American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Our Sacred Duty

A couple articles on impeachment:

  • David Swanson "Can Cheney Save the Bush Presidency?"
  • Melinda Pillsbury-Foster "Rove and Bush will NOT depart gracefully"


    JRB

  • Friday, December 30, 2005

    Oath of Office

    The question for most of 2006 is this: Will Republicans wake up to the clear and present danger of a paranoid and power-hungry executive branch gone over the top, over the edge, and beyond the Constitution? Will Republicans in the Congress remember their oaths, as clearly the President, Vice President and scores of their underlings have not?



    I,_____, Loyal Citizen of the Republic, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.


    The essense of this oath is not buried in murky rhetoric or passive constructions or in legal jargon. The demand on each oath-taker is that first and foremost he or she will both "support and defend" the Constitution of the United States against enemies both "foreign and domestic." It could not be clearer. The number one—the primary—focus of the oath is the Constitution.


    The Constitution sets out the framework not only for the organization and conduct of the government, it sets out a point of view about government and its relationship to the governed. The Constitution also contains in the Bill of Rights, the essential liberties and freedoms to be enjoyed by citizens, and as such is self-referential: The Constitution tells itself how to think and what goals to keep and maintain.


    The essential point of view concerning government set out by the Constitution is that expressed in the doctrine of separation of powers. Thus the framers of the Constitution understood only too well that the executive must be separated from the legislative and the judicial, and likewise the legislative from the others, and the judicial from the others. Unstated in the document is the reason for these separations, for these checks and balances that were designed into this revolutionary form of government.


    One must go back a few years to 1776 to hear the reasons for separation of powers. Stated in the Declaration of Independence is the burden under which the framers worked—the fact that government by the English had become destructive of the colonists' rights and freedoms as Englishmen. Yet more can be learned about the philosophy of nationhood and government from the writings called the Federalist Papers, one of which, #10 by James Madison, describes in fair detail a number of the worries of the framers.


    They understood that power tends to corrupt people ... any people, including themselves ...! They understood that factions develop and have a malevolence that only the very strong will of individuals committed to principles can defeat. Accordingly, they designed government to work against itself—deliberately against itself—to provide barriers to corruption, dishonesty, factionalism, enthusiasm, and the accretion of excessive power into few hands.


    But, as regards factions, the framers, Madison included, did not fully understand ... (yes, they were imperfect) ... the nature of factions and parties. Theirs was an era of towering individuals in a small assemblage of small jurisdictions. Individualism as described later by Ralph Waldo Emerson was burgeoning; the frontier provided nourishment for it. Yet, the framers seem to have failed to grasp the idea that people will (and should be able to) "associate" and form pressure groups promoting their common ideas. Political parties emerged during the first years of the new republic and have been something of a problem ever since.


    The oath of office says that those who take the oath do so "without any mental reservation of purpose of evasion," yet persons who are members of factions and political parties seem to have other purposes, if not actually "reservations," in mind when they run for office. The question is: can "another purpose or goal" be consistent with the duty to protect and defend the Constitution?


    I say yes. It can be perfectly reasonable to hope with others, for instance, for new legislation to provide for the welfare of native populations dispossessed by the colonists. Such a goal might "expand" the meaning of the Constitution, but if it did not conflict with any provision of the Constitution, supporters of the goal would be "preserving and protecting" the Constitution. Likewise with many ideas that do not conflict with the Constitution.


    On the other hand, though, if a faction's goals were to broadly inhibit the free expression of thought, immediately the First Amendment becomes injured, and proponents of such a measure would NOT be "preserving and defending" the Constitution. The so-called Alien and Sedition Acts were exactly this sort of problem. Those who supported them for their various reasons were acting against the Constitution, although I will grant you they did not understand it that way until much, much later.


    Today Republicans, a coalition of factions, a political party, are now faced with the awesome task of preserving and protecting the Constitution under which they are organized. Members of their own party, although in a different branch of government, have violated their oaths of office and have (among other things) instituted tyrannical measures of spying on the broad citizenry of the United States, imparing freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and violating the separation of powers doctrine that is central to our constitutional form of government.


    Can Republicans rise to this challenge? I think not. Republicans show few signs of continuing as a party of individuals; they are in an open conspiracy with those who have violated the Constitution. In every meaningful way Republicans resemble now that form of government foreshadowed by the fascists in Italy and Germany some sixty years ago. They are no longer capable of the governing under the United States Constitution, for they have neglected their oaths and their duties under the Constitution.


    In case anyone is still confused and wondering what I am leading to, a Democratic President sitting opposite the Republican majorities in the houses of Congress would have already been impeached for violations of the First Amendment, separation of powers, lying to Congress and the American people, mass murder in Iraq and elsewhere, torture of human beings, illegal propaganda, cronyism, corruption, to name but a few of the egregious and treasonous acts, high crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by Georg Walker Bush and his administration. The fact that the Republicans in Congress have not impeached Bush and Cheney is a clear violation of their oaths of office and indicates that they have both mental reservations and purposes of evasion—doctrines that they hold dearer than the Constitution!


    What is their purpose?


    I know what it is, and so do you Ann Coulter, George Lincoln Rockwell, Sean Hannity, Joe McCarthy, Rush Limbaugh, Ehrlichman and Haldeman, Dick Cheney, Ollie North, Karl Rove, Barbara Bush, Ronald Reagan, Rick Santorum, Richard Nixon, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, William Kristol!


    Treason!


    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Labor and Social Justice

    Since the beginning we have been explaining the difference between political parties and political ideologies. Liberalism is an ideology. Political parties are coalitions of (hopefully) congruent public interests. Political parties may contain divergent political ideologies.


    That said, this article from Robert Fitch of the New York Times is a brilliant and classic example of the contortions into which politics (both ideology and party) can be twisted by the force of personality.


    JRB

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    Resolutions

    It is that time of year again. The Christmas goose has been picked clean, the wrapping paper and boxes have found their way to the dust bin. We are gathering all our strength to greet a New Year with all the celebratory soul we can muster. In my case it would be hopefully staying awake until midnight, December 31st, to watch the ball drop in Times Square...oh how the once mighty have fallen! Was it that long ago that I would have placed, someone like me, in the old fuddy duddy category? The years fly by, faster and faster, it seems.

    So once again we are facing a year end. Off with the old and on with the new! Turning our backs on the grim reaper. we smile in anticipation at the baby in the diaper and top hat. We breath a collective sigh of relief and say thank heaven we made it through this year and I resolve to (insert your plan here) next year! Resolutions are those things we always make, strive to keep and always manage to break, for one reason or another. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    It would be nice to think that our administration is making some resolutions too. They could at least give them a go, just like the rest of us, couldn't they? Best of all it could be a group effort. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, etal could resolve to:

    Resolve to live up to his claim of being a compassionate conservative.

    Resolve to admit he is inadequate to run this great country.

    Resolve to admit that war in Iraq was persued on illegal grounds with false justifications for same.

    Resolve to attend the nearest Sylvan Learning Center for help with reading.

    Resolve to stop the lying

    Resolve to stop using terrorism, and the threat thereof, to scare the bejeezus out of the citizens of this country.

    Resolve to stop finding the most inadequate people to fill government posts.

    Resolve to care about the have nots, just not the haves (and want mores)

    Resolve to mend fences with our long term allies.

    Resolve to care about the planet and her diminishing resources

    Resolve to throw Karl Rove out on his ear

    Resolve to take back the presidency from Dick Cheney

    Resolve to adequately protect our ports and chemical plants

    Resolve to stop purporting to be a Christian and start behaving like one.

    Resolve to have a more open administration.

    Resolve to not allow torture for any reason

    Resolve not to use illegal wiretapping

    Resolve to allow Guantanamo detainees a right to counsel

    Unfortunately no amount of resolve will take away the last 5 years of Bush administration lies, inadequacies and deceptions. However, there may be one resolution which will lead us into the light of a brighter new year, and that would be for Congress to resolve to:

    Impeach George Walker Bush and Richard Cheney.

    My own resolution will be to do everything in my personal power to see that that happens.

    May you all have a wonderful, happy and prosperous New Year!

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    Alons Enfants de la Patrie ...

    The gauntlet has been thrown down. The federal government, the instrumentality of Liberal hopes and dreams under a rule of law, has been highjacked by a group of people with little tolerance for dissent or disagreement. The President and his agencies, in a calculated program of stifling opposition to their view of the world, are creating a Brave New World of domestic spying and, yes, through their domestic propaganda machine attempting to create a regime of thought control.


    Yes, these statements seem a bit exaggerated right now in the tranquility of Christmas vacations. They are not exaggerations, however. They are warnings of a trend that promises to envelope the entire society from its tenacious purchase in anti-terrorism.


    This article from Capital Hill Blue (a news and opinion outlet that we trust as well as any) on domestic spying is an eye-opener, a clarion call to the barricades.


    JRB

    Monday, December 26, 2005

    Spectrum of Options

    This is a very interesting article from "Robert Dreyfuss at TomPaine.COMmonsense.


    JRB

    Sunday, December 25, 2005

    Happy Holidays

    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah


    Happy Kwaanza

    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    Christmas Eve

    Some families have the tradition of opening gifts on the evening of the 24th, leaving the morning of the 25th to those baubles and bangles that dear Santa Claus delivers.


    For your stocking this season we have two outstanding essays:


  • Molly Ivins


  • and Elizabeth de la Vega


    And, as a special treat for all the kids:


  • NORAD tracking Santa.


    JRB

  • Friday, December 23, 2005

    It Isn't Enough

    There you are, sitting at your computer, reading the news and opinion from around the country. You have finished your holiday shopping and are nestled down for a combination of relative quiet and frenetic family events culminating in gift giving and very satisfying meals. You are feeling pretty good about yourself and really are thankful that the woes of the world have not landed on your doorstep this past year.

    You think of the victims of natural disasters like the plague of hurricanes, the tsunami last Christmas, and the droughts and floods that hammer other people in to one kind of submission or another. You are very different from those people in Darfur, the ones in Kashmir, the ones in the coca fields of Columbia (and soon Bolivia). You consider the riots in Paris, in Germany, and now in Sydney. It occurs to you that race problems are not an exclusively American thing anymore, and you wonder for a brief moment if these new riots, being Muslim against Christian, have anything to do with Bush's war on terrorism. The thought slips away as one of the kids bounds into the room.

    Household emergencies and brief personal contacts with growing kids attended to, you consider that you have two well-functioning, late-model automobiles, a clean and attractive home, a little crab-grass, a few extra leaves on the ground, good to adequate schools for your children, health insurance, a reasonably good job and from it a reasonably good income that allows for a family vacation at least once a year. Life is good in America.

    You contribute to political parties and directly to candidates. You have noticed, though, that once you send in $25 they want more almost immediately. You consider what all that money is going for and resolve to be less of a patsy next time. You contribute to charities that help people get out from under the horror of natural disasters. You spent a little extra this year because of hurricanes. You contribute to disease-charities regularly, but actually not as much as in those years after your parent died. Yes, you do exaggerate these amounts a little on your income tax returns, but not very much ... only enough to force a different tax number.

    You almost never get out of the house for a community event or to support a political candidate, yet you grouse about the price of gasoline and the price of pharmaceuticals. You got into an argument with a neighbor about Bush's felonious invasion of American citizens privacy, and wonder whether you are going to be able to get your borrowed wheelbarrow back from that neighbor any time soon. You were hopping mad about Bush and pretty unhappy with foul mouth Dick Cheney's support of torture.
    You watched "Band of Brothers" on tv the night before the argument and were thinking that as bad as WWII was, at least the contesting armies tried to follow rules of civilized warfare ... and sometimes not, but usually POWs were treated as human beings not as animals.

    You just don't feel comfortable doing political stuff, do you? You don't seem to be able to argue effectively. You keep forgetting facts and you get emotional when you should be getting precise and decisive. You dislike the aftermath of political talk because a kind of poison seems to fill the air, the unresolved antitheticals, the dumbfounded expressions on peoples faces when you say you used to belong to the ACLU. Were they dumbfounded because you quit paying dues or because you ever paid?

    Are you going to write up some New Year's Resolutions in the next few days? Are you putting politics down at the bottom of the list, or maybe are you going to consider what it really means to be a citizen of a democracy? Do you really think that you can buy world peace and an end to poverty and hunger with $25 checks to half a dozen agencies. Do you really think that your freedom of speech is guaranteed because you were born in America? Do you really think that your civil liberties are gifts from on high because you are you, a basically nice person with a lot on your mind?

    The fact is, dear reader, our Constitution has been breached. A war has been projected outward onto an essentially innocent people for no just cause. This war was sold to your lazy representatives in the Congress on the basis of a network of contrived evidence and lies. Your representatives were lazy because they knew they could be. It was because you sit in front of your computer and read the world's news and opinion and do nothing with the magnificent bounty of information and freedom you currently have.

    Your President admitted felonious acts. He sits there still in Washington, D.C., scowling at those with the courage to speak up against him, with the courage to defend the only thing that makes all of yout comfortable life possible—the Constitution of the United States of America.

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Impeachment is Necessary!

    If you read the blogs and the liberal-leaning news and opinion outlets the message is loud and clear. It is time for impeachment. Here are just two voices:

  • In Memoriam
  • The Constitution in Crisis


    JRB

  • Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Holiday Greetings

    Earlier this week, during a discussion of the 'War on Christmas' controversy, a dear friend said to me, "It's amazing that we all managed to get along before the PC police came along." That statement made me stop and think about how we did get along all by ourselves with no one looking over our shoulders and telling us that it was 'not so nice to do, say, act' the way we did. Now with all the brouhaha over the holidays and what to say and when to say it and whom to say it to, it seemed to be a bit overwhelming. I resolved to pay attention in the days leading up to Christmas to see exactly how people were behaving.

