Thursday, June 26, 2008

What’s Going On.


I have always liked the phrase “What’s Going On?” because it’s one of those questions that inquire far more deeply than their words suggest on the surface. When someone sees a huge car pile up on the highway and says “What’s Going On?” they can clearly see the car crash… what they cannot see, is what caused it, what's behind it all. In America “What’s Going On?” has increasingly become a rhetorical question in the years since Marvin Gaye turned it into song about the Vietnam war, his own time and its troubles. The ever-increasing rhetorical nature of such a direct and open question is a sign that we Americans just don’t expect an answer to certain questions anymore. We say “What’s Going On?” we don’t ask “What’s Going On?”. It’s an exclamation of the modern age, like “Holy Shit” or “Oh My God”. Like most exclamations, it does little to inform and nothing to change a situation. Which brings me to today’s Supreme Court decision.

In the Constitution of the United States of America, the second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”, which is a pretty open statement on the surface, -except when you start to look at all those commas and start to really think about what they might imply…

I, don’t, think, the founders, were, trying, to be, cute, or dramatic.

Remember that these were learned, educated men, adoring of the Roman Republic and its structure of rule, from which they culled the ideas behind many doctrines, laws, and acts like Posse Comitatus and Habeas Corpus. There have always been at least two schools of thought on the indications of the Second amendment:
1) All of the people have the right to keep AND bear arms.
or 2) Only the people serving in a well regulated militia have the right to keep AND bear arms.

Today, The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. The case in question, "DC versus Heller", eliminates a total ban on handgun ownership within the nation’s capital. Today’s ruling still allows restrictions and legislation on gun ownership: laws that identify which individuals among the people can not have the right to own a gun to safeguard the rest of the people. Individual states or municipalities and counties can continue to prohibit concealed weapons, as well as “dangerous and unusual weapons” such as automatic machine guns, and ordnance like armor piecing bullets can still be made illegal.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority of 5 in today’s decision:
Undoubtedly, some think the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable but what is not debatable is that, it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

So “What’s Going On?”, or rather what’s really going on?
I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure that I love guns. I love the fact that I live in a country where I have the right to protect myself, with the very means the government does (Although that didn’t work out too well for David Koresh down in Waco).
Yes. I love them. I don’t see why anybody should get their ass kicked by somebody else who happened to be born from a taller set of parents. As Chris Rock once said on stage: “I love guns. With a gun, I don’t need to workout.” And liberal that I am, I must concede that the NRA is right on one point: -guns don’t kill people, -people kill people. A gun lies harmlessly in a drawer, or safe without a human being to load it, unhitch the safety and fire it, or otherwise accidentally discharge it through misuse. So maybe it’s more like –guns don’t kill people, -people with guns kill people.

But loving guns as much as I do, I have to ask The Supreme Court (let’s call them the "Scalia 5" for today in deference to this decision that addresses an issue sidestepped for about 217 years and to absolve the 4 who opposed) and the NRA and the various lobbyists and special interest groups protecting sportsman and hunter’s rights, how can they can applaud a move to safeguard the right to be armed, without safeguarding the right of us all to simply “be”?

While the ruling still allows for restrictions to be handled on the state level, we all know how aggressively gun enthusiasts and the American gun lobby (Really, really not the same people which is something I’ll get to in a minute) fight background checks, gun ID, gun owner ID, which would go a long, long way to identify violent criminals and well, crazy people, about to buy guns. They have also vigorously opposed waiting periods, although not always successfully.
“What’s Going on” is, the NRA’s mission of making the world safe for: gun manufacturing; distribution; and sale, is purposely confused with the grassroots roots gun culture’s individualist, libertarian and anti-authoritarian posture in America. This has more to do with the gun industry’s desire to tie the ready availability for sale of any gun, of any kind, or caliber, anywhere (i.e. their products), -than with the American gun owners’ fears that the government will disarm him and strip him of the guns he has. The reason the NRA does this is obvious. But no one asks “What’s Going On?” when they have their large meetings with celebrity members in tow or on the podium. Nobody asks what a “bargain” hand gun sold or illegally resold on a Saturday night in a city has to do with the second amendment or the “security of a free state”.
By way of a warning, I would say to all my fellow Americans everywhere: You don’t have to support the dangerous unregulated proliferation of weapons, in order to maintain your right to arm and protect yourself. This ruling came down today, and all I could think was, -we never passed the ERA did we? The right to bear arms is more important to Americans than equality for all.
What is Going On? Maybe someone should ask “What the Fuck is Going On?” instead.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Change is Only a Word

Barack Obama, responding to a charge by Hillary Clinton that it takes more than words to make real change, cited speeches by some of the great leaders of the past to make that point that sometimes words are indeed powerful and capable of producing change. His entire campaign has been based on bringing change to the political system and to the insider culture of Washington. He now has a chance to demonstrate what kind of change he intends to bring to the White House.

A vote in the senate on the "compromise" FISA bill is scheduled for sometime this week and it is the first opportunities for presumptive nominee Barack Obama to demonstrate that his words are actually more than just empty promises. Since he is now the de facto leader of the Democratic party, his voice carries a lot more weight on this matter than any other elected Democratic official. Nancy Pelosi has already stated her approval of the bill, and as I have said in previous posts, the current Democratic leadership does not seem to have the backbone to stand up to the Bush administration. In trying to appear tough on terrorism, they have capitulated to the demands of an administration that apparently holds the Constitution in contempt. While I don't believe that there are enough votes in the Senate to defeat the bill, Barack Obama, by taking a stand against the systematic destruction of the Bill of Rights, can make a powerful statement to the American people. Senators Dodd and Feingold have said that they will filibuster the bill if it contains language that protects the telecoms from prosecution.

I don't believe that the filibuster over the telecoms goes far enough. This bill on it's face, which allows the government to spy on whomever it pleases as long as the President deems it necessary, is clearly, at least to me, unconstitutional. Where is the voice in the senate arguing for that? Who, if anyone, is going to have the nerve to stand up for the American people? Who is going to be willing to explain to the American people that being against this bill doesn't mean that you are soft on terrorism, it means that you are simply committed to protecting the Constitution. I personally don't think that the people of this country are too dense to understand the difference (well, the LIV's probably are), but apparently it will take a leader with extraordinary strength to stand up and do what's right.

I am hoping that Barack Obama is that kind of leader, but he certainly hasn't given any signals that he is willing to take that kind of stand. He is currently trying to play both ends of the scale. He is for the FISA legislation (to show that he's tough on terrorism), but he's against telecom immunity (to show that he's not a lapdog of the Bush administration). I find this to be a purely political argument. The FISA legislation, as currently written, encroaches on rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution. It really is as simple as that. It doesn't require a technicality (like telecom immunity) to be against the bill. I don't understand the reticence of politicians to stand up for the rights of the American people. I still hope that Barack Obama will be that kind of leader and this one vote will not change my choice in November. However it is disappointing to realize that promising change and actually delivering it are two separate things. Dreams die hard though.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Tree Falls in the Woods II

Okay. I’ve been leading the charge on the SFW (So Fuckin’ What) brigade regarding Scott McClellan, our former White House spokesman from 2003-2006 who has been very publicly voicing his reservations about issuing statements and relaying information he now suspects was not true on behalf of the Bush Administration. My feeling up until today was, well… I knew they were lying about the reasons and justifications for invading Iraq, so I don’t need a reformed propagandist to tell me I was right all along, after the horse has bolted from the barn so to speak. In fact, I have to admit that I resent Scott McClellan’s belated candor and honesty. It appeared to me, that his newly found conscience and honesty was directly related to the new book he was putting out "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception".

Today, he changed the game for me.

Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan admitted to House Judiciary Committee (led by John Conyers, (D) Michigan) that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney instructed him to say that Lewis Libby was in no way involved in the leak (identified by US law as an act of treason) of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity. It was obvious to anyone watching and reading the news closely in those months leading up to the war in Iraq that the Bush Administration revealed Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters in direct retaliation to her husband’s very public and aggressive opposition to the evidence that was being presented to the American public and the world regarding specific classes of Uranium procurement that might constitute the grounds for suspicion of WMDs present or in development in Iraq, by the Iraqi government. Valerie Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, a former Ambassador, wrote an Op Ed piece in the New York Times on July 6, 2003 called “What I didn’t find in Africa”. It substantively contradicted the “facts” and interpretation of intelligence information being presented by the Bush Administration. Scott McClellan went along with, and relayed the “story” that no one in the administration’s senior level was involved with the leak, and that should such a breach be discovered, the administration’s policy would be to fire and prosecute such a person… more on that later.

It turned out that both Lewis Libby and Karl Rove had discussed Valerie Plame's identity with reporters. In the months after, their only line of defense was to attempt to say that she wasn’t actually a CIA operative at the time they compromised her identity. So which was it? Lewis Libby resigned from office the day he was indicted on charges of covering up the leak, falling on his sword for all the president’s men while Karl Rove was never charged in the investigation. Lewis Libby was eventually convicted of “obstruction of justice” and perjury. The White House had said in 2003 that anyone who leaked classified information in this case would be dismissed and prosecuted. Scott McClellan has essentially told the world today what we already knew, they were lying when they said they didn’t know where the leak of Valerie’s Plame’s name was coming from within their administration, -otherwise, why would they have the need to issue such specific instructions to protect specific people, people in the administration who it turns out, knew about the leak before it happened.

Shouldn’t George W. Bush fire himself?

Shouldn’t someone, anyone in congress, stand with Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers as they try to investigate the crimes of this administration?

-SJ

Thursday, June 19, 2008

See No Evil

The Democratic led Congress has decided to bring a so called "compromise" bill on the FISA law. I have previously called the Democrats to task for their capitulation to the Bush administration's continuing attack on the Constitution, but by proposing this compromise (which is not really a compromise since it gives the administration everything they want), they have sent a clear signal that they have officially crossed over to the dark side.

The fourth amendment of the Constitution guarantees that American citizens are protected against illegal search and seizure. If the government wants to spy on a citizen, it is supposed to prove probable cause and get a warrant. In a nutshell, FISA(Foreign Intelligence Security Act) set up a separate court to review evidence and grant warrants for electronic surveillance. FISA expired in February with much gnashing of teeth from the administration, along with claims that if the act lapsed, we would be in imminent danger of terrorist attack. There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, the US Government doesn't need a warrant to bug any calls that originate outside of the United States. And secondly the Bush administration has been engaged in a program of warrantless surveillance headed by the NSA for years ( the interesting fact about that is the FISA court basically rubber stamped every request for surveillance. The NSA initiative was put in place to get around any oversight regardless of how perfunctory it may have been). An amendment to FISA made those warrentless searches "legal" in August of 2007, but as I said earlier, FISA expired in February of this year.

This "compromise" bill that the Congress is going to introduce not only revives FISA as amended, but would essentially protect the telecoms from prosecution for their role in any illegal wire tapping that took place under the NSA initiative before the passage of the amendment in August of last year. The Bush administration has been pushing hard for this immunity because along with shielding the telecoms from prosecution, they believe that it would also shield them from any prosecution over illegal wiretaps. So what Congress would be doing, in fact, is forgiving the Bush administration and any who aided them, for trampling all over the 4th amendment.

The Democrats in the House and Senate are not only willing to give the Bush administration practically unlimited power to eavesdrop on whoever the hell they please, but they are also willing to turn a blind eye to any wrong doing that may have occurred in the past. This is what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that "impeachment is off the table". We have documented some of the failings of the Bush administration in this blog, but clearly we have let the now Democratic party controlled Congress off far too easily. I am literally amazed every day by the balls of this administration and it's utter lack of respect for the rule of law, but now the Congress is about to become more than just a silent partner in this disaster. Up until now, the Congress has just held it's nose at the multitude of Constitutional trangressions of this administration, but if they take this step, they will become a willing participant in the soiling of the Constitution.

I can only imagine what the founding fathers would think of the current state of politics. While they were no strangers to personal attacks and backstabing in politics, they would no doubt be appalled by the absolute disregard for the system of checks and balances that they worked so hard to perfect. The problem that we face is that most people in this country aren't aware that the rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution have been severely restricted. As with the Iraq War, most people are willing to view it as "someone else's problem". The "Low information voter" (a term which provided me and Sandy with a lot of laughs last night), has no idea what this administration has taken away from them. Hell, they don't have any idea what's even in the Bill of Rights.

Currently Congress is not acting in the best interest of the people (even low information voters deserve protection). They are acting on behalf of other politicians. I know that there won't be a great national outrage at what is about to happen, but I for one can't remain silent. I never thought that I would ever be a witness to the wholesale disregard and destruction of the most sacred document that this country has ever produced. Democrat and Republican politicians have very little that they can agree on, but in their mutual disregard of the Bill of Rights they seem to have found fertile ground for a new alliance.

"Reach For The Skies You Taco Folders! "

An article's headline from yesterday’s LA Times read “Federal prosecution of illegal immigrants soars”
(Don’t kid yourself, -“illegal immigrants” means “Mexicans”... well maybe even “Salvadorians” too, who knows?). Essentially, they are talking about the classic “border-crossing wetback”, a distinct species of immigrant that inspires intense fear and loathing in Americans, particularly those Americans who believe that just being born here makes you more American than someone who fought and struggled to get here. If you believe in the “Alamo” story as it is told in history books and comic books from the 1950s, it just may look like those Mexicans are about to salt and pepper then eat up the country with a side of fries and a Coke. Never mind that thousands of American cities still bear Spanish names. Never mind that the first European settlements in North America were Spanish speaking. These are aliens we are told. People from the fucking planet Mars would be greeted more warmly by the side of the road.

The Bush administration, now in its comical death throes, has frantically sought to pin some shining star on itself, desperate for some accomplishment they can hold up to counter history’s inevitable judgment of their incompetence, arrogance, opportunism and greed. Yes my dearest John Ashcroft, -history will not judge you or your colleagues kindly for what you helped wrought, not matter how many Mexicans you throw in the hoosegow.

While the US Justice Department has increased prosecutions of illegal immigrants along the border since 2007 to the point where they now approach half of the United States federal criminal cases, a central wrinkle is being ignored:

Mexicans are not coming here to commit felonies; they are coming here because there are jobs here, such as they are. It is their actual coming here illegally that is the felony in question. So to say that illegal immigrants are being prosecuted for felonies is like saying embezzlers are being prosecuted for felonies: they are felons because they are embezzlers.
I feel it important to make this distinction, before the right wing radio outlets, Fox News and every counterfeit political analyst from Pat Buchanan to Anne Coulter starts insisting that illegal immigrants (remember, read: “Mexicans”) are committing felonies at double the rate of American citizens or some such nonsense. I feel it’s important to make this distinction, even if it echoes unheard here on this blog.

We can call them felons for crossing the border, or illegal immigrants, but we can’t double-up the same felony on the same felony, not if we want to tell the truth…

And the truth is, Americans come from all over the earth. They always have. Long before the 20th and 19th centuries, the first immigrants, the people some call the native nations crossed the Bering and Asiatic straits, then came the Spaniards, who first brought with them Africans against their will, then the successions of other European people, Scandinavians, the Dutch, the French, and the English all in numbers and orders largely lost to history’s churnings, disruption, wars and flawed telling. But everyone has the one thing in common; the one thing that everyone who calls himself an American feels is their innate and inalienable birthright: the right to say who is and who isn’t an American.

Mexicans are crossing the rivers of the Southwest to work; some so desperate they’ll sell oranges by the road on the 405 in LA. But it’s never been enough to just scrape by in America. The immigrant has to be ashamed in America, afraid of incarceration, afraid for his life and profoundly miserable in the land of opportunity. It’s not enough to do the things and the work no American wants to do for so few dollars an hour, from washing plates, making deliveries, trimming hedges, picking fruit, working vast fields, demolition, and all that sweeping… all these demeaning things that the Scottish, the Germans, the Irish, the Italians all did before they forgot that they came from somewhere else. These selfsame things Africans did for no money at all under pain of death.

Bush appointed Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had this to say about the explosion in prosecutions: "The reason this works is because these illegal migrants come to realize that violating the law will not simply send them back to try over again but will require them to actually serve some short period of time in a jail or prison setting, and will brand them as having been violators of the law, that has a very significant deterrent impact."

You would think that no one wanted them here, to hear the Homeland Security Secretary tell it. If that’s the case, why do the very same people who complain about illegal immigrants the loudest in our country, utilize the services and labor immigrants provide the most? We want the cheap labor in America, just not the ugly little people who come with it. Too bad. That P’Zone isn’t going to make itself.

So to all who think it worth the trouble and danger to come to America, I say "reach for the skies". Not because of the border patrolman’s revolver pointed at your belly, but for your very own American dream. You’ll continue to do all the jobs that Americans no longer want to do long after Lou Dobbs is gone. And after that? Who knows? In another half century, you too can complain about all the Salvadorians and Ecuadorians flooding the country and “taking all the jobs” from decent hardworking Americans, ironically just like the 3rd generation Americans of Mexican descent in Los Angeles and the 3rd generation Americans of Cuban descent in Miami already do.

-SJ

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All Points North

I'm printing a second guest commentary from one of my friends who happens to live north of the border. I sure the readers of this blog will find it interesting to find out what at least one of our neighbors from the north is thinking. Enjoy and Donald, thanks for allowing me to reprint this.

An area politician recently told me, “You’re for Barack Obama. I know someone who has an Obama sign on their lawn. Let’s go and swipe it.” Now if I were visiting the States and viewed a field of Yes We Can signs, I know I’d have the audacity to consider taking one, but I hope I wouldn’t. I replied, “No, a friend who’s an Obama supporter in New York ordered one for me.” It’s not like I need another reason not to trust politicians, but they just never disappoint, do they?

My friends wonder why I am finally getting politically motivated, and obsessing about an election south of the border, no less, but I know I’m not alone. A recent poll by the Canadian polling company Environic and co-sponsored by the CBC found fifteen per cent of Canadians would give up their ballot in Canada's next federal election to vote in the U.S. election. And forty-six per cent of those surveyed said it matters a great deal to Canada who wins the November 2008 U.S. presidential election. I second that motion. This is the first time I've truly been inspired politically. Wanted to vote. Wanted to volunteer. Wanted to get a US work visa and do anything I could for the cause.

Why? Some people think it’s three measly words: Yes We Can. One Presidential candidate thought it was due to one speech Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic convention. I'm insulted by those who think I would be inspired by someone without maintaining objectivity and sound judgement. At my age, it takes more than a speech, Hillary. The fact that her campaign just didn't get that is part of the reason I believe, that she lost the nomination. Some of my female friends wonder why this Feminist wasn’t rooting for Hillary Clinton. I’d rather focus on why I am for Obama, but my partner supported Hillary. That is until she was interviewed on 60 Minutes and responded to interviewer Steve Kroft’s, "You said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not...a Muslim. You don't believe that he's...," with, "No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know.” We gays know all too well that parsing words and innuendo lead to uncharitable interpretations.

I’m for Obama because his clear language speaks to me. In his second book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote, “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers ... no such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex – nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

While I completely understand why so many women supported Hillary – her language spoke to them – I am dismayed at the women in my life who feel I should have supported Hillary "no matter what" because she is a woman. I tell them Barack Obama's colour has nothing to do with my support of him, just like years ago my choice to or not to support our very own Canadian MP Svend Robinson had nothing to do with his being gay. With Obama I hear a new language in politics. Or at the very least words we don’t hear enough.

Again from The Audacity of Hope:
“I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. For it is the predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face... locked in "either/or" thinking...What is needed is a broad majority who are re-engaged and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interest of others.” I am engaged and have linked myself with Obamakins worldwide.
YouTube and Facebook have played their part but for me it is so much more. The sex, religion, colour or orientation of an individual has nothing to do with why he or she inspires me. What they say, how they live, do they practice what they preach? – those are the choices that define a human being.

Oh, by the way, my Obama sign arrived. It’s taped inside our front window. You just never know when a very different kind of politician might drive by.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Red, White and Blue

Patriotism is defined by Websters as "love for or devotion to one's country". A patriot is defined as "one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests". I could not find a definition of patriot that says, "one who tries to foist his her views of what constitutes patriotism onto others". However it appears that a loud and significant portion of Americans who view themselves as patriots feel it is their right and duty to tell the rest of us how we are supposed to show our support for country.

What ever happened to the thought of "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"? Did America lose the idea of what patriotism is during the Reagan era when some in Congress wanted to enact a flag burning amendment? Or perhaps it was in the aftermath of 9/11 when we collectively decided to ignore real facts and strike out against another country in the name of patriotism. Perhaps it was during the Vietnam ear when the war was fought at home as well. Perhaps it was during the cold war when being a communist was deemed a threat to the American way of life. Whenever it happened, the idea of free speech in this country has been replaced by jingoistic phrases like "America, love it or leave it" and telling anyone you don't agree with to "move back to the Middle East".

If you profess to love America, then you should love the foundation upon which the country was built. The definition of liberty are, "1: the quality or state of being free: a: the power to do as one pleases b: freedom from physical restraint c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control". The truth of the matter is that the people who often yell the loudest about being patriots are often the first to try and control the actions of those that they don't agree with. There have been sports figures who for various reasons didn't want to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. The outrage across this country was intense. How dare they. They shouldn't be allowed to play. They should be deported. They should move to the middle east. Since when is professing an opposing political belief a crime?

It isn't a crime to hold an unpopular belief, but given the abuse that is hurled at dissenters in current climate, it becomes an almost Herculean display of courage to espouse that belief in public. It was just a couple of years ago when public opposition to the Iraq war would have labeled you as a radical or unpatriotic or a terrorist sympathizer. It is important to remember that this country was founded by brave "Patriots" who believed that citizens should have the right to disagree with their own government. Based on their example, political dissent is not only needed but is indeed the highest form of patriotism that we as Americans can practice. So who is a true "Patriot"? I guess at the end of the day it depends on what your definition of "is" is.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Russ

Tim Russert, the long time host of Meet the Press and the NBC Washington Bureau chief, died yesterday of a heart attack. I wanted to write something yesterday, but I couldn't quite find a coherent train of thought. Tim Russert had been the host of Meet the Press for nine years when he became known to a much larger audience on election night 2000. With his constant and prophetic refrain of "Florida, Florida, Florida" and his little white chalkboard, he became one the most recognizable faces in news. His opinion became so respected that when he called the Democratic race for Obama after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, that in itself was treated as a news story.

I think, as we enter what may very well be one of the most important elections in American history, we will enter it without one of our most important tools. I don't mean to minimize Russert by equating him to a mere implement, however making an informed decision in the voting booth requires only one thing, information. And that was the tool that Russert helped to provide us with every Sunday morning. My Co-contributor, Sandy Jimenez, said that there are other people in journalism who are as smart as Russert, but there may not be another one who can make the topic of politics as interesting as Russert did. He was able to give his viewers not only knowledge, but also he was able to pass along his genuine enthusiasm for politics. He loved the game of politics as much as any movie, sports or trivia buff loves their interests and his gift was in being able to get his audience to share in his excitement.

In watching Russert on Sunday mornings, the thing that stood out for me was his amazing preparation for every interview. His style was simple and straight forward, be prepared and never be afraid to ask the tough question. I have no idea who is going to fill his shoes on Sunday, but I would be amazed if they are able to find someone as competent and frankly as entertaining as he was. So as we enter this last phase of this election cycle, I think that we are going miss Tim Russert more than we realize. We the people, who knew him only through the image that was projected on our TV's and the information he provided us through his commentary and on Meet the Press every Sunday morning, move forward without perhaps the last truly impartial voice in media . For those who knew him, I know the wound is much deeper and much more personal and I can only pass along my deepest condolences to his friends and family. We the people will grieve as well for what we have lost. Rest in peace, Tim and thanks for everything.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Freedom Fries

I'm going to keep this post short but today the Supreme Court ruled today that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to legal representation and a hearing to determine whether they are being held for just cause. Justice Kennedy,writing for the majority said, "“To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this court, say ‘what the law is,’ ” and Senator Kerry commenting on the decision said, "“The Constitution and the rule of law bind all of us even in extraordinary times of war. No one is above the Constitution.”

My only comment is that IT'S ABOUT F-ING TIME! Now can someone please explain to the Bush administration that the Bill of Rights are not suggestions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Tree Falls in the Woods

Dennis Kucinich, the former Democratic presidential candidate from Ohio, has introduced a resolution on the floor of the Congress calling for the impeachment of President Bush. He introduced a similar resolution last year on the impeachment of the Vice President as well. That resolution was sent to the Judiciary committee, where no action has been taken. This resolution probably faces a similar fate.

First, I applaud Rep. Kucinich for having the integrity to stand up for something his fellow Congressman (except for Robert Wexler (D) from florida who has signed on to support the resolution) who are seemingly either unwilling or unable to do. When the Democrats recaptured the Congress and the Senate in the '06 elections, there was a lot of talk about investigations and oversight. However since taking power they have shown an absolute unwillingness to call this administration to task for any of the multitude of immoral and often times illegal activities that it has engaged in. Nancy Pelosi, who seems totally unaware of the Constitutional duties of the legislative branch of government, has already made the blanket statement that "impeachment is off the table". How exactly are you supposed to check the abuses of the executive branch, when the leader of the only body of government empowered to do so, gives up it's right to use it's most powerful tool? What does this President have to do to inspire real action in the Congress, get a blowjob in the Oval office?

Kucinich laid out a 35 count impeachment charge against the President that included things like illegal wiretapping, torture and lies that led up to our involvement in the Iraq war. His charges were read into the official record last night starting at 8pm to an empty chamber. C-Span was the only "network" to broadcast it. Try and search the NY Times today and see if there is any mention of it. The major networks? I don't think so. The Democrats have decided that they would rather have the Constitution trampled on, than try to put an end to the corruption and lawlessness of the Bush administration. In their calculation, an impeachment trail would only serve to embolden and mobilize the base of the Republican party and they would rather not risk losing any ground in the House or the Senate (in fact they are hoping to gain seats) over what they see as a lost cause.

By refusing to question the actions of this administration, the Congress has become a silent partner in everything that is being done. The Congress has also set a dangerous precedent for every other person who occupies the White House. According to this administration, the President is basically free to ignore any law he wants as long as it is "for the good of the country". The Presidency for all intents and purposes has been raised to the level of a dictator. Laws that are in place to protect the privacy of every citizen of this nation don't apply anymore. Laws that guarantee our right to trial or to counsel or to not being tortured, don't apply anymore. The President can now organize and execute a propaganda campaign that sends this country to war and kills hundreds of thousands of people based on suppressed evidence, manipulated evidence or absolutely fabricated evidence because the Congress says that it's fine with them. That is what Congress' refusal to use their oversight power means.

Sandy Jimenez, my co-contributor on this blog, has said many times that our elected officials are supposed be to willing to lose their next election in order to do what's right. Unfortunately, very few of our elected officials hold that opinion. Congress(men and women), basically start their reelection campaigns on the night they are elected to Congress. Their basic goal, during their two year term, is go raise enough money so that they can run their next campaign. They spend their entire term trying to do what the majority of their constituents want, but there is a big difference between what is politically expedient and what is right. I blame only the Democrats for this failure. The Republicans in Congress certainly are not going to try and bring charges against the President (I guess a Republican could, but we haven't seen that kind of political suicide since the Democrats gave away the south by passing Civil Rights legislation). The Democratic leadership promised a change when they came into office, but instead we have gotten more of the same. If anything, the Bush administration is even more emboldened than they previously were. They don't even try to hide their sins anymore. The Democrats in Congress have comprised the freedom and liberty of every citizen of this country so that they might win a bigger majority in both houses of Congress and win back the Presidency. The Democrats are playing politics to the detriment of every citizen of this country. Is it worth it? I for one don't think so.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I Dream of Things...

Robert Kennedy was the never supposed to be President. At least he never had that lofty a goal in mind growing up. His big brother Joe was supposed to be the one who carried the Kennedy name into the national consciousness. Joe however never made it out of WWII. His big brother John was then trust into that position and as a war hero and Pulitzer prize winner he carried the mantle well. John became a Senator in a race in which Bobby was his campaign manager. When John became President (in another campaign which was run by Bobby), he named his 34 year old brother as his Attorney General.

