senate, I am confident that the Constitutionality of this decision will be challenged in the courts. In the meantime, I will continue to stand up for the rule of law and American civil liberties at every opportunity. Now more than ever, we must all remain vigilant protectors of the Constitution.”

Saints preserve us... or at least our rule of law and the Constitution.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Peace In Our Time

Today, the Senate will vote to deny American citizens their fourth amendment rights and they will do so with an overwhelming majority. They will also provide immunization from prosecution for the telecoms and the Bush administration for their blatant disregard of the laws of this country. The proposed amendment by Sens. Dodd and Feingold to eliminate the immunization for telecoms will fail and the bill will be sent to the White House for the President's signature immediately.

This is a very sad day for everyone who believes in the individual rights guaranteed every citizen of this country by the Constitution. My disappointment in the Democrats in the Congress and the Senate cannot be understated. This "compromise" bill, not only forgives any crimes that have already taken place, but legalizes the very offense that took place before. They are retroactively making illegal search and seizure, legal. This isn't a compromise, it is total capitulation by the Democrats. I continue to be amazed by just how terrified of the Republican attack machine that this once proud party has become. Their members are so afraid of being labelled "soft on terror" that they are now willing to assume the role of Neville Chamberlain.

What right gets attacked next? This administration has already shown that they are willing to ignore the Constitution and the laws of this country when it suits their needs and the Democrats are apparently more than willing to provide them with cover for these transgressions. We don't have to wait for the next administration for "bi-partisanship", because we already have it. I can assure you that the Republicans would not have done the same if a Democrat were in office. The Republicans actually tried to get Bill Clinton removed for lying about having an affair! How do you think they would have reacted to a Democratic President playing fast and loose with the Constitution? I doubt that we would have seen the spirit of appeasement the Democrats are so willing to display.

I look forward to the press conference when Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi talk about what a triumph of bi-partisanship this bill is (Chamberlain would be happy). The President will of course proclaim that we are once again safe from the evils of terrorism and he will applaud the hard work of everyone who made this bill a reality. I can only imagine the party that he and the Vice President will be having with all the lobbyists for the telecoms. They will have a big cake that says, "today the IV amendment, tomorrow...". The Democrats (including their presidential candidate) can talk all they want about what this bill does or doesn't do, but one thing that history has made abundantly clear, appeasement is no way to deal with a tyrant.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Burn in Hell You Motherfucker: Jesse Helms, 1921 - 2008

Five term senator and enemy of blacks, gays and every body in the world who didn’t look and act like him, -Jesse Helms, has just died today on Captain America’s birthday. It’s 10:07 AM and I will now order in champagne and the strongest, most foreign-smelling Indian food I can select from the menu to celebrate.

Happy Birthday America, I can think of no finer present that the fat, rotting corpse of Jesse Helms.

In my lifetime there’s been a long rogue’s gallery of demagogues and political players abusing our Republic’s trust or in many cases flouting its laws while persecuting or defrauding the American people for their own self interests: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, David Duke, Paul Wolfowitz… and then there was Jesse Helms.

Good God I hated everything that little creep did, said, and stood for. I’m glad Satan is finally calling that little shit home to the fiery perdition where he belongs. And incidentally, fuck Bono of U2. You never, EVER shake hands with an asshole who supported and aggressively defended segregation.

Let’s take a look at his career:
Jesse Helms opposed integration efforts in North Carolina before even going into politics as a candidate, writing for newspapers. He began his political career as a Democrat. Helms worked the 1960 Democratic primary gubernatorial campaign of I. Beverly Lake, who ran with racial segregation as a central point of his campaign. Many of us have forgotten that I. Beverly Lake was eventually defeated by Terry Sanford (Look it up, it’s a fascinating moment in history and check out a documentary that was aired on PBS a couple of years ago called “Terry Sanford and the New South”)
By 1972, Helms, already disgusted and feeling betrayed by the actions of former President Lyndon Johnson, and the subsequent federal mandates on integration, ran as a Republican for the Senate. His opponent was Congressman Nick Galifianakis of Durham North Carolina. Helms openly engaged in race baiting during the campaign. He ran under the slogan:
"Vote for Helms! He's One of Us!"
Now Galifianakis was from Durham, but nobody gave a shit.
Jesse Helms became the first Republican elected to Senate from North Carolina in the 20th century. He’d never lose again, retiring of his own volition due to failing health. It is an embarrassment that this relic of the old racist patrician South was allowed to retire and was never voted out by the people.
…But I also remember Jesse Helms’ staunch leadership. Senator Jesse Helms led the Senatorial opposition to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 1983. For me, as a fifteen year old, it was stunning to realize there were still old bitter men who wanted to pretend the Civil war and the events of the 1960s had never happened.
In 1990 and in 1996, Helms defended his seat and campaigned against Harvey Gantt, the former mayor of Charlotte, an African American. I was in my last year of college in 1990 and I’ll never forget the national coverage on Nightline and other late night news programs of the Helms commercial that urged white voters to reject Gantt because of affirmative action programs. The ad showed a white man's hands tearing up a rejection letter from an imaginary company that stated it had not hired him due to its affirmative action policies that forced them to give his job to a "less qualified minority". Expect this kind of bullshit to make a strong comeback in November 2008.

Hey, thanks Geraldine Ferraro! Your check from the John Birch Society is in the mail!

Then there was his assault on the NEA in the late eighties and early 1990s. It was the first time I ever heard the words “Chill Effect”. He essentially undid much of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.'s work in bolstering some mechanism that would support the arts in the United States, like our smarter, saner neighbors to the North in Canada do with their government-run film and arts grants boards. He attempted to attack the NEA by citing that taxpayer dollars were going to artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Andre Serrano. The core issue of course was never taxes, as the NEA’s portion of our tax dollars is some tiny fraction of a single penny. The intended result was an NEA that avoids controversy, social-political work, which is to say that they avoid funding a lot of art, especially work that is critical of the powers that be. It is a chill effect that radiated across all not for profits and even media outlets like PBS. I still see the results of Jesse Helms’ attack on freedom in the arts every day, everywhere I look.
In his spare time on the Senate floor, Jesse Helms opposed funding for AIDS for years, finally relenting in 2002, probably feeling his own death coming after all of his increasing illnesses. He is in no small part responsible for the deaths of millions by his staunch obstruction, clearly inspired by his hatred of homosexuals. Ironically, as so often happens with bigots, Helms' own granddaughter, the Honorable Jennifer Knox, is a lesbian. She is a Judge in North Carolina; curiously, she is also a Republican.
Outside of protecting big tobacco, there is simply not one good thing I can say of this man…
-oh wait… that’s right, big tobacco makes cigarettes.

Tonight I’ll watch the fireworks and think of you Jesse Helms.
I’ll think of you burning in hell.

"Our constituency aren't the type of people to be on the Internet." -Jesse Helms.