    We have had some strict guidelines laid down by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Bill O'Reilly...something to the effect that one should say Merry Christmas (read: all others be damned!!) or else! Or else what? An or else, in their eyes, probably constitutes leaving the country, as you are obviously a godless heathen. So on my wanderings this week, I tried to be more aware of just how people were addressing the season to me when the occasion arose. I did not, however, resolve to make a list to send off to the Christmas Police (see names mentioned above) so that they might take appropriate action.

    The girl at the bank said she hoped I had a "good holiday". She would be very aware of just how good my holiday would be as she is in the unique position of knowing how close to bankruptcy I can come this time of year. Most of the internet greeting cards I have received touted the same Happy Holiday theme, although several did wish me a Merry Christmas. I guess this is supposed to show me who the good Christians are in my circle of friends and acquaintances. While some have always been religiously based, and I am sure those are the sentiments of the sender, I now stop and wonder if they are also feeling a bit smug believing that no one can accuse them of being a foot soldier in the War on Christmas!

    So far, most people I have encountered are anxious to see me have a happy or good, holiday. Television has been a mix of all sorts of glad tidings from the traditional Merry Christmas to Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays. Many have made a point of saying all three in some form or other. I seriously doubt that until the Messrs. Robertson and O'Reilly started waging their war against all of us ( the exception of course, being those who buy into their blathering), many of us stopped to think about what we were saying at this time of year.

    My parent's Christmas card list consisted of several hundred names, and how clearly I remember my mother, seated at the card table amidst stacks of cards, envelopes and stamps, addressing and writing a short note on each and every one. In the late 1950's, Chanukkah cards made their debut. Mom no longer agonized over finding just the right generic greeting card to send to some or sending Christmas cards to those on her list whom she knew did not celebrate Christmas. If I had said she was being politically correct she would have looked at me, as if I had three heads, and explained to me that it was "no such thing" she was just showing respect. Her enthusiasm over this newly found trove of holiday cards sprang from a sense of doing what she considered to be morally right. She recognized diversity and respected the lives and traditions of those who differed from ours.

    At some point we have lost that respect. Someone left the door ajar and the creeping fungus called bigotry oozed in, in the form of those who would hold themselves up as the moralists in our society. The United States is not a Christian Nation, although it may be a predominantly Christian one. Rather, it is one that has, for the most part, prided itself on being tolerant, and respectful and inclusive of all those differences. The agenda of the Robertsons, Falwells and O'Reilly's of this world is not one of tolerance and respect but rather seeks to drive a wedge between one faction of our country and all the rest. They seek to make it one way and one way only—intolerant.

    So I will take this opportunity to wish you all, our valued and varied readership, a love filled and peaceful holiday, encompassing all your treasured traditions and celebrated in the manner which means the most to you and your family.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    It is Time!

    On Sunday I said that the Republican Party is no longer able to govern under the Constitution because, given clear and convincing evidence—a confession to the American people—of the commission of a felony against the laws of this country, the Republican Party is sitting on its hands and refusing to carry out its SWORN duty to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.


    But this is the time for impeachment. Republicans who know the Constitution know this. It is time. The case of George Bush is not to be tried on Fox News or in the pages of the NYT or on this website. The Constitution says that the House of Representatives must impeach the President when clear and convincing evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors or treason exist. A confession is both clear and convincing evidence!


    Violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as amended is a grievous violation—a high crime, a felony (much worse than a misdemeanor)—which strikes at the very heart of our Constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and conscience. There can be no breach of this law by the Congress in its War Powers Authority Resolution of September 2001. Such a thing would in itself be unconstitutional. But, moreover, the Resolution never said any such thing!


    President Bush must be impeached and brought to trial in the United States Senate for his willful and oath-breaking disregard for essential freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by our Constitution. He must prove that he had authority, not the reverse, not that we must prove that he did not.


    President Bush seems to think that as Commander-in-Chief he has special and expanded rights to protect and defend the American homeland. In point of fact, the Commander-in-Chief is always the ultimate authority over the Armed Forces of the United States, (which by law do not operate domestically), but never does the Commander-in-Chief have authority over civilian citizens of the United States ... unless martial law has been declared ... and it has not!


    Congress is in recess. Your Representative is home, nearby. You must do your duty as a citizen and call your Representative and tell him or her that impeachment, ugly and distressing as it may be, is his or her duty under the Constitution. Tell them that if the House fails to impeach the entire edifice of the rule of law crumbles and with it the United States of America ceases to be!


    Use those words. Add your own. This is the most important moment of your life! and of your country! As Senator Byrd said yesterday in this context, "These are the times that try men's souls."


    James Richard Brett

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    A President of Hope: A President of Fear

    I was thinking recently about how another president who presided over a war and wondered about how he approached talking to the country about the progress of the war and the future of the United States. The president was Franklin Roosevelt and his talk was his last inaugural address to the nation. This is what he had to say:

    After talking about the war, which was still being fought on two fronts, the president offered what should have been recognized immediately for what it was, nothing less than a blueprint for the future of the United States. It was the clearest statement I've ever seen of the kind of nation the U.S. could have become in the years between the end of World War II and now. Roosevelt referred to his proposals in that speech as "a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed."
    Among these rights, he said, are:

    "The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
    "The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
    "The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
    "The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
    "The right of every family to a decent home.
    "The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
    "The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.
    "The right to a good education."

    Roosevelt's vision gave conservatives in both parties apoplexy in 1944 and it would still drive them crazy today. But the truth is that during the 1950's and 60's the nation made substantial progress toward his wonderfully admirable goals, before the momentum of liberal politics slowed with the war in Vietnam and the election in 1968 of Richard Nixon.

    It wouldn't be long before Ronald Reagan was, as the historian Robert Dallek put it, attacking Medicare as "the advance wave of socialism" and Dick Cheney, from a seat in Congress, was giving the thumbs down to Head Start. Mr. Cheney says he has since seen the light on Head Start. But his real idea of a head start is to throw government money at people who already have more cash than they know what to do with. He's one of the leaders of the G.O.P. gang (the members should all wear masks) that has executed a wholesale transfer of wealth via tax cuts from working people to the very rich.

    Roosevelt was far from a perfect president, but he gave hope and a sense of the possible to a nation in dire need. And he famously warned against giving in to fear.

    The nation is now in the hands of leaders who are experts at exploiting fear, and indifferent to the needs and hopes, even the suffering, of ordinary people.

    David M Goldberg

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    King George Redux


    The people who do the work of this website began their trek a couple years ago with a petition to the Democratic members of the House of Representatives and to the Democratic members of the United States Senate for impeachment of George W. Bush for treason, high crimes and misdemeanors. Our case was, and still is, that the war in Iraq is illegal, being based on deception, lies, and outright disregard for the annoying details of the Congressional resolution that authorized the use of arms against a real clear and present danger to the United States.


    We were soon disabused of our notion that the Constitutional checks and balances were still in effect, for we had ignored the obvious fact that the framers of the Constitution had overlooked the possibility of political parties forming and holding their members to strict adherence to monolithic points of view. Clearly the contemporary Republican Party is incapable of governing under the Constitution because it holds its own opinions and goals more dearly than the Constitution.


    Now, we have an admission of multiple felonies committed by President Bush. In effect, Mr. Bush has crowned himself King of the United States by ignoring the Constitution, which we have on good authority he believes to be nothing but "a goddamned piece of paper," anyway.


    Folks, the time has come. Bush and Cheney must be impeached! The very existence of our Republic hangs in the balance! Failure to impeach is to say that it's okay to ignore the Constitution. There is no going back from that position, no matter how hard you try.


    James Richard Brett

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Air War


    The face of the Iraq War may have changed during the past year and the press did not notice. The reasons for not noticing are both good and not so good. If the War is to become predominantly an air war, we can expect "collateral casualties" to rise significantly. This poses a dilemma that the press should be able to describe. Here is a recent report from Tom Englehardt's colleague Dahr Jamail.


    JRB

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Courage and Cowardice


    "Politics is the art of the possible,' said Otto von Bismarck back in the 19th century. John Kenneth Galbraith a century later said that it is not, but rather "consists in a choice between the disastrous and the unpalatable." Like most aphorisms, Bismarck's begs several important questions, and Galbraith's negativity may or may not be realistic.


    The reality of contemporary politics is that only one of the major American political parties welcomes Liberals nowadays, whereas only a few decades ago one might find Liberals in both. Accordingly, both parties also contained "conservative" principles and practitioners. In the Democratic Party the conservatives were for restraint on the power of trade unions and restraint on the civil rights of minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics.


    The last quarter of the 20th century saw a realignment of interests and principles, brought about as much by the failures of Johnson and Nixon as much as by the perceived successes of Reagan and Clinton. The Republicans absorbed the racists of the Dixiecrat variety (including their cousins in the northern cities), but the organized labor issue has not yet resolved itself.


    It seems plain enough to most Liberals and Progressives that labor and its issues belongs in the Democratic Party by tradition and according to guiding principles. However, without a healthy organized labor pushing from within the Party the economic and social interests of working class people, the lower and middle classes, the Democrats are left with a perilously small base in the "apparatchiki" of the economy. These are the educated technocratic "classes," which are habituated to logical as opposed to emotional responses to national issues, which favor expansion of its own kind, but which are willing to compromise with corporate power to achieve short- and mid-term economic ends.


    Aligned with the apparatchiki and their close friends are the rich elites on the east and west coasts. These elites are undoubtedly clear about principles and ideals, but seem no longer to understand the urgency of action because they are both insulated from the rigors of fashioning a decent existence in the contemporary economy and have often romanticized their brief earlier encounter with economic and social reality.


    Orbiting around the elites are a group of corporate-minded individuals whose affiliation with the Democratic Party is more a matter of electoral convenience than anything approaching ideological purity. And, a subgroup of these are the Machievellian element whose ride to political success has been a struggle from the bottom of the ladder, but always in terms of the ladder, rather than constituency.


    If this is a fair two-minute taxonomy of the main elements of the Democratic Party at the end of 2005, then the question that is bedeviling various parts of the constituency across this troubled land begins to make some kind of sense. The question is: "Where is the courage of convictions among Democrats?" You see, now, that the question can been seen and read as if by the eye of an insect, that is, in a compound and multifaceted way. There is no single answer.


    The courage of Rep. John Murtha to come out against the continuation of the losing strategy in the Iraq War (see our blog Closing in on the War) represents a kind of courage which we hope develops parallel expressions from other Democrats in government. But, you see, Joe Lieberman does not believe in what John Murtha sees. Joe is worried about appearances to the exclusion of logic; John is worried about lives and reputation. Neither one expressed himself oblivious to the people who elected him, but in a certain way each led their constituencies to a conclusion ... Murtha to a new choice to change strategies and tactics, Lieberman to resist changing lest others misjudge and take change for weakness.


    For most Liberals and Progressives Lieberman's position is transparently conservative and responsive not to the wide range of Liberal and Progressive issues and ideals, but to a notion of machismo that appeals to the unreflective in society, people whose imaginations do not easily comprehend the nature of political coalitions, people for whom you are either For or Against them.


    Murtha's position is not to withdraw so much as to reorganize the force into strike groups that can be called into action from locations that are not a daily stick in the Iraqi eye. He sees a necessary draw-down of force strength accompanying this reorganization, which he sees the U.S. Army so desperately needs that this amounts to a major national security issue.


    Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi surprised some by joining forces with John Murtha, proving that she can see the larger picture as well. Scores of Democrats have come along since, more slowly not because they have no courage of their convictions, but more slowly because they needed to "frame the question" and their intended answer to their constituents. Some have done a poor job of expressing the Murtha position, some have tried to make hay out of the momentum and to have laurels settle on their own brows, but most have seen the complexity of change for what it is—complex and needing explanation in the face of machismo rhetoric from the Bushite opposition.


    This so-called "anti-war" movement in the Democratic Party threatens to splinter the party, of course, but it can be dealt with by teaching Change rather than imposing fear. But the Iraq War is just one of several major issues over which Democrats have the opportunity to appear lacking convictions and integrity.


    The most important issue of our day, campaign financing, is such an issue, one where closely-focused Machiavellians like Rep. Steny Hoyer (Minority Whip) seem unable to hear the burgeoning discontent of Democrats (and some Republicans) over the relationship of lobby money to government and the constituency. The rule is that, if there is any one issue that will catch the attention of elected officials, it is the funding they seem to need to get and stay elected. More to the point, however, there is nothing that stands between a representative and his constituency like private interest money. It utterly disenfranchises millions of voters and sells their representatives to private interests. It sells out democracy!


    The Democrats face an opposition that cannot possibly defend its use of corporate money on principle. There is no defense for it. But, that is not enough. At the same time Democrats must have the courage to stand against the outrageous slide into oligarchy that the current system represents. As the next election looms, look at campaign finance as the test of convictions. Ask the terrible questions. Demand an end to the plunder of our Democracy and those who have no courage to try.


    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Kucinich on Bush


    In case you missed it, here is Rep. Dennis Kucinich's response to Pres. Bush's admission of responsibility for the Iraq War. It is an important statement because Bush is attempting to relieve himself of the burden of having cooked the intelligence that went into making the decision, an act which is treasonous and impeachable.


    JRB

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Another One Bites The Dust

    Well, the country sure is safer today because that doer of heinous deeds, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, is no longer of this world. Feel free to breath a sigh of relief. Once again we have managed to show the world that hypocrisy is us. Especially those silly little countries (Great Britain, Australia, Germany, France ) that have a much lower crime rate than do we. Maybe it is their lack of the necessary weaponry? Or perhaps they have come to the realization that executions cost scads more money than does a sentence of life in prison, and that a death sentence is not really a deterrent.

    I am sure that some of you will take exception to two statements in the last paragraph, that it costs more to execute a prisoner, and that execution is not a deterrent. I would like to give you some facts about Capital Punishment so we can all start on the same page. Some of them will be eye openers I hope.

    From a time when we were still a miniscule bump on the behind of Great Britain, execution has been an option, and the earliest Colonial records can attest to that. Since those days 13,000 people in this country have been put to death for various types of murder. Of those 400 were found to be innocent, after spending years in prison, but, unfortunately, 23 had already been put to death. By the 1930's almost 150 people a year were put to death, but public support waned, and legal challenges to the death penalty, saw a drop to almost zero by 1967. In 1972 the practice was banned by the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1976 it again allowed it, and each state could decide whether or not to reinstate the practice.

    At this time only 12 states, and the District of Columbia, have banned the death penalty; Alaska, DC, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The following states allow for it, but have not carried out any executions since 1976; Connecticut, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and the US Military.

    Despite your perhaps preconceived notion that those states which have banned the death penalty, or those listed which do not choose to use it, must surely have a higher crime rate. No, they do not. In fact, those states have the lowest crime rates across the country. Texas and Oklahoma have the highest rate of executions carried out and the crime rate has risen. So much for the deterrence argument.

    While Texas' claim to fame may be the highest number of death sentences carried out in a year, Virginia executes more people per capita, than any other state over a million in population. No Federal execution has been carried out since 2001 ( out of a Federal Death Row inmate population of 21 at Terre Haute, Indiana) and that one, was the first in 36 years. Since 1976, when it was allowed again, the death penalty has claimed over 780 prisoners lives and 2 out of every three (65.6%) of those executions took place in only five states; Texas, with 256 killings (34% of the total), led the pack ahead of Virginia, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma.

    There are approximately 2700 prisoners awaiting death in this country in 37 state death rows, 31 being held by the U.S. government and military, and of those 1.5% are women. Most all of those executed are male, however, in the State of Texas, Karla Fay Tucker had the dubious distinction of being the first woman executed there since 1863, and Judith Beenano carries the title for first woman since 1848 to be executed in Florida. Velma Barfifeld was executed in North Carolina in 1984. Of all those who have gone to trial for murder most were unable to hire a private attorney and had to rely on a court appointed one.

    As mentioned, above, in those states which do have the death penalty the homicide rate is almost double that of states without it. No one is quite sure why this phenomenon exists but it has been suggested that perhaps, with state sanctioned murder, the message may be that life is cheap in any case. In those developed countries where the death penalty is not in use or has been banned altogether, the crime rate has continually declined. Canada, which no longer has the death penalty, and until recently refused to extradite prisoners here, if they would in fact face a death sentence (as does Great Britain), has a minimum sentence, for murder, of 25 years before parole is even considered. However, if the person has a history of being a violent offender then more than likely they will never be released.

    What do Canada and those other developed nations know that we seem not to be able to grasp? That they have seen that it is not a deterrent and that the risk that an innocent person may be put to death? You may feel that having lost only 23 people to wrongful execution is not that high a cost. What if it were you who had faced that sentence, knowing you were innocent and not having anyone listen to you or believe you, or what if it were someone you loved?

    On average the cost of executing a prisoner on death row is about 1.8 Million dollars, which, granted, may vary from state to state. So, let us look at some figures. Texas especially, with the highest rate of executions, estimates that it costs the state $2,316,655 in appeals. To house that same prisoner, in a maximum security prison for 40 years, would be $750,000. For California, the death penalty costs it's tax payers $90,000,000 annually and $78 million of that is spent at trial level. Between 1973 and 1988 Florida spent an estimated $57,000,000 on capital murder cases in order to get a result of 18 executions. That translates to approximately 3.2 million per case. If indeed Florida has estimated that they spend at least 3.8 million per execution, and only $170,000 per year to house that same inmate, (40 year sentence/no parole) it makes much more fiscal sense to spend that $680,000 as opposed to the much higher figure.

    How does a death sentence then serve us as a society? Can we say, unequivocally that it is a deterrent? No we cannot for we have seen that in those states, where it is applied, the homicide rate has increased. It is simply an act of revenge, and revenge is an emotional response. It serves no purpose other than to continue a cycle of violence even if that violence is state sponsored. It may gratify some but it also may hurt others; remember those 26 innocents put to death. The argument that the death penalty is a deterrent has always been that there goes one person who will no longer be able to repeat his crime. Taken in that light, a sentence of life without possibility of parole would serve the same purpose.

    These days it is politically correct to be a "good Christian". References to the Bible swirl around us as do the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). We do not let a Dr. Jack Kevorkian take a life, even when he has been sought out for that purpose. Our argument? Only God can take a life. We refuse to allow a woman who is, to all intents and purposes, already dead, go to "meet her maker" without a great hew and cry from those who proclaim that they trust in God. As God's extension on earth Jesus was sent to teach us that God was a loving Father. that we should love our enemies and "forgive those who trespass against us." For all of that we still stand, filled with blood lust, adhering to the Code of Hammurabi, forgetting that "vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord."

    WWJD? If I remember correctly it was Jesus who, coming upon a public execution, uttered the words, "let he among you, who is without sin, cast the first stone." If He were on jury I think he would opt for the life sentence.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    A Piece of Paper


    Some people ... over at Daily Kos, for instance ... are doubting the veracity of Doug Thompson's report on George W. Bush and Our Constitution, but we suspect that he's right. We think George is just stupid enough to forget that without the Constitution, he is just another rich junkie drunk with a terrible temper.


    Here's some follow up on the story and its author.


    JRB

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Recreating the Wild West

    I’ll say one thing for the National Rifle Association (NRA); they never give up on the idea that there is no such thing as too many guns or too many people to use them. On October 1, the Shoot First Law went into effect in Florida, giving the people of Florida permission to use deadly force as the first resort even in a public place. The law grants sweeping criminal and civil immunity to anyone who shoots when they feel threatened. Worse yet, the law specifically denies legal recourse to innocent bystanders killed or wounded in the crossfire, even if the shooter acted negligently.

    For the NRA this is only a first small step; they want this type of lawlessness in all 50 states by 2006. This would take the United States back to the days of the Wild West where the only law was at the end of a six-shooter. In fact it would be worse than that, at least in those days innocent bystanders who were hurt or killed could get some satisfaction form the courts, and often the shooter would be tried if innocent bystanders suffered as a result of the shooters negligence.

    Just imagine a crowded mall full of Christmas shoppers going about their business when suddenly a fight breaks out over who is going to buy the last hot toy available. This scenario is not improbable and has actually happened in a number of cases. One of the customers feels threatened and pulls a gun and begins shooting and several bystanders are killed including several children waiting to see Santa. Under the NRA proposal no charges could be filed against the shooter. Should this happen, the next probable step would be that the next time citizens shopped they would all carry guns and proceed to carry out immediate justice on the shooter knowing that under the law the shooter would be held blameless but so would they since they could always claim they felt threatened.

    I am not anti-gun. I have hunted in the past and understand that under some interpretations of the second amendment, citizens are allowed to own guns. But, this proposed lawlessness is way over the top and should not be supported by law abiding citizens. I urge you to tell your state representatives and governors that you don’t support the NRA’s attempt to recreate the Wild West in your state.

    David M. Goldberg

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    'Twas the Night Before Xmas

    'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the land,
    not a critic was stirring, for stirring was banned.
    A thousand brown prisoners, snug in their cells,
    all held without charges or tinsel or bells;
    and mamma was wrapped in the national flag,
    while we sang "Where there's never a boast or a brag."
    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

    Away to the TV I flew like a flash;
    I then watched "Survivor" and reruns of "Mash."
    The fireworks, exploding above the new snow,
    gave a luster of objects to people below.

    When what saw my wondering eyes in the flashes:
    a miniature George Bush and eight tiny fascists!
    Their jerseys were blue and said "WORLD DOMINATION;"
    I knew right away this was not just claymation.
    More rapid than eagles the warlords they came,
    as the little Bush whistled and called them by name:
    "Now, Daschle! now, Ashcroft! Now Strom, don't relent!
    On, Poindexter, Rumsfeld! On Henry and Trent!

    To the top of the globe, while the crowd's at the mall,
    now bomb away, bomb away, bomb away all!"

    His sack had a war game for each girl and boy;
    his pocket, four billion for just Illinois.
    Far up on his high seat the driver did mount,
    with more massive weapons than Kofi could count.
    And then, I heard sounds from away off somewhere,
    the booming of bombs that were bursting in air.

    As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
    down the chimney old Dick Cheney came with a bound.
    He said not a word, nor disclosed his location;
    he wiretapped my house in the name of the nation.
    Then holding the strings of his little Bush puppet,
    he went to the chimney and quickly rose up it.
    The sleigh was still running, but Dick didn't hurry;
    gas guzzlers, it seemed, were no longer a worry.
    He popped the champagne and exclaimed as he served it,

    "The world is now ours, and GOD DAMN, we deserve it!"

    --Anonymous

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Our Tapestry of Lies


    Playwright Harold Pinter, an Englishman who is receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, has prepared his Nobel lecture and it is about us. To see the lecture, click here and then choose "high bandwidth" or "low bandwidth" according to your personal internet connection situation. The video is about 47 minutes long ... and worth it!


    If, instead, you would rather read the lecture, click here. This is the basic lecture, a tour de force of insight into the creative moment as well as the reach and efficacy of the arts balanced and set off against the craft of American politics, the juggernaut of Machiavellian political vanity and willfulness.


    If you are very pressed for time and in any case are less interested in the relationship of art to truth than the relationship of truth to politics, then click here. This is the political bits separated out and presented as a different essay, "The Great American Hypnosis."


    JRB

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Play Ball!

    One of those supermodern, sleek, dark-windowed touring buses, carrying a major league baseball team to its next engagement, is hurtling through a shabby part of town near an industrial area, ignoring speed limits and other precautions. It passes an apartment complex for the second or third time. They are either lost or there are lots of similar apartment projects.


    No, it is the same project, and again out on the scruff of lawn in front of a building a man is standing with a baseball bat battering a young boy of about ten years of age. But instead of roaring by again, the bus suddenly careens over the curb, smashes through a growing throng of on-lookers, some of them children, and pins the man to a scrawny tree. The bus doors open and out spill the team, some in sweats, some in pin-stripes, and all carrying baseball bats.


    There is a general murmur through the crowd that now forms around the bus. The wailing and screaming from those the bus has mowed down and their relatives and friends is rising now, almost deafening, but the professional baseball players do not pay them much attention. Their efforts seem to be wholly directed toward capturing the baseball bat the man was using on the child, and having accomplished that within seconds of the arrival of the bus, the players begin to stand around awkwardly in what looks for all the world like a loosely defensive posture, protecting their beautiful bus.


    Within seconds someone from the crowd of injured and their friends hurls a rock through one of the windows of the bus. The players respond by rushing to that side of the bus and pummeling into the dust the person they thought threw the rock. Cries of foul play and murder rise in the crowd and more rocks are thrown and now not only windows but players are being struck. The players strike back and a melee ensues in which several of the team are grievously injured, one fatally.


    Later, the police arrive and begin to ask what happened. A PR flak from the bus explains it thusly:


    "Well, Officer, we were playing in town, lost a double-header to a really bad expansion team, you know the one. We were driving to our next game in the next city. I guess we were pretty sore and upset with the twin losses. Morale was pretty low. It's the worse thing that's happened to our team since I can remember. We got disoriented driving through this end of town and apparently the driver got lost. Our driver is not too familiar with these parts, but he really knows how to handle this bus. Ain't it a beauty! Well, anyways, we passed this apartment project and someone noticed that a guy was beating up on a kid. We were going too fast the first and second times we passed the scene, but the third time our driver just wheeled up onto the yard and skewered the bad dude with our hood ornament! Serves the bastard right!


    "It was then we noticed that the driver had mowed down a bunch of these, well, whatever you want to call them, 'locals,' I guess, who were hanging around watching the guy beat the kid. Sometimes stuff happens when you are aiming at an evil guy, and maybe some people get hurt. We're like sorry for that, but I don't see how our driver could have saved the kid and kewered the bad guy without driving over the curb and through the crowd. They saw us comin'; they should have jumped outta the way, you know!


    "Well, then one of these 'locals' threw a rock through our bus window. Do you have any idea how much a bus like this costs? The paint alone is worth more than this whole neighborhood, I'd bet. Anyway, we went around to see who did that and next thing we know, they are all over us, so we struck back. God! We saved them from the bad guy and this is the appreciation we get!"


    The officer looked at the speaker incredulously and motioned for another of the police to come over and listen. He yelled at three or four of the police to round up the bus driver and to take him into custody.


    "So, let me get this straight, sir. The driver went up over the curb on his own, without instructions or egging-on from anyone in the bus? Is that what you are telling me?"


    The PR guy was now joined by a very tall and very well-known member of the pitching staff of the team. Both started to speak at once, but the PR guy dropped back to let the team member speak for himself. "It was the damnedest thing I ever saw, Officer. Here was this guy beating the shit out of this kid." He looked around momentarily to see if the ten year old were still there, but finding no one even closely approximating the kid, turned back and continued. "We all saw it. Heck, we saw it twice but were going too fast to stop and do anything about it. Yeah, we were talking about it loudly in the bus as we made our third tour through this ... um ... funky neighborhood, and yes, I guess the driver was picking up on how angry we were about it. The driver was very much aware of our low morale, maybe that's why he was driving so fast, to take our minds off the lost double-header and all."


    The officer craned to see if the speaker showed any signs of inebriation, wondering how the focus on the unfortunate child could so obliterate the scene from hell caused by the bus crashing through the crowd of "locals." "Okay, I think I have the picture, fellas. I will need to ask you all some more questions downtown, of course, but right now I want you to all get back in the bus."


    "Downtown?!" Half a dozen players shifted their weight, but did not make any progress toward the bus door. Another rock sailed in from the edge of the crowd and thudded against the right front tire of the bus. "These damned locals are gonna get a face full in just about five seconds," blurted a surly looking player with a catcher's mit hung on his belt.


    At that moment a skinny young man in a battered Chevrolet pulled up to the curb as the players looked around their team for signs of willingness to comply with the request of the police. The young man had a businessman's hat with the word "Press" on a card sticking out of the hatband. He looked around the crowd apprehensively, obviously never having been in this neighborhood before. He jotted a few words into a tattered notebook, pulled out a disposable camera and shot a couple pictures of the bus and the team's well-known pitcher, and then left.


    The next day in the Daily News the incident was reported under a headline that seemed to fit the reporter's paper's corporate spin:

    Baseball comes to ghetto neighborhood—locals won't play.


    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Double Speak

    The Iraq War is not the only thing splitting the Democrats apart. Joan Vennochi in Boston describes Democratic Doublespeak. There is a slight chance that massive disagreement will allow Democrats to frame the Republicans as totalitarian, but I would not bet on it.


    JRB

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    "La Grippe"

    My old Yankee grandfather kept a journal for over 65 years. He started these journals in 1891, at age 17 and only stopped when death claimed him at age 85. I have become the caretaker of these journals and they are one of my dearest possessions. They not only have been a window into what made my grandfather the man, husband and father he became but have given me a front row seat into a time and place where life was surely not simpler or easier but had a humanity to it that today has seemingly vanished.

    Most of his entries are a quick note about the weather, temperature included, as he was a farm boy, in Maine, and daily life was tied inextricably to those things. The rest of a day's entry might be a note about a village happening; a death, birth, sickness, accidents. The ones that most stood out for me, in many cases, was the sense of extended family. When one person was ill the women in the village took turns sitting with them, bringing food, helping to maintain their households for them, as well as continuing with their own duties. How many had a soothing voice and a gentle hand in their last moments? Death came as the expected end to a life, and it came, ushered in, not by the flat line of a machine, but with dignity and respect from an entire community. This was insurance.

    Now, in the 21st century I marvel at all the wonderful advances we have made in the field of medicine. Vaccines that would have prevented so many childhood deaths a hundred years ago, are now a matter of course for newborns and young children. No longer do mothers have to fear the spots of measles or the red cheeks of scarlet fever. No longer does a sneeze or cough perhaps herald diphtheria. No longer is a heart attack an automatic death sentence. Even stroke today is not as debilitating as it once was. But it has not been medicines alone which have brought us this new and improved world. Improved sanitation, improved (perhaps) diets, better lifestyles and a greater knowledge of our germ infested world have played a large part in keeping us healthy longer.

    Have we paid a price for this? We certainly have, and it is coming home to haunt us now. Like kids in a candy store, a child with a new toy, we cannot wait to use it and use it and use it until it is not worth using anymore. The wind up key on the toy has broken or the candy is all gone. Armed with the latest in germ killing products we scour our houses and bodies, pump them full of antibiotics, spray, scrub, disinfect, exterminate any and all germs which might threaten an invasion either of our person or our home. We have come to expect new and improved everything, and when we are told that those new and improved everythings are no match for a new and improved germ, we panic. We have sanitized ourselves and our environment so much that we no longer have much of a natural immunity to anything. What my grandmother would have referred to as being "poison neat."

    In 1918 there was a Pandemic of the Spanish Influenza, or "La Grippe" a virulent strain of avian influenza. Worldwide, between 25 and 50 million people died from this disease. More US soldiers died from the flu than had been killed in the recently ended Great War (WWI). Even though it did not emerge in Spain, it was that country that had one of the worst early outbreaks of it. By 1918, 8 million people had been infected and Spain sought to reduce panic by describing it only as the flu , "La grippe". Would inoculations have helped to prevent such widespread death? Most surely they would, but we did not have much of anything in 1918. Even some sanitation ideas had yet to take hold as normal practice. We were in the infancy of the germ fighting business. Big Pharma had yet to really arrive.

    Today we hear that we may have, yet again, another Pandemic. and as in the first go round it is a "bird" (avian) flu. And I hate to tell you this but we might as well be back in 1918 as we have not a clue how to prevent it or to "neutralize" it. It is a shape shifter and can mutate faster than you can say Chicken Little. So where are all those researchers at "Big Pharma" that we rely on to stay on top of these things for us? Are they too busy padding their expense accounts, developing new drugs that are guaranteed to kill you or give you side effects more harmful than your condition? Too busy being published behind flawed clinical trials? Surely the monies taken in by these giants of corporate greed can cover the cost of research, can't they?

    Well apparently research is not high on their list of priorities. They will get theirs and you and I will get...well, that remains to be seen. Please know, however, that what the pharmaceutical companies spend on marketing and administration "dwarfs what they spend" on research, so do not look for a "bird flu" vaccine anytime soon. And, if and when they develop one, will you be able to afford it?

    You have a market based health care system hand in hand with a market based pharmaceutical industry and covered altogether by investor-owned insurance companies. 40 million Americans are without any sort of health insurance, and none of the above want to lose their profit margins so, the best we can hope for is that the Bird Flu decides it is tired of mutating or the pharmaceutical companies decide to find a conscience.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Arguing the Iraq War

    TomDispatch is the source of a lot of good thinking about our times. Here is yet another article about Iraq and Ten Ways to Argue About the War by Michael Schwartz.


    JRB

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Playing Politics with Foreign Policy

    Responding to its base of the so-called religious right, more properly known as the non-religious wrong, the Bush administration in 2001 announced that no foreign funding would go to nongovernmental and multilateral organizations that consider safe abortion to be an acceptable option. Amazingly enough, this policy applies even if the organizations do not offer abortion services themselves.


    This Global Gag Rule not only denies funding to organizations that provide safe abortion but also to those that advocate for changes in abortion law in their own countries or simply provide information about safe abortion services. The rule has stifled free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues and more importantly has resulted in numerous family planning organizations losing vital funds and supplies.


    I this were not bad enough, the global gag rule has been applied to AIDS funding in at least one country – Kenya, where abortion is illegal and complications from unsafe abortions are a leading killer of married woman. Despite President Bush previously promising that US AIDS funding would not be affected by this gag rule, in November USAID announced that $193 million in grants would be available to HIV/AID projects in Kenya only if prospective grantees and all partners will abide by the gag rule regarding safe-abortion programs. Once again this administration says one thing and does another.


    Family planning and maternal and child health programs are the first responders for women and girls in the global AIDS epidemic and are too important to be denied funding because of domestic politics. The US government should not deny desperately-needed funding to reproductive health organizations that use non-US funding to provide comprehensive counseling and services. The gag rule has undermined reproductive health services in developing countries around the world and now is being applied to urgently-needed efforts to restrain the HIV-AIDS pandemic in countries where it claims thousands of lives including children every month.


    The Global Gag Rule is one more contributor to the poor global image of the US. Moreover, it is the result of a single domestic constituency which has shaped a foreign that undermines the clear national interest and weakens programs that contribute to mutual well-being around the world. This from an administration which claims it is family oriented and compassionate.


    David M. Goldberg

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Iraq: It's Not Just Bush's War

    Two items on Iraq today to save and read after the weekend's important football games.


  • Tom Englehardt on How NOT to Withdraw from Iraq.


  • Rep. Henry Waxman's compendium of Bush statements about Iraq on the Record.


    JRB and SBG

  • Friday, December 02, 2005

    Democrats and Democracy

    Amid the swirl of comment and opinion blowing in the winds of establishment thinking and up-start thought, caught in the baleen of our news media like spinach in the dentition of a baby-kissing politician is this compound thought: Is democracy "as we believed in it" done for?


    Do most of us hold back a certain crucial reservation about our fellow man and woman, or a conviction about the nature of the human condition, or some key notion about the nature of government? Do Americans see their nation as a platform upon which religion is to be respected, or is it the other way around—finally—that religion is the platform upon which government is erected?


    Put another way, do you see as I do that many strong voices in America seem to have already presupposed a nation substantially different from the one charted in the Constitution and then glibly honored in twelve agonizing years of public schooling? Do you see that the oligarchs of the press do not care for truth or fact, but only positioning the pieces where players like themselves can play them?


    I sometimes have the very uncomfortable feeling that most national-level politicians are sold out to an idea that is fundamentally alien and inimical to the Constitutional form of government based on representative democracy. They have sold out both to campaign money and to their own physical and moral comfort. Outrageous practitioners like DeLay mince no words. Pay up or shut up! Players like Biden are "simply" hacks for corporate interests and it never occurs to them that all the little people of his little state have thoughts, needs, goals, and the only legitimate franchise. Players like Hillary Clinton trade on their fleeting celebrity for votes, hoping that the electorate will not discern a mugwump from a progressive in the glare of all the tinsel and klieg lights. Players like Evan Bayh and Ted Kennedy trade on family name and connections and deliver a quantity of noblesse oblige into the docket each year, while guarding closely their own magnificent fortunes. There are those like the Bushes who skip the noblesse oblige part entirely. Oren Hatch, Rick Santorum, the Senators from Oklahoma, and scores of the righteous-rich from other states trade on religion as the currency of the franchise. They would trade in the Constitution for the Bible in a New York minute. There are many among them who see it as an either/or situation. They are wrong, of course! All of them contribute in their own special ways to a perversion of democracy.


    There is a point where holding philosophical reservations goes beyond the point where the original premise is relevant. You can say you believe in science, but if you preach that the sun rises rather than the earth turns, you are eligible for more dangerous thoughts. You can say you are a Democrat, but if you speak Empire, then you are really not and really cannot be. If you are a Republican and speak ruinous federal deficit, then you are really not a conservative, but a dangerous anarchist spendthrift. You can say you believe in the goodness of the common man, but if everything you do is a negation of that principle, then what are you? It is literally impossible to believe the worst of your fellow citizens and still be a Liberal. Impossible!


    I have the feeling that the rise of the radical religious right wing in the Republican Party and the simultaneous emergence of the Pax Americana Neocon Imperium represent a fundamental departure of the ruling elites within the Republican Party from the basic principles of Constitutional democracy, a fundamental change of heart and premise. On one hand we have wild-eyed mad-hatters like Gary DeMar of American Vision telling us that a government based on "secular humanism" is a form of theocracy, and on the other hand the founders of the Project for a New American Century expounding the civil righteousness and (obvious) superiority of the American nation, the final manifest destiny of which is to rule the whole bloody world!


    These people cannot possibly believe in Jeffersonian or Jacksonian democracy. The masses in America are much too unruly to fit in their plans. They have given up and are recruiting the unwary and the frightened to their philosophies of theocratic and imperial control. Stuff like this happens in an open, democratic society, of course. There are always nuts and cranks and wild ideas that get bandied about, some for fun and some for the pure delight of the certifiably insane. But, these people cannot be allowed to team up and win. They will utterly destroy the nation. Yet they are teamed up, they are in power, and they are dismantling the Constitutional republic before our bleary eyes!


    This essay began on a thought primarily about Democrats, though. The question is, given that fish must swim, whether Democrats have gone over to the anti-democratic Dark Side like the key Republicans seem to have. Put another way, can the Democratic leadership be responsive to the will of the people, or will they play games with the electorate and steadfastly refuse to congeal the Democratic coalition around the essential issues.


    But, I am not the DNC ... and neither is Howard Dean, by the way. The DNC is the leadership of the Party until we have a clear, unfettered candidate, however. The DNC is fractured along two decisively divisive points of view: one, the Iraq War, and, two, organized and unorganized labor. If Democrats do not come to a conclusion—not a untercarpetschweepen—a real decision about the vast difference of opinion between the Democratic electorate and the Party elite, Democratic voters will be tempted by red herrings and third party candidates or will stay at home in patriotic-but-antiwar disgust. And, organized labor must prove itself to be other than the lackey of corporate management. When they do that then they can identify from among the candidates the one or two who will make common cause with labor and the middle class in this country. If this does not happen then labor and the middle classes voters will wander away from their economic moorings to play in the deep and treacherous water of theocratic and imperialist neo-fascism.


    There will be red herrings enough to feed the masses, of course: abortion and school prayer, to name a couple. Of course, these are issues in which the Presidency plays a very minor role, but about which voter emotions are a significant part. Inflation, job-exports, education, credit and bankruptcy, and even social security will garnish the table. The real bread and butter structural issues remain: they are "war and peace" and "protecting labor and the middle classes." Unless there is a platform that addresses these issues from the point of view of the voters, the Democrats will fail and ultimately their coalition will fragment. This would be an unholy disaster given the current coalition on the other side.


    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Welfare

    What Happened to Welfare? is the question posed in the latest New York Review of Books. This is not a thrilling essay, but it is fundamental, and you need to know this material before you talk to conservatives and centrists.


    JRB

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