The RFK that is remembered today is not the RFK who played such a crucial role in the Kennedy administration. The RFK that people remember is the one who became a different man once his brother was assassinated. He was viewed as ruthless and his brother's attack dog during those Camelot years. He authorized wiretaps on Martin Luther King, Jr., he and his brother were slow to the cause of civil rights and basically had to be cornered before they took appropriate action. He fought against appointing Thurgood Marshall to a Circuit Judge position because of fear of political reprisals from southerners.

It is only after he leaves the White House and becomes a Senator from New York that he transforms into the figure that most people are familiar with today. The compassionate Bobby, the unifying Bobby, the underdog's champion Bobby. His commitment to public service had been instilled in him by his father, but it never had the purpose that it did after he was allowed to become his own man. His trips to the poorest parts of the country changed him. It gave his sense of public service a direction.

It has been 40 years since that awful night in Los Angeles. We can only imagine how different this country might have been if RFK had not been killed that night. There is still a question as to whether he would have even gotten the nomination of the Democratic Party (since he lagged far behind Hubert Humphrey in delegates), but it is easy to imagine that he would have been a very important figure even without the presidency. Many in the press have attempted to make a link between Barack Obama and John Kennedy, but I believe the more accurate comparison would be between Obama and the Bobby Kennedy who ran for President in 1968. I'll leave you with a quote from that fateful night in '68 that reminds us of what we lost and hopefully what we have to look forward to.

"I think we can end the divisions within the United States. What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis. And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of that last three years, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions- whether it's between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam - that we can work together. We are a great country, and unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I've been anticipating this day for a long time, but it's hard to actually come to grips with the reality of the event. Barack Obama, an African-American is going to be the nominee of the Democratic party for President. It has been a forgone conclusion since his winning streak post Super Tuesday, but anticipating something and it actually happening are two separate things. To say this is a historic occasion is an understatement. When Barack Obama gave his inspiring Keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, I had hoped that he would eventually run for President. In fact, I was hoping that he would run in this campaign. However, I never anticipated that he would actually win. I saw him as the first serious Black candidate to run for the Presidency (with respect to Jesse Jackson), but I saw his candidacy as a step along the way.

I have had many conversations with my co-contributor to Random Thoughts, and he will certainly confirm that I am certainly not under the illusion that Obama will actually win the Presidency. I have friends, who despite holding me (I am Black, by the way) in the highest regard, would never vote for Barack Obama for the single reason of the color of his skin. I won't name any names here because I don't want to embarrass my friends, but I can only imagine how many people around the country hold the exact same view.

Regardless of my thoughts about the ultimate disposition of the General Election, I am still thrilled with the outcome of the race for the Democratic nomination. I am still of the mind that Obama's anticipated loss in the General Election will sound the death knell for another African-American candidate for at least the next couple of decades, however I do think that this is a step that needs to be taken. America is not quite at the "post racial" state that some in the press would like to think. I believe that we are still perhaps about 40 years away from that glorious day when America is able to evaluate a candidate without taking race in to account. Along with the people who will vote along racist lines and the disgruntled Clinton supporters, I think that Obama's fate is sealed. The radical Clinton supporters who have been espousing the view that Obama will lose to McCain in November (and are willing to do everything to make sure that prediction comes true) may ultimately be proven right. But they will be proven right not for the reason that they would like to claim (that Obama is unqualified for the job, because unless you've been the President, there is no job that adequately prepares you for being the leader of the free world), but because America is not quite ready to elect an African-American to the highest office in the land.

I will appreciate tonight's Obama victory as the historic step that it represents. It is, however, just a step along the way (it is a big step). I don't think that we (as a nation) have reached the proverbial mountain top quite yet. Martin Luther King's dream has not been fulfilled quite yet (especially when we can look to states like West Virginia and Kentucky where over 20% of the voters were willing to admit that race played a major role in their decision), but we as a nation are on the way to judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We just need a couple of more generations to pass before we actually get a chance to see the promised land of a true "post racial" society. So I won't look upon the General Election as an opportunity lost, I will see it as a positive step where as President Kennedy so eloquently stated, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. It will just take a little longer until we can truly be ruled by the "better angels of our nature". So if you are so inclined, revel in Obama's victory tonight. And regardless of the outcome in November, remember how far we have come, and how close we are to fulfilling our destiny as a nation.