2007 left many of us Bushed but still capable of identifying some positive developments as we end the year with a smile.
*A brighter future for America – In less than 13 months there is a very good chance that a Democrat will be in the White House and Democrats will have a greater majority in Congress. