American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Friday, March 31, 2006

Unitary Executive Theory

Con Law the students call it. It is shortspeak for Constitutional Law, the study of the United States Constitution, its interpretations, and ramifications. Con Law is at the center of things these days, at least since George W. Bush and his administration have been claiming that under the principle of "the Unitary Executive" the hallowed principle of crisply separated governmental powers is obsolete.

It is true that the Constitution is over two hundred years old and that much has changed in the way we use the English language, what we understand of logic, syntax, tropes, signs and signifiers. Indeed much has changed in the way we view life. We now understand the germ (and virus) theory of disease, which our Founding Fathers did not. We now know that life is built using a DNA template, which also can be faulty and lead to disabilities and predispositions for disease. Our grandparents had not a clue about this, let alone the Founding Fathers. We now understand electricity and electromagnetic radiation, whereas the Founding Fathers had only very crude understanding of electricity and knew nothing of EMR, radio, television, cell phones, radar, microwave ovens, etc. We understand semi-conductors and have computer and internet systems that fulfill the dreams of the ancient encyclopedists, none of which was even vaguely contemplated in the last decades before the industrial revolution in America. We have discovered a replacement for whale oil and, in fact, have exploited the planet for it. We have mechanized society to an extent never imagined by virtually anyone of the generation of our Founding Fathers, including Franklin and Jefferson (or even ourselves)! America is a far, far different place and Americans are a much more diverse and much larger group of people now than in 1789. (Population: 2006—296 million; 1790—about 12 million of which 4 million were white males eligible to vote)

A scant half generation later in 1803 things were not much different when Supreme Court Justice John Marshall wrote his opinion in Marbury v. Madison firmly establishing the principle of Judicial Supremacy in the Judicial Branch of government and, of course, that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the Constitutionality of Legislation.

Just for a moment let's look at the document and see how ambiguous it is or is not on the idea of separation of powers. It does not literally say that the government of the United States shall be constructed to strictly separate the three principal functions of government, but of course these matters were discussed and discussed again and again. The Constitution was written in the environment of this discussion and reflects that very principal. Article I, Section 1 is pretty explicit. It says "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States ...." There is nothing ambiguous about that word "all." It does not say that the President can rewrite or line-item veto any part of legislation. It says that legislation comes from the Legislative Branch exclusively. All means ALL.

Article III is about the federal Judiciary. As you can see in Section 2, "The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties ...." Again, this is not ambiguous. It says that the Judicial Branch is responsible for ALL cases in law (our subject here today) arising from the Constitution. Once again, All means ALL.

The Unitary Executive theory is based on the notion that the President is required to know the law and the Constitution in order that "...he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, ..." (Article III, Section 3). This simply means that the President is charged with conforming to the Constitution in the carrying out of duly legislated laws. It means he is not allowed to violate the Constitution while attempting to carry out a law. In other words protecting us from hypothetical or real terrorists does not confer the right to ignore the Fourth Amendment.

Moreover, in the prescribed oath of office (Article II, Section 1, last clause) the President is required to the best of his ability to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." In fact, Bush has interpreted his oath and Article II, Section 3 to mean that federal Executive is Constitutionally required to carry out its own legislative and judicial processes. In this theory the Executive is "unitary" because it combines all three functions of government into one swell package.

Con Law says if the Executive (or anyone else) believes a law or part of a law to be unconstitutional they should ask the Judicial Branch to rule on it. Under no circumstances should the Executive arrogate unto itself the responsibility for judicial review.

George W. Bush (and his mentors Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) took to the theory of the Unitary Executive like Marine Corps landing craft to a hostile beachhead. To give you an idea of the tautologically absurdity of the notion, though, consider that George has relied on the analysis not of arm's-length objective thinkers but instead hired-gun attorneys, whose very livelihoods depended upon pleasing George and his junta. These three "scholars" have usurped the function of the courts and done so on the connivance of the President. It is, whether they like to think of it that way or not, a criminal conspiracy ... and they must be brought to Justice.

We learn of late that George has taken upon himself the privilege of interpreting and altering legislation by issuing "signing statements" that may reverse or negate the intent of the legislation. These statements would be unnecessary, of course, if his own party agreed with him. But that is not the case. The Congress can over-ride any Presidential veto, so, for example, in the case of the legislatively mandated banning of torture, George usurped the legislative branch by issuing a contradictory signing statement.

Obviously the "Unitary Executive" theory is dangerous nonsense. Just as obviously, though, is the fact that since Richard Milhous Nixon the notion has been gaining some popularity inside the Con Law profession, among those who think that the changed circumstances of our era demand changed views about our form of government. Okay, let us suppose for a hypothetical moment that modern nuclear power and weapons, anti-biotics, television, computers, internet, interstate highways, global corporations, extended life expectancy, and maybe a hundred other significant changes since 1789 have rendered our the separation of powers doctrine built into our Constitution obsolescent. How would one go about changing the system to something more suitable?

Given that the voters and citizens of the United States want to continue to have some say in the governing of the nation and themselves, that in fact democracy is both the means and the end of our preferred system, then would a slow-motion putsch be the way to accomplish the necessary change?

Well of course not!
But who among us can recall that Bush said "a vote for me is a vote for a new system of American government?" Who can recall any talk of the Unitary Executive during the 2000 or 2004 campaigns? No one can, of course; it did not happen. So, we are left with one ugly fact and at least one very unpleasant hypothesis.

  • The fact is that there has been a revolution in Washington, D.C. carried out deliberately and against the wishes and traditions of the American people. They said they were going to make history, and surely they have!

  • The hypothesis is that they have no intent whatsoever to turn the government over to a party that would undo all their work, which of course means that the revolution is not yet complete.

    The incrementalism of the revolution is a brilliant strategy. It takes into account the persistent indifference of Americans to liberty:

    … to most Europeans the United States is still regarded naively as the land of liberty par excellence, whereas to most Americans the thing itself has long ceased to have any significance, and to large numbers of them, indeed, it has of late taken on an extreme obnoxiousness. I know of no civilized country, indeed, in which liberty is less esteemed than it is in the United States today; certainly there is none in which more persistent efforts are made to limit it and pull it down.
    H.L.Mencken, "H.L.Mencken" in The Nation, 12/5/1923.

    It takes into account the acknowledged attention span of the body politic and its servants in the Fourth Estate, and it relies upon the willingness of Congressional members of the Republican Party in Congress to violate and ignore their oaths of office ... partly out of fear (of Rove and Cheney), partly out of greed and corruption!

    Doug Thompson, I could not agree more with your last paragraph, except that I do not think it is just Bush. In fact I think it is Cheney and The Base calling these shots and Rove is providing tactics and timing.

    Andrew Card's "resignation" this week is widely believed to be the sacrificial lamb designed to placate angry Republicans on the Hill who resent the threats, the stone-walling, and the ultimately inept politics of the west wingers. There is no sense that this portends significant change, however, even though that was the ostensive purpose. The choice of an insider like Mr. Joshua "Yosh" Bolten as the replacement is candid testimony to the opposite, in fact, fully in keeping with Bush's (Rove's) general plan. The next three years will be much like the last five, if not more so. But, as the mid-term elections get closer and closer someone is going to remember that it was Joshua Bolten who blandly reported (New York Times, August 26, 2003) that Bush frequently joked in first-term staff meetings about the job being a lot easier if he were dictator.

    James Richard Brett

  • Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Immigration - An Economic Problem

    The illegal immigration problem is fraught with emotion but looking at the facts will help us find a solution. Here are the basic facts:

  • Mexico has a labor force willing to work for less than US citizens (who are protected by law to get a minimum wage.)
  • US employers who want to make more profits take advantage of the illegals who have no protections, and pay them wages below the legal minimum. Employers also avoid payroll taxes and determine the working conditions, which may also violate labor laws.
  • The illegal immigrants use parts of our health, education and welfare systems which are funded by citizens through taxes. The affected systems are stressed and causing increased animosity towards illegal workers.

    Who benefits? Business benefits.

    Who loses? Citizens who pay taxes to support schools, medical facilities and social services which are used by illegal immigrants. The illegals who are vilified while being taken advantage of.

    How to solve this dilemma? The issue is economic. Business wants to make a bigger profit while expecting citizens to bear the expense of illegal workers" social needs. The immigrants are caught in the middle and called "the problem." The real "problem" is that business fails to pay the expense the illegal immigrants cost the society.

    Some way must be found to put funds into the budgets for social services the illegal immigrants use. These funds should come from the businesses that are profiting from their work.

    The alternative is to create laws that encompass a non-citizen temporary work force and makes breaking these laws so expensive that employers won"t take the risk.
    In Switzerland they have workers come in from surrounding countries to "do the work no Swiss will do."

    Workers come to families or businesses and are contracted to do a job for a certain wage. They have papers and have to leave Switzerland on a regular basis. Some are daily workers and others live with their employers and go home on weekends.

    Now the US is not as conveniently tiny as Switzerland, but I think that a system, which allows for immigrant workers but not their citizenship, would be a start in solving this problem.

    Business would get its less expensive labor force and the workers would clearly remain citizens of their home of origin. One solution would be to have employers submit a work contract for temp workers and include the pay rate, job description and length of time contracted for. They could be required to post a voucher fee for each worker they contract which would be paid back either when the worker leaves the country or is reimbursed by an employer who makes a new contract with the worker. Employers would be like "sponsors" and be responsible for workers" medical care while they are here through some kind of insurance program or a tax paid to local services to cover medical care used. Employers should face fines (which go into the local tax fund) and jail (if offences repeated) for using undocumented workers. Only as many workers as are required are allowed in. They must leave the country when their contract expires or obtain a new one with another employer. Temp workers must leave the country at least every six months or at the end of their contract time, if shorter than six months.

    Business benefits, business should pay the increased financial burden society has been subsidizing. The workers are not the problem, the employers who break the law are.
    Shamefully, our lawmakers have legislated for business even when the well being of society is put at risk or diminished. The government is doing a dance around the immigration problem and refusing to face the true issue of economics. Whatever law they pass should address the problem of the increased social costs and get money into those systems. The job of government is to put reasonable laws in place that give businesses the workers they need while making businesses responsible for those workers while they are within our borders. Those laws must also be enforced. When illegal immigrants can no longer find employment, they will stop taking the risk of illegal entry. Perhaps illegals who are here should be allowed to find employer sponsors and to set up worker contracts. Those who have been here for a long time (to be determined), and were free of a criminal record, could be given green cards and be required to participate in the workforce as taxpayers. Once everyone was accounted for according to some status, employers should bear the responsibility of abiding with the law or face heavy penalties.

    In the larger picture, we could insist Congress pull NAFTA and make trade agreements which make wages sustainable on both sides of the border.

    Here again business has undermined the social fabric of both the US and Mexico. NAFTA has driven down wages in Mexico which has caused many of the businesses who employed Americans, to leave here and go there. Unfortunately, the wages those businesses are willing to pay the Mexicans are so low that, to help their families, many risk the frightful journey of becoming an illegal immigrant. Immigration would diminish if a sustainable income at home were available to those seeking work. The true resolution can be found in the bigger picture of trade reform.

    Business is blessed by laws that say that the bottom line for them is to make a profit. They are not required to abide by any social contract. This lack of regulation allows them not only to be bad employers but to freely pollute and diminish resources. Not all business works this way and the doing of business is necessary to our society, but they all must be made to pay for their costs of doing business and not to pass the bill to society.

    Sue Dyer

    Guest Essayist

  • Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Vermont and Liberty

    Our intrepid correspondent, Susan, is out of commission for a while. She requests that readers go to The American Reporter and read two pieces by Randolph T. Holhut:

  • This one and
  • This one.

    We suspect Susan will be back in the traces by next Wednesday.


  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    The Next Wave: Feminism in the 21st Century, Part IV (March Wrap-Up)

    As Women's History Month draws to a close, here are some questions and facts it would do us all good to spend some time seriously considering:

    Whether I am a woman or a man, how do I treat women? How do I treat them in reality, and how do I treat them in my mind?

    Whether I am a woman or a man, do I use gender-specific language that is meant to marginalize women and their contribution to society? Do I feel the need to add the qualifiers "woman" or "female" to occupations such as doctor, executive, engineer, professional athlete? Do I use words like "slut" and "whore" to describe women, regardless of whether or not they are promiscuous or accept money in exchange for sex?

    Whether I am a woman or a man, do I immediately question the credibility and sexual histories of female rape victims in the news? Do I allow myself to be swept up into "blaming the victim" unconsciously? Have I ever made a comment such as, "Well, what was she wearing?" "What was she doing out that late by herself?" or "Why should I take her word for it?"

    Whether I am a woman or a man, do I feel the need to add into conversations about sex offender registration the following factoid: "You know, some of those "sex offenders" aren't even criminals--some of them are just like 19-year old guys who slept with their 17-year old girlfriends." Do I understand that this not only detracts from the seriousness of the issue, but also denigrates the victims of rape, female and male, adult and child?

    Whether I am a woman or a man, do I assume that if one parent in a couple is going to stay at home with a child that that parent will automatically be the mother, and not the father? Do I understand that this idea has been taught to me, and is not innate to human rationality? Am I able to think about parenting outside these terms? Am I aware that this stereotype is not only harmful to mothers, but to fathers as well?

    If I am a woman, do I consider my menstrual cycle something to be ashamed of and "discreet" about? Do I always feel the need to dab on makeup before leaving the house, for fear of not looking my "best" for other people? Do I wear clothing that is uncomfortable in order to look "hot" or "sexy" for other people? Do I restrict food consumption when I am eating in public, out of fear of looking "unladylike" or like a pig?

    If I am a woman, do I constantly judge other women based on looks, weight, age, marital status, motherhood or lack thereof, and level of sexual activity? Do I like knowing that other women are judging me according to these criteria? Do I really want to be part of a system that accepts and promotes this kind of destructive behavior within the female community?

    If I am a man, have I ever used aggressive, violent language to describe my sexual experiences and feelings toward women? Do I use negative gender-specific language regularly when referring to women, regardless of whether my feelings about them are positive, negative, or indifferent?

    If I am a man, do I ever cite a woman’s alleged "PMS" as the culprit when she is displeased with something I have said or done? Do I find it amusing to do so? Do I understand that this attitude is damaging to women and that actual physical and emotional symptoms related to menstruation are a healthy and natural part of human life?

    If I am a man, have I ever referred to an evening at home taking care of my own children as "babysitting" rather than just parenting? Do I realize the problem with that kind of thinking?

    If I am a man, do I find myself assuming that my female significant other will do the majority or all of the housework, regardless of whether or not both of us work outside the home or who works more hours?

    In order to make any sense of the world we live in, we must learn to relate to one another openly and honestly. We need to stop the cycle of hate and discrimination and sexism and violence and assumption and start working together for a better tomorrow.

    We need to be conscious of where we fall within the spectrum of our social order–some women and men are more or less sexist than others, some are more or less violent than others, some are more or less indoctrinated than others–but we are all part of this society, and we all have a duty to protect it, and nurture it, and make it the best it can be for all of us.

    In closing, here are some quick facts to help you figure out where you fall within the spectrum and how you honestly feel about these issues:

    There are 14 women currently serving in the United States Senate. There are 86 men currently serving. Female Senators make up 14% of the Senate.

    The United States population is almost evenly divided between the sexes–but one sex is vastly under-represented in the Senate.

    There are 67 women currently serving in the United States House of Representatives. There are 368 men currently serving in the House. Female Representatives make up 15.4% of the House.

    60% of women in relationships work outside the home. Women make up almost half of our nation’s workforce.

    But women make up only 2.7% of the highest earning bracket.

    57% of college students in the United States are women.

    One in five women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Every 2-5 minutes, a woman is raped somewhere in the United States. 90% of rape victims are women. Of the 10% who are male, 70% are raped by men.

    Almost one in three American women will be physically and/or sexually abused by a significant other in her lifetime. On average, three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends every single day in this country.

    Women are taxpayers, students, workers, mothers, lovers. We are being taxed without equal representation in our government, we are being penalized for over-achieving in our studies ("affirmative action" for men in college admissions is the new hot thing), we are still being paid less than our male counterparts for the same work and it takes a higher level of education for a woman to earn a decent living wage, we are still denied affordable childcare in most places, denied paid maternity leave (and paternity leave for that matter), and denied respect from society for the work many of us do inside the home. We are constantly objectified and denigrated by men, regardless of our personal actions, looks, or proclivities. We are taught from birth to loathe ourselves and our bodies, to hide those things which make us women, to constantly defer to men when making decisions...

    There are so many rungs on that ladder left to climb. As National Women’s History Month comes to an end, let us continue on in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill in the battle for a better tomorrow for our daughters and our mothers and our sisters and our lovers.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    America the Ignorant

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exorcise thereof, or abridging the freedom or speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Recognize this? If you do, sadly you are in the very tiny minority of US citizens who did. A recent released several weeks ago by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that less than 1 percent of adults who responded to a national poll could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America- freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and the right to petition the government.

    Not to despair however. With our infatuation with popular culture 52 percent of the respondents could name at least two characters in the Simpson television family and 20 percent could name all five. While half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, 54 percent could name at least one of the three judges on the television program “American Idol,” and a quarter could name all three.

    Americans know nothing about their constitutionally guaranteed rights. We are constitutionally illiterate. David Anderson, executive director of the museum noted that, “there was a depth of confusion that we weren’t expecting.” “I think people take their freedoms for granted.”

    Believe it or not it gets worse. Twenty one percent of the survey respondents said the First Amendment included the right to own a pet. Some 17 percent said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38 percent believed “taking the fifth” was part of the First Amendment.

    It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. We are in danger of losing our basic freedoms. The Constitution is being undermined and we are too ignorant to stop it. In a recent speech to corporate lawyers at Georgetown University, newly retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that the United States is in danger of edging toward authoritarian government or worse: A dictatorship.

    O’Connor specifically pointed to the barrage of criticism of the courts from the Republican right from people like scandal-ridden Tom Delay who after the courts refused to save Terry Schiavo’s life last March said, “ The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.” Delay later called for the impeachment of the judges involved in the Schiavo case.

    Theses attacks on the courts, O’Connor said,” pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedom. Statutes and constitutions do not protect judicial independence- people do.”
    An independent judiciary is essential to protect our freedom and individual rights from the potential tyranny of the other branches of government; otherwise those rights would amount to nothing.

    In the course of exercising this independence sometimes the courts must correct a president who tries to assume the mantle of a dictator such as our current imperial president or even strike down a congressional enactment. Of course, this sometimes more than upsets the politicians, but not exercising their constitutional right to do this would upset the checks and balances so vital to our democratic government.

    This balance is especially crucial now that we have a president who thinks he was elected king and who routinely attempts to subvert the Constitution and a congress who is helpless to stop him. In these times it is essential that we have a judiciary to check these abuses of power; otherwise there is nothing to stop us from slipping down the slope to a dictatorship. That is why O’Connor warned: “We must be ever vigilant against those who strong-arm the judiciary.”

    We live in perilous times. Some believe we may soon be forced to choose between freedom and security once and for all. But when Americans have little clue as to what those freedoms are, they choose from ignorance not knowledge and that ignorance may cost them the freedoms they take for granted. As Justice O’Connor concluded: “It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls to dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.” The beginnings are here and we are woefully unprepared to avoid the ends.

    David Goldberg

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Questions About the War on Terror

    The "War on Terror" is morphing into the "Long War" and the nation still has not had a rational discussion about who we are fighting and why.

    Frankly, it sickens me to hear supposedly intelligent people state that the "War on Terror" is worth fighting and that "terrorists" are an enemy who hate us unreasonably and therefore must all be killed.

    Knowing a bit about U.S. history, which shows that our leaders have used deception to rouse us to support military activities in the past, I am naturally skeptical when a new enemy is identified as a target.

    History also shows that our government has a record of military and covert activities that bring down political movements in other countries when those movements threaten corporate investments, control of resources, or profits.

    Castro was branded as a "Communist" but his real sin was that he closed Cuba off from American business interests that were exploiting Cuba with the help of a corrupt and brutal dictator, and impoverishing her people.

    Democratically elected leaders have been equally targeted when they dare to restrict corporate interests by returning land and resources for the improvement of their people or refusing to accept the trade treaties that allow for exploitation of labor and environment.

    Two such leaders were Dr. Mossandegh who was elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1951 and planned to nationalize oil which was operated by British Petroleum. Though BP was offered compensation, the British coordinated an economic embargo of Iran while the CIA organized a coup. The Shah replaced him and oil remained in the hands of BP.

    In Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz was elected by a landslide in free elections in 1951. In an attempt to modernize his country, he appropriated some unused land controlled by Rockefeller owned United Fruit (they were compensated). Arbenz was labeled a tool of the international Communist conspiracy and the CIA was sent in to undermine him. Arbenz was forced to flee in 1954 and was replaced by the CIA's chosen man, Gen. Armas.

    You may have noticed that Venezuelan President Chavez has been labeled a danger to American interests and has already suffered one covert attempt by the US to remove him from office. He has the crazy idea that the oil wealth of his country should pay for education, health and homes for his people.

    The evidence indicates that the actual agenda of our leaders who use the military tends not to be "advancing democracy" but securing control of resources for the benefit of corporate interests.

    With some of this history in mind then, we must look at the current situation stripped of fear and propaganda.

    Osama bin laden was blamed for 9/11 and we were told the "terrorists" hate us for our freedoms."

    There are two questions here.

    1. Where's the proof we were promised linking OBL to 9/11? The government has never delivered the promised "whitepaper" with the evidence of his guilt. In April of 2002 the FBI said they were unable to show a paper trail linking the hijackers to 9/11. As fans of CSI and other criminal justice shows, we should know better and demand the proof of their guilt.

    2. Question two is do they "hate us for our freedoms" or has our government been poking their hive when we weren't paying attention?

    In 1998 Osama bin Laden released a statement to the US in which he states that the people of the middle east were "offended" by the military presence of US troops on their territory and asked that they be removed. He also requested that the US stop interfering in their politics by supporting corrupt regimes that oppressed the people there. He requested the US to act as an honest broker to help resolve the Palestinian/Israeli problem. Her warned that if the US persisted in its presence and interference in their homelands, they would consider themselves to be at war with us. These statements did not seem to be rantings of hate but an effort to state a position in an attempt to resolve a problem.

    What did our "peace loving democratic government" do? They continued to transgress. If 9/11 was indeed the work of 19 hijackers, the facts show that the US had initiated the agression in their homeland and bears some responsibility for the "blowback" of those attacks.

    The attack on Afghanistan was as misguided as an attack on Oklahoma would have been following the bombing of the Murrah building, especially since guilt hadn"t been proven as to the perpetrators of 9/11.

    The unfounded attack on Iraq showed the true colors of the US government and its corporate allies which is the willingness to take by force resources that are not theirs.

    So why are we in a war on terror? Why is this to be a "long war?"

    Faced with the huge costs in blood and money that war engenders, we need to look at the facts and determine if waging this war is necessary and examine options for ending it.

    Are there "terrorists" out there? Yes, but they are not fighting "because they hate our freedoms," they are people, like ourselves, who object to the opressive presence of foreign military forces in their homeland. Lacking an official state military apparatus, they use whatever they can to resist that opression. What would we do if our nation was occupied by foreign troops and our government was in league with them? We would use every means at our disposal to fight them. I"m sure King George considered the resistance of the colonists to be acts of terrorism.

    I would also submit that using the power of our military to bomb the people of another nation is also an act of terrorism. Terrorism is defined as "to impose one's will by the use of force." Our use of military to impose our will, whether it's to force "democracy" on them or to "punish" them for resisting US control of their homelands and resources, has created more anger and resistance to the US. Our peace and security has been more threatened by this use of military force. They will never give up the fight to free their lands from us.

    A note here about suicide terrorism. Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has studied suicide terrorism for decades and has the largest body of information on that subject in the world. His findings show that "suicide terrorism" tends to be the result of foreign occupation of the territory the "terrorists" see as their homeland. Once the occupiers go home, the suicide terrorists tend not to follow them but stop their terrorist activities. A 1994 Defense Department study reported that the incidence of terrorism increases in proportion to US interference in foreign countries.

    Unless we are okay with the killing of thousands more on both sides, we should insist that our government stop behaving like a bully. Agressive behavior unchecked will lead inevitability to the use of nuclear weapons and that will damage an already fragile earth as well as causing horrific death and destruction. War is not the only option we have. We must recognize the part that the US has played in this whole scenario and move to alter the suicidal an unjust course we are on.

    The way to peace is obvious. Get out of their homelands and let them determine their own future. Make fair trade agreements to get the resources they have and we need. Stop threatening others with force to supress them while taking their resources.

    Here at home, our own "democracy" is under attack from corporations who are destroying and looting our environment, out sourcing jobs and buying off our leadership to get laws that favor them in place, and from a government that has let the infrastructure go to hell while diminishing our civil rights while leadership shares the power and profits their corporate allies accrue. Our tax dollars fund these nefarious activities leaving us with an 8 trillion dollar debt, which is the responsibility of each and every citizen . Who among us has the economic means to pay it off should our creditors call the debts in? Who has gotten all that tax money? I would only note that the oil companies, Halliburton, and those supplying the war, have reported record profits.

    The real enemy we face is those who use their positions of wealth and power to repress resistance to their immoral activities that steal peace and life from us all, here and abroad.

    Sue Dyer
    Guest Essayist

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    The Next Wave: Feminism in the 21st Century, Part III

    The Next Wave: Feminism in the 21st Century, Part III

    I am watching If These Walls Could Talk (I've seen it before, but I just bought a copy and am watching it for the first time in a few years), and I am having a very strong reaction to it, unlike I have in the past.

    When I first saw it, I responded emotionally, but the conclusion that I came to in the end was that we (women) absolutely deserve the RIGHT to an abortion.

    Tonight, I started crying so hard (on the third story, the one I can most relate to, mostly because of her age) that it hurt. I was lying on my living room floor sobbing so hard I thought I was going to vomit...

    Add to this the reading I have been doing lately, and I am having a really hard time figuring out how I feel.

    In my tear-stained haze, this is the best I can do to describe how I am thinking right now... I am so angry.

    I am so angry that any woman in the history of the world has had to choose to have an abortion.

    I am so angry that I have been told my entire life that I am not good enough, that my body is nothing but a source of shame and filth, something that must be hidden and deodorized and kept discreet and "fresh"...

    I am so angry that when I was pregnant with my daughter, I hid it every day for 8 months because I didn't want to hear the inevitable bullshit that I would have from other people as a 22-year old unwed mother-to-be.

    I am so angry that I felt the need to even consider having an abortion when I found out that I was pregnant because I didn't think that the society I live in would accept me if I had a baby while I was still in college.

    I am so angry that I felt the need to run from my car to Hollywood Video last night because I have to live in fear every single day and night that I will be raped simply because I am a woman.

    I am so angry that we women allow this to continue.

    I am not angry that men let it continue. I am angry that they do not fully understand, but it is not for them to give me power. My power comes from me. My power comes from the generations upon generations upon generations of women who have come before me, and from the generations to come after I am gone.

    Our power should come from a feeling of community. Women standing together shoulder to shoulder, reclaiming the respect and dignity that we deserve.

    We vowed to "take back the night" but we never took a good long look at the big picture. We need to take back our lives. We need to take back what it means to be a woman, and stop letting society and government and corporations tell us what it means to be a woman, how to be a woman, how to do it right...

    I am so angry, so angry...

    What I don't understand is, why doesn't everyone care? Sometimes it feels like... why doesn't anyone care?

    (To be continued...)

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    "... And the Wisdom to Know the Difference"

    Since I was old enough to distinguish between propaganda and history (fifth grade, I guess), I have been aware of a serious problem abroad in our land. For quite a while I did not have a name for it, so (like most) I just watched. Americans are a mixed bag anyway, a polyglotinous people with somewhere between zero and one half the necessary amount of cultural cohesion necessary to keep things civil. We all recognize this melting pot problem in one way or another, and over the years we seem to have come up with a solution resonant to our traditions of strong-willed religiosity and equally adamant agnosticism and secularism. Americans have been carefully taught to believe they are a transformed people on a special/holy mission in the world. The late 19th century and early 20th century writers spoke often of the American "City on the Hill." Some of us have this as a secular creed, others take it straight.

    The public notion that America is somehow special in the eyes of God and that our democracy guarantees our righteousness glues us together—civilizes us—in ways that are generally harmless, cosmically inconsequential, and may even be winked at from time to time. Like Oktoberfest or running the bulls in Pamplona we have our ways of enjoying at least a simulacrum of brotherhood. In the best of times our public righteousness is a bit like the singing of hymns in church—loud, flat, parochial, but comfortable and congealing. In times of national emergency, though, and during periods where we must pull more or less together in the same direction to achieve common aims the tail begins to wag the dog. The naïve simplicity of our mythos easily unravels. In relatively short order tempers rise and murky assumptions are laid bare and the claims made on these assumptions are found to be scandalously wanting. But, although you might easily think otherwise, the propaganda continues its drunken stupor despite the cognitive dissonance, sometimes without the slightest hint of irony, but sometimes (as now) with rendingly divisive clarity. Some get the idea that we need better assumptions, but many (even an majority sometimes) hold on to verities for dear life. Both Right and Left are afflicted with mythophilia. Assumptions are among the least manageable of human artifacts.

    One of the extra problems in America with assumptions is its incredible deficit in critical thinking. Assumptions are tacit and often completely embroiled with emotion and various kinds of fears and dismays. They do not respond to the kind of cool analysis we use in business or academe. Accordingly, Americans are ever hesitant to fool around with their own assumptions or even those of others. Nevertheless, it is possible with patience and skill to follow arguments down to their assumptions and to actually inspect these quivering nodules of belief. We can, but we do not often do it. It can be painful and disorienting. It often leads to confusion and embarrassment. Too often it leads us to our outlandishly childish notions about the world, usually perpetrated on us by organized religion (ever since the famously illiterate Dark Ages) to keep a restive and violent population in check.

    Critical thinking is in deficit wherever you go across this country. In colleges and universities all across the land, academics try to stimulate televisioneered students to think outside the bun, but it is very difficult to get someone to give up the comfort of their assumptions and try on new ideas. In fact, there is now a feeling prevalent in America that if one were to just hold an idea long enough and strong enough it will come true, regardless of its relationship to facts and reality. This is an artifact of the Boom Generation whose cohort hubris developed more or less innocently as fabled hordes of Boomers encountered one societal institution after another as they grew up and moved out into society. They transformed public education, then universities, then the institution of marriage, and finally politics. They transformed these institutions by the sheer weight of their numbers, not the truth of their arguments. Sexual mores changed. Political verities were shattered. It took about a generation for Boomers to understand what power they in their numbers had, but with each success they mistook the weight of opinion and wishful thinking for the quality of thought.

    Neocons, not surprisingly, are a phenomenon of the Boom Generation. Of course not all Boomers are neocons, but the vast majority of neocons are either Boomers or early cohort X-Generation folk. They believe their notions about Americanism and market forces, and subconsciously they have trained themselves to believe that it does not make any difference whether there are little faults in their logic or facts; the ponderous weight of their beliefs will change the world and American hegemony will be accepted. American hegemony comes with a massive dose of the self-delusory American propaganda upon which we suckle and to which we toss back a Miller or Bud.

    Prominent among the neocons there are people who would best be described as "market fundamentalists." Market forces are almost as real as the force of gravity, of course. One can demonstrate endlessly that not only do supply and demand curves describe the probable human behavior in a goods and services market, but that there are almost endless ways of modulating these behaviors with advertising and price, creating other curves, careers, and eventually in our own era, public policy. Market fundamentalists take the truth of market economics and declare it to be the only reliable truth, the inexorable nexus of man and his environment, even of man's relationship to man!

    Detroit and now Big Pharma claim to have relied on the market for decades, but in truth both are addicted to government contracts and governmental suppression of competition and public policies designed to relieve corporations of the liabilities they create. Automobile manufacturers got government to ditch railroads and instead build huge highways systems, an unmistakable promotion of petrovehicles. Big pharma is going one step further and getting government to promote the prescription of drugs where disease is a matter of strenuously debated opinion, such as teenage "depression." Tell me, have you ever seen a normal teenager? All of this is being accomplished right under our liberal noses in a program called Teen Screen. What industry promotes and lobbys for one day becomes their addiction the next. These corporate addictions are almost invisible to the citizenry because, like our holy mission, the progress of commerce is seen as the progress of America. It is a densely packed tissue of assumptions and not easily discussed over beers.

    But now the piper must be paid for the suppression of the awful fact that American products are too often inferior despite the Greek chorus of propaganda to the contrary. The fundamentalist market analysis curves describing the situation at Ford and GM are now deployed against the very people who labored to make something of these enterprises. There were massive layoffs and now this week the offer of payoffs to employees to leave the employment rolls and their careers. You could blame globalism, but the real problem is that stockholders and management have been living in a dream world.

    There are no curves defining culpable negligence. In fact, there are no curves describing social contexts, ethics, interpersonal relationships, healthy behaviors, and virtually anything that is not bought and sold. But, market fundamentalism is just exactly that—an unwarranted transference and reliance on a simple confined truths applicable to simple economic relationships, but worthless as worldviews and worse than worthless as a political doctrines.

    A good example of what foolishness can result from a slavish reliance on market forces is the state of the American patent system. What has happened is the result of the notion that individuals in a marketplace are the only discernible interested parties. Lost is the notion that society itself provides the context and that society's interests must be protected. It is utter madness to allow a patent on a life form or on the genes describing some part of it. But this is a consequence of market fundamentalism. If you are counting, we have been marching to this drummer for a quarter of a century now.

    The unholy alliance of American Righteousness and Libertarian market fundamentalism reduces everything to simplistic, often dichotomous terms. You are either with us or you are against us ... and if you reject my hegemony you are rejecting my assumptions about life and the world, (never mind that I am not completely sure what those assumptions really are). You are either buying or selling. Your life is a market in which you buy yourself position and influence with resources you receive from selling yourself as labor. (Sounds familiar doesn't it!) There are no "situational ethics" in this; nothing is relative; there is only one context—the market. There are only absolutes: the market and Holy America, producing American hegemony and its fundamental power in the world market.

    Or maybe not. We will see when the soon-to-arrive downturn buries us in an economic depression so dire that even Pat Robertson's manic God will not find us in the ruins of our Republic.

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Front Page

    It is not a good idea to read just liberal and progressive commentary all the time. We don't generally provide you with stuff from the opposition, but we do occasionally. Here is a website you need to visit once or twice a week for a few minutes. Horowitz is one of the really bad guys out there, so you need to see him in action.



  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Carefully Taught

    You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You've got to be taught from year to year,
    It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught to be afraid,
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    Or people whose skin is a different shade
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught before it's too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught!
    You've for to be carefully taught.

    "Carefully Taught"
    Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

    I was quite young when I went to see the stage production of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. I was enthralled as only a young girl could be sitting in the darkened theatre and watching scenes of the South Pacific unfold, hearing the wonderful music of Rodgers & Hammerstein. "Some Enchanted Evening" is undoubtedly the signature song of South Pacific, but the song that stood out to me, and has all these years since, is "Carefully Taught."

    Could it be that song had an impact on me because I felt I was being taught to think in that vein? Not at all. I cannot ever recall hearing negatives about any others from my parents. Therefore I must have realized just what could happen when one is exposed to that sort of thinking on a daily basis. I was not totally naive. I was a child of the 50's and was very aware of the separation of blacks and whites in the south.

    This past week has brought more pictures of doom and gloom out of Iraq. Bloodied bodies, cratered ground and destroyed buildings, screaming, terrified children. What on earth has given us the right to rain all this destruction and terror down on little heads? Any heads? Just take a quick glance back at the words to the song. Obviously we have been carefully taught and have passed those lessons along to those whom we would have "protect" us. In every interview with the troops, I have seen, there is an undercurrent of mistrust, hatred, loathing perhaps of those who are "not like us". Their culture is mocked, their religion and holy men vilified. their traditions trampled. And lest someone think that I am not in support of our troops because of these comments, it is not so. I can feel perfectly at peace with my decision to support our young men and women in the military but not support the war.

    On two different occasions, I have heard much made of the fact that it is impolite to shake hands with an Iraqi female. For some reason this is just beyond the available brain cells, of those who discuss this hand shaking issue, to comprehend. Are they aware that this same social taboo is alive and well in the orthodox Jewish community? It is simply considered impolite for a man to touch a female to whom he is not related. It seems to me that I have been preaching that lesson to my children forever and that we have fought long and hard to end sexual harassment in the workplace. The T&A water cooler group are not thrilled. After all, in the end, it all boils down to good touch / bad touch.

    Then the faces of the children in total shock, whether fleeing the munitions or simply being herded, at gunpoint, out of their home because it might be harboring a "terrorist." What lessons are they learning from this activity? Of course you say, it is war, and ain't it a shame ... tsk tsk, but one has to expect it, doesn't one? This is what happens ... collateral damage and all that. PTSD will be the rule rather than the exception, for generations to come, and hatred and resentment will continue to seethe just under the surface.

    I am angry that any country, but most especially mine, could treat the mothers and children of another, so callously. I am doubly angry because all of this, ALL of it, was done, not for some nobler goal, but simply to feed the greed of our President and his couterie of hangers on, who apparently do believe that the camel will fit through the eye of the needle. When Helen Thomas bluntly asked Bush yesterday why he felt the need to go to war I thought he might have apoplexy, but he skirted the question, in true Bush form, and of course we could not have expected to hear the truth anyway. You know it and I know it but he will never admit it. Instead he remarked as how he would not do this to our young people if he felt there was any other way. Any other way for what? He certainly did rush to war. To fight terrorism? A global threat that the US could not possibly ever defeat in it's entirety.

    In the meantime, those lessons of hatred and fear which so many of our young people have already been privy to, are being put to good use in a country where the mode of dress is different, the language is different, the skin color is different, the belief in a higher being is different, and unfortunately, these differences are focused on by the higher ups from whom these young people take their orders. No need to worry about the Stockholm Syndrome taking over.

    Surrounded here, as I am, with several generations, I will try my best to see that these children, at least, are carefully taught. Not the lessons the Rodgers and Hammerstein's song would have you learn, but compassion, respect for others their cultures and differences and, most importantly, that hatred, fear and war are harmful for children and other living things.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    What is Government Afraid Of?

    Over the last few years the information flow between the government and the public has become increasingly difficult if not impossible. When voters and taxpayers seek access to government information, they are often in for a tortuous ordeal or outright disappointment. When information from federal officials is voluntarily shared it often has the ripe odor of politics accompanying it.

    Increasingly voters and taxpayers want more access to government information because more and more they distrust, with good reason, the "official "version of events and government actions. If you doubt me just look at the lies we have been told about the Iraq invasion, Katrina, 9-11 etc. Requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act have increased by 23 percent. Interestingly, the there is only a 1 in 3 chance that those rquests will produce a useful response. Court challenges for rejections have even a lower chance of being successful: 3 in 100.

    Worse yet, agencies often don't respond within the legislatively required 20 days, with some requests taking years to fill. The backlog of FOIA requests has grown by 15 percent and there is every reason to believe this will only get worse post 9-11 since officials have increasingly used this as an excuse for delay and denial.

    With the Bush administration government secrecy has taken on the mantra of the norm. Barriers have been erected to the flow of information to the public in the form of a new classification called "sensitive but unclassified information" (SBU) which in practice translates into withholding the information. Currently, SBU has more than 50 terms and at least as many definitions. Under this classification massive amounts of information which the public has the right to know, have been denied to legitimate requesters.

    Simultaneously, federal officials have been manufacturing secrets at the record pace of more than 15 million a year. Under the Bush administration, the number of officials authorized to classify documents "top secret" has grown from 20 to 1,300. Secrets for secrets sake has become the norm rather than the exception. For the last seven years representatives of the intelligence agencies have been assigned to the National Archives to reclassify over 55,000 pages of previously released documents some of which date back to WW II. Little of this information has anything to do with national security but everything to do with trying to hide embarrassing mistakes. Excessive and reflexive secrecy doesn't make us safer; only democratically dysfunctional.

    How do we fix this? Not by appointed or elected leaders; they are the problem not the solution. They have no incentive to loosen their grip on the information we get, and every incentive to continue if not increase this subversive policy. It is subversive because a successful democracy assumes the free and unfettered flow of truthful information between the electorate and the elected.

    It therefore falls to us the citizens to demand that our leaders be open and truthful with us. Too often lately we have been content to be an unequal partner in this arena. We prefer to trust rather than verify, to accept less freedom in the name of national security. As long as this attitude exists, we will continue to have this unequal relationship which is both dangerous and destructive for all of us.

    David Goldberg

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    The End of Civilization

    This article by David Eriqat deserves your attention if for no other reason than it represents a genre of such ideas that appear in times like these. What time is it, you ask? We are stumbling through a major change in the world. The Bushites were correct. They have made history, albeit it for others to write. They, like Batu Khan and Tamerlane, have lain waste to the world, now we have to decide how to put it back in order.


    Saturday, March 18, 2006


    Two articles this morning to catch you up on the week's best statements of angst.

    First, Molly Ivins holds forth on the DC Dems, a column that will be talked about for a while.

    Then, a report on the speech given by Sandra Day O'Connor at Georgetown University.


    Friday, March 17, 2006


    Senator Russ Feingold, whose reflexes have been approaching admirable up until now, has missed the point. Yes, we want to get rid of George Bush and Dick Cheney; yes, we want to impeach them and convict them, and some even want to incarcerate them for war crimes and malicious invasion of privacy. We all know, though, that the number of votes necessary to approve Articles of Impeachment are just not there. There are 231 Republicans and 201 Democrats in the House of Representatives, and allowing for some of the more conservative Democrats to drag their feet on what would seem to be an open and shut case of high crimes and misdemeanors, the negative margin of 30 could get larger. Even if a few Republicans unaccountably abandoned their party line and stood up for the things they swore in their oaths, the vote would come up short.

    The Republicans are showing strong signs of disaffection with Bush, but voting impeachment would be tantamount to political suicide, given that Republicans have been so defensively vocal about the WMD and Hussein, the Iraq war, torture, domestic spying, Katrina relief, etc.

    Why then would Feingold assume that anyone, Republican or Democrat would support a Resolution of Censure in the Senate? Isn't that putting the Senate cart before the House horse? Doesn't it needlessly insult the House and bring on a clamoring rabble of Republicans to urge their Senate brothers to hold the party line? In fact, it seems that Feingold has played into Republican hands and created a war-dance within their base.

    A Resolution of Censure is, of course, a half-way measure, a knuckle rapping, a Bronx cheer, but nothing more. It would not rid us Bush or Cheney, but it would have the effect of making a real attempt at impeachment next year (if the votes become available) next to impossible. It would seem like double-jeopardy among even thoughtful citizens, and the corporate press would surely hop on that wagon immediately. Censure just is a very bad idea no matter how you look at it.

    Feingold should have played this game better. He does not have a rabid constitency, and if he was trying to whip one up with Censure, then he has a strange sense of proportion. Feingold has isolated himself (again), but this time it will not work to improve his image or appeal. He will be seen as a loner, a misjudger, and by no means astute enough to mount a campaign for President (or Vice President).

    The Democrats have to forebear during 2006 no matter how excruciating that may be. It is not cowering in fear or indecision. It is Realpolitik! Democrats have to push the Culture of Corruption theme, which should not be difficult, for given a month to play with Bush and his pals seem to find 30 ways to shoot up the place and make a mess of things. For instance, Bush could have retrieved the Dubai/ports issue and made all the ranters and ravers eat crow, but instead he fumbled this ball too, and as a result he and we (as a nation) have alienated even more Arabs, including those who have been acting toward us in favorable ways.

    Democrats may look weak to the impatient because they are not jumping up and down for impeachment in the winter before the fall elections. If you can read calendars you can see that there are ten long months during which bringing up the impeachment to the voters is an educational mission only. Instead, this is the time to tune up the rhetoric on the Republican Culture of Corruption. Woe betide any Democrat that gets caught in this mangle, though. Voters, in most precincts, really dislike being fooled by corrupt politicians. There are exceptions, of course, but as a general bit of Political Science, corruption is a winner issue for those out of office. That is the mantra and that is what can be done. What cannot be done is not moral weakness, cowardice, or cowering; it is real, factual, objective electoral weakness. The Democrats just do not have the votes! ... And the Republicans have forgotten their oaths of office.

    It should be said that the press and the new press have a significant role to play in this waiting game. Everyone knows that the principal pundits and columnists make a living from their daily analyses of the political world. They have monthly mortgage payments and bills and kids in college, too, so they have to meter out their comments over the long weeks and months until political change can be effected. In the overall picture this means that some one of them has to have impeachment on his lips every week, but it does not mean that every columnist or bloggist has to be ranting into a lather from now until January 2007 when the next Congress convenes. The idea of impeachment must be kept in the public awareness, but not on the front page.

    Each new gaff by the Bush Administration deserves a goose in rhetoric about impeachment, but it must subside into vote-savvy forebearance on the Hill. Rep. Conyers can and should continue his efforts. He has had the courage to rally to the idea of actually impeaching Bush, he is moving with "all deliberate speed" on the issue, and with some acute, intelligent timing his efforts can be made to bear fruit in the correct season. Meanwhile, folks, understand that we must fight for civil rights at every turn, for Bush and Cheney will mistake this electoral weakness we now have for permission. They care not a scrap for the Constitution and will do what they can to unbalance the table for November 2006 and for 2008.

    James Richard Brett

    Bombs Away

    Crossposted from MY LEFT WING

    We have been told repeatedly that the United States is a "Christian nation," founded on "Christian principles."

      We have been told repeatedly that George W. Bush is a "man of faith," a "born-again Christian."

    In other words, under orders from a self-styled Christian head of state, the world's most powerful "Christian nation" just started a "massive air assault" on Iraq. DROPPING BOMBS is how I understand that phrase. Apparently it MIGHT not mean that.

    The "Christian" head of a "Christian" state has authorised a week of a war consisting of MASSIVE, systematic terrorising, disfigurement, dismemberment and murder of human beings... with bombs.

    This week's rationale:" root out insurgents near a town where recent violence raised fears of civil war."

    Praise Jesus, the missiles are flying, Hallelujah.

    You know how the Fox News types chortle when one of their guests says, "Islam is a religion of peace?"

    I wonder how the average Iraqi feels when she hears someone say, "Christianity is a religion of peace."

    Someone please explain to me how going to war, shooting families in cars, bombing entire cities, blasting the limbs off of children, and creating an entire generation of war orphans has ANYTHING to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    You want to call yourself a Christian? Swell. BEHAVE like a Christian. You want to call yourself "pro-life" and mourn all the unborn children who never had a chance to live? Take a moment to consider all the pregnant women who've been killed in Iraq. Or, say, how about all those children who did have a chance to live... before we bombed them into oblivion.

    These are the words of Jesus Christ:

    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul."

    "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

    "Tend to my sheep."

    "Blessed are the merciful."

    "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

    "Forgive seventy times seven."

    "Blessed are the peacemakers."

    "Whatever you have done to little children you have done to me."

    "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

    "You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."

    Then they came up and laid hands upon Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head."

    Now, I know that many Christians have no use for other religions; these are shortsighted and ignorant people. Christians who truly practice the teachings of Jesus Christ are well aware that many religions preach the same basic precepts:

    Let there be no injury and no requital.

    -    Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 32

    One should choose to be among the persecuted, rather than the persecutors.

    -    Judaism. Talmud, Baba Kamma 93a

    Victory breeds hatred, for the defeated live in pain. Happily live the peaceful, giving up victory and defeat.

    - Buddhism. Dhammapada 201

    Chi K'ang-tzu asked Confucius about government, saying, "Suppose I were to slay those who have not the Way in order to help those who have the Way, what would you think of it?" Confucius replied saying, "You are there to rule, not to slay. If you desire what is good, the people will at once be good."
    - Confucianism. Analects 12.19

    Those who beat you with fists,

    Do not pay them in the same coin,

    But go to their house and kiss their feet.

    - Sikhism. Adi Granth, Shalok, Farid, p. 1378

    In wars to gain land, the dead fill the plains; in wars to gain cities, the dead fill the cities. This is known as showing the land the way to devour human flesh. Death is too light a punishment for such men who wage war. Hence those skilled in war should suffer the most severe punishments.

    -    Confucianism. Mencius IV.A.14

    There is nothing I can say or do to make this stop. These are not men of peace, these are not men of Christ or men of faith.

    These are warmongers who use the words of faith to pacify the masses while they use bombs and money to secure for themselves more and more of the power they seek.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Chicken Soup in Every Pot

    I am sure that the now long deceased President Herbert Hoover would allow me to shift the words of his campaign slogan, "a chicken in every pot", with those I have chosen above. Of course Hoover was looking for an upturn in the disastrous Depression, while I am thinking along the lines of affordable medical coverage for every man, woman and child in this country. And, wouldn't it be lovely if what has affectionately become known as 'Jewish Penicillin' were the easiest way to get that coverage? Is anything in this life that easy?

    This topic had been on my back burners for some time, but the recent addition to our family, of a premature grandson, has swung me right back to the subject of affordable health care. We currently, in this country, have a medical community dominated by a bottom line profit industry, The Insurance Companies. Dr.'s do not practice their art so much anymore but rather have offices filled with workers whose sole purpose it is to sort through the myriad reams of health insurance paper work. God help you, should you have to file a claim for some of this insurance which you have faithfully ( and perhaps your employer as well) paid monthly and dearly for, you have embarked on the road to hell.

    Several years ago my daughter needed to have her tonsils removed. This used to be a relatively straight forward proposition. Tonsils became infected, they were removed. There was even a group rate, should you have more than one child. Get them all done at once and no need to worry about those nasty old tonsils again. And I am sure that we have all been regaled with stories of those whose tonsilectomies involved the kitchen table as operating room theatre!

    But when the question of a tonsilectomy came up for my daughter, this was the pas de deux in the hospital corridor with my daughter's Dr.:

    "The tonsils need to be removed, otherwise she will continue to have the sore throats, neck swelling and fevers." says he.
    "If that is what needs to be done then we will do it", said I.
    "Well good luck getting it done!" said he
    "And why is that?" I inquired.
    "Because", said he, "it seems the insurance companies felt Dr.'s did for the money and they don't want to pay for it anymore."
    Bottom line, the tonsils were removed, but not before I had to take my daughter to see the insurance company Dr. and at which visit I also watched him overcharge the insurance company for the very cursory exam he gave her. My first eye opener there!

    I have to admit that I had an unfair advantage growing up. As the daughter of a doctor I did not have to worry about medical care and I had the great advantage of watching my dad, a warm, compassionate man, practice medicine. Do not misunderstand me, we had a very comfortable lifestyle, and yet, money in and of itself was not the motivating feature. Dad participated in a very healthy barter system as well and he gave free care in abundance. It took him until the 1960's to raise his office prices from were they had been set back in the 1930's, and he did it reluctantly. But, at that point he had started to see the handwriting on the wall with the insurance companies. He was close to retiring, he no longer performed surgery, and with nary a blemish on his medical career, his malpractice insurance was going through the roof.

    Today we have our grandson who has already had more money spent on medical care , at the tender age of 7 weeks, than any of us would generally spend in a lifetime. The last bill his parents received was $40,000.00 for the care he has received in the NICU of our local hospital. His mother's bill, for less than a week has come to $17,000.00. Call me crazy but I believe this is outrageous. Consider as well, that most people will not have the sort of "catastrophic coverage" that one would need in a situation such as this; my grandson's parents do not. And they do not have it by choice, but because it is cost prohibitive for them. Private insurance would cost them at least 1200 per month and, though he makes excellent money, my son is part of a two man team so employer supported insurance is out of the question as well.

    So how is the medical service paid for? Who foots the bill? We all do. Any of us who work and pay taxes to the state or federal government. But, we do not want any sort of universal health care? Even for all of us who pay into an insurance program, catastrophic illness could be our undoing. If we pay a partial premium into a state held insurance program, we risk losing that coverage if our incomes increase by even a dollar. The governor of my state, yesterday, stated that he is looking at ways in which all residents will be able to have health insurance coverage. I sincerely hope he finds a plan. We must do something and soon.

    Perhaps Hillary's plan was too bold, not bold enough, or just shut down because of the one proposing it. But we so need to do something with the medical community where costs rise and treatments and time spent by physicians, with patients, dwindles. I am certainly in favor of a situation where Insurance companies are not eligible as investments on the New York Stock Exchange.

    I am off to make some chicken soup for supper. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    The Next Wave: Feminism in the 21st Century, Parts I & II

    Part I
    Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Historical Overview of the Fight for Equal Rights

    In July of 1848, a group of American women and men gathered at Seneca Falls, N.Y., to discuss the legal limitations imposed on American women at the time. They issued a statement known as the Declaration of Sentiments, which, like many other revolutionary documents in American history, draws directly on the Declaration of Independence. Their Declaration begins:

    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    Today, the changes they made to the original Declaration of Independence may seem small and insignificant, but at this time in history, women could not vote, could not hold elected office, could not independently own or inherit property if married, had no protection against domestic violence, had no right to demand divorce or retain custody of children after the dissolution of a marriage, had to pay taxes without representation, were barred from attending a college or university, had few opportunities for gainful employment outside of the home, were required to be subordinate in the church as well as in the home and the public sphere, and were generally treated as chattel–no better than animals kept on a farm for breeding purposes.

    From this, our society has certainly come far.

    In 1920, as a result of decades of hard work by several generations of American women and men, American women finally won the right to take part in our electoral process through the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. One year later, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (which later evolved into Planned Parenthood, in 1942). At this point in US history, birth control was illegal.

    While there is evidence that Sanger herself was sympathetic to some aspects of the extremely popular eugenics movement of the early-to-mid 20th century, it is also important to note that the science of the time was considerably limited when it came to hereditary illnesses and that Sanger was aggressively opposed to eugenics based on racial bias. In a letter to philanthropist Albert Lasker in 1942, Sanger wrote:

    I think it is magnificent that we are in on the ground floor, helping Negroes to control their birth rate, to reduce their high infant and maternal death rate, to maintain better standards of health and living for those already born, and to create better opportunities for those who will be born.

    Anti-abortion rights activists and commentators frequently point out Sanger’s faults, while patently ignoring her contributions to the feminist movement in the United States. It is worth mentioning that several of Sanger’s positions are considered out of line with Planned Parenthood’s mission. These include incentives for the voluntary hospitalization and/or sterilization of people with untreatable, disabling, hereditary conditions, the adoption and enforcement of stringent regulations to prevent the immigration of the diseased and “feebleminded” into the United States, and the placing of so-called illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope-fiends on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening of moral conduct (personally, I would argue that the United States penal system has realized this particular goal). PPFA offers the following statement on Sanger, to respond to allegations that its true mission includes some of Sanger’s less savory positions:

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America finds these views objectionable and outmoded. Nevertheless, anti-family planning activists continue to attack Sanger, who has been dead for nearly 40 years, because she is an easier target than the unassailable reputation of PPFA and the contemporary family planning movement. However, attempts to discredit the family planning movement because its early 20th-century founder was not a perfect model of early 21st-century values I like disavowing the Declaration of Independence because its author, Thomas Jefferson, bought and sold slaves.

    Most of the negative information that has been circulated about Sanger has been debunked, and what remains is a reflection of the common thought-patterns of the age in which she lived. Her contributions to the betterment of American women’s lives, on the other hand, are still very much alive. Thanks to the work of Sanger and her contemporaries, information about birth control became legally available in 1936 and the birth control pill was finally approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960, freeing millions of American women from dangerous numbers of pregnancies and in some cases, pregnancy altogether.

    The 1960s and 70s are the era of feminism that most women of my generation are most familiar with. But in reality, most of us are not well-educated about what women were fighting for during this period in our history, aside from the obvious desire to work outside the home and gain some measure of fulfillment in life beyond being a wife and a mother.

    In 1961, then President John F. Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. He appointed former first lady Eleanore Roosevelt as chairwoman. The Commission released its report in 1963, calling for improvement of the substantial workplace discrimination against women it had observed, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable childcare. To date, these recommendations have not been fully realized.

    1963 was also the year Betty Friedan’s revolutionary book The Feminine Mystique hit the shelves. In it, she explored the dissatisfaction of middle-class housewives. Three years later, she helped found the National Organization for Women, which is still the largest and most influential women’s rights groups in the country.

    Over the remainder of the 1960s, the fight crawled slowly forward, making dents in gender discrimination in employment, continuing to fight for the right of American women to have legal access to birth control, striking down segregated help wanted ads in newspapers, winning the right to divorce by “mutual consent” in California which spread to every state in the nation by 1985, and getting the states to pass laws regarding the equal division of common property.

    Ms. Magazine, an icon of the modern feminist movement, was launched in 1971. It remains a significant outlet of the feminist movement. However, one year later, the movement was dealt a stunning setback–the Equal Rights Amendment (originally drafted in 1923 by Alice Paul), which was finally passed (by a margin of 354-24 in the House and 84-8 in the Senate), after 49 years of consistent defeat in every session of Congress, was sent to the states for ratification. It remained in limbo for ten years, until in 1982 it was officially considered dead, as it had failed to achieve ratification by the minimum of 38 states. It has been reintroduced into every session of Congress since and has remained buried in committee.

    The 1970s saw continued success in the fight against workplace discrimination, including discrimination against pregnant women, Congress passed Title IX barring discrimination on the basis of gender in schools, the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, and the first marital rape law was enacted in Nebraska in 1976 making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

    The “modern” feminist movement started to decline in the 1980s. The ERA died in the states, and few strides were made by women’s rights advocates. Among those that were successful were the establishment of EMILY’s List, a financial network for pro-choice Democratic women running for national political office, and the Supreme Court decision in the case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson which found that sexual harassment was a form of job discrimination.

    The decline continued in the 1990s. A second abortion-related Supreme Court case, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, reaffirmed the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and overturned Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act of 1989, and The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 strengthened federal penalties on sex offenders, providing funding for services to rape and domestic violence victims, and provided for special training for police officers.

    Enter the 21st century. The ERA is still on the table, abortion rights are being chipped away at slowly but surely (and many believe that contraception will be the next step for anti-family planning activists), women still hold only about 15% of all national elected political offices while we make up over 50% of the national population, one in six American women will be the victim of a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, paid maternity leave is still a rarity, and many American women do not yet have access to affordable quality childcare. Simultaneously, some men are starting to wake up to the fact that they too have been forced into certain roles and stereotypes by our patriarchal culture, and are beginning to fight back.


    Part II
    Rape and What We Can Do About It

    Due to the egregious abortion ban recently signed into law in South Dakota, which does not allow for legal abortions in cases of rape and incest, discussions of rape and its prevalence in our society, as well as its effects, have increased almost exponentially with each day that passes. (For the record, I agree that this lack of exception is wrong, but also believe that any law restricting a woman’s access to a safe and legal abortion is a violation of existing law and of basic human decency.) Rape is the proverbial “elephant in the room” when it comes to gender relations in the United States–the public doesn’t know how to handle it, and neither do victims.

    In order to fully discuss what Women’s History Month is all about, it is necessary, if uncomfortable, to discuss the one crime that has had the most catastrophic effect on women in the United States, and all over the world. Since the beginning of our recorded history, men have used rape and the threat of rape to control and subjugate women.

    Historically, rape has been considered, in most cultures, a crime against the victim’s husband or father, rather than against the victim herself. The crime of rape was usually punished with a monetary fine, paid to the male who “owned” the female victim. Another common “punishment” would force the rapist to marry the victim, in order to restore honor to her family. Over time, this has changed in most of the Western world, but the cultural connotations remain in much of the world, including the West.

    Rape is generally defined as sexual intercourse with a woman by a man without her consent and chiefly by force or deception. This definition has broadened in recent years to include other instances of sexual assault other than those perpetrated by a man against a woman, but the vast majority of rapes fit the old definition. While both genders are susceptible, 90% of all rape victims in the United States are women. In addition to this, while male victims make up the remaining 10%, the majority of the perpetrators of those rapes are men. Types of rape include stranger rape (when the rapist is unknown to the victim), acquaintance rape (when the rapist is known, but only in passing), date rape (when the rapist is dating the victim or has been on a date with the victim, but is not the serious partner of the victim), multiple rape (when multiple rapists attack one woman, together), and marital rape (when the rapist is the victim’s husband or intimate partner). While the law makes these distinctions, it is important to keep in mind that rape is rape, regardless of how well the victim knows the perpetrator.

    It is vital to remember that rape is an act of violence that uses sex as a weapon, not a sex act, and this distinction is central to any serious discussion of the prevalence of rape in our culture. Rape is about control, domination, humiliation, and degradation–not sex. Because control and domination of women by men is integral to any patriarchal system of social order, it stands to reason that men, through their own indoctrination by our patriarchal culture, have been trained to see women as property, or as somehow less than human or less than themselves, and that all men who have been raised this way have the capacity to rape. They have the capacity to commit this crime because they have been taught to view women as subordinate, and rape is a very effective tool for demeaning a woman and destroying her sense of self, effectively shutting down her capacity for self-governance. While it is certainly true that most men do not rape, and that many men oppose patriarchal social structure, it is also true that not enough male Americans have joined feminist activists in working to end rape, once and for all, in this country.

    Many men become defensive when confronted with this information. This is understandable, as most men are decent, honorable human beings who have no desire to abuse women or anyone else. However, this defensive behavior is counter-productive to the goal of changing our culture for the better–for women, and for men.

    It is time for an honest discussion in this country about the social conditions that allow rape to flourish and how we can change this country so American women do not have to live with constant fear. One in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. One American woman is raped every three to eight minutes (this statistic has been computed by RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, using numbers compiled by the US Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey for 2003-2004). 90% of all rape victims are women. Of these, approximately 40% are under the age of 18, and 80% are under the age of 30. These statistics are based on limited resources, as less than half of all rapes committed in the United States are reported to the authorities.

    While you are reading this, a woman is being raped somewhere in the United States.

    In 1992, Congress decided what kind of crime constituted a hate crime. They declared a hate crime as a crime in which “the defendant’s conduct was motivated by hatred, bias, or prejudice, based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity of another individual or group of individuals” (HR 4797). Disabled persons were added to the list in 1994 by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

    Putting the pieces together, rape is a crime based on prejudice toward women formed on the basis that the female gender is inferior to the male gender. It is thus primarily perpetrated by males upon women for the purpose of exerting control and domination. By this definition, rape qualifies, without question, as a hate crime according to the United States Congress. Rape perpetrated by men against male victims is often motivated by the same prejudice, even though the victims are male.

    However, rape victims are often treated with disturbing callousness by the public and by authorities. In the recent past, many states have enacted laws barring questioning of the victim’s sexual history (unless it is determined that this evidence is absolutely necessary, such as in cases where the victim has had past consensual sexual contact with the accused) as well as court-mandated psychiatric evaluations of victims. When a news story about an alleged rape makes the television news, many of us sit in our living rooms automatically questioning the validity of the accuser’s claim.

    In the media, female rape victims are often referred to as “beautiful,” “pretty,” “attractive,” “bright,” “charming,” and “vivacious” (amongst other terms)–all words which boil the essence of who she is down to her looks and “feminine” personality. Male rape victims suffer no such ridiculous characterization. They are referred to as what they are: male rape victims.

    This misogynistic use of language makes it clear how our society as a whole views the crime of rape. When a woman’s looks are discussed as a valid part of the crime committed against her, the message is that rape is about sex, and sexual attraction. It is not. Rape is about violence. Male victims are not referred to as “attractive” or “charming.” They are allowed to be seen as victims of a heinous crime, while female victims are not. This is just another example among many of how our patriarchal culture values men over women. Female rape victims are assumed to have been “asking for it” while male victims are human beings who have been brutally abused.

    Because the vast majority of rapes committed in the United States are perpetrated by men, it is important to ask why this is the case. What is it about men that makes them use sex as a weapon? What is it about men that makes them abuse women and want to control and dominate them? While we are raised to believe that men are just naturally more aggressive than women, I do not think that this is the case.

    I did an experiment today. I took my two-year old daughter to the toy store and took a look around. I found what I expected to find, but it was still disturbing.

    The “girl” section of the store had an array of items, including: Barbie dolls, other “baby” dolls (complete with accessories like strollers, bottles, and other real-life baby necessities), dress-up clothes (princess gowns, high heels, “play” make-up), “kitchen” play-sets with stoves and miniature fake food, and my personal favorite, a genuine Mr. Clean “play” mop and accessories. Everything was pink and purple and pretty and delicate and perfectly designed to create the next generation of domesticated females. I decided to walk across the aisle to the “boy” section, and the difference was nothing short of appalling. I scanned down the shelves loaded with Home Depot toy tool sets, trucks and cars and motorcycles, toy guns and swords, action figures, and sporting goods and shook my head in disgust.

    One of my good male friends was there with us, and I commented about it to him. He looked at me and said, “Well, girls just like that stuff.”

    I asked him, “Why do you think they like it? Do you think they like it because it just comes naturally to them to want to pretend to mop the floor? Or do you think that maybe girls are indoctrinated by society, just like boys, to ‘like’ certain things, so that they will fit properly into the roles that society has created for them?”

    He told me he had never thought about it like that.

    For my part, I steered my daughter clear of the Mr. Clean mop set and the “Little Mommy” baby doll and toward the soccer balls.

    So, my position (which was solidified by this shopping experience) is that we give our little boys guns and knives and tools to play with because that’s what our parents did and what their parents did and we assume it is just the “right” way and will have no long-term effect on them. We give our little girls toys that teach them to be pretty and subservient and tame, and then we are surprised when they are abused by men when they enter the real world. And we wonder why men abuse them, all the while ignoring the fact that we have taught our sons that doing this is okay.

    When a boy hits a little girl on the playground, and she comes to tell us, we laugh and tell her it’s okay and it “just means he likes her.” This response trains our daughters to believe that violence from men is fair-play, and that if men are violent with them, it means that they are loved.

    By joining together, we can stop this cycle that teaches young boys how to “be men” by being aggressive and violent and through this, we can seriously reduce the incidence of sexual assault in the United States. We can stop teaching our daughters that violence is acceptable and that their interests should revolve around cooking, cleaning, and child rearing.

    If we can teach our kids that violence is never acceptable, that men and women (boys and girls) are equals in life, and that archaic gender-roles are limiting and dangerous, we can really find out the limits of their potential. We can let them grow into the people they want to be, instead of the people we want them to be.

    (To be continued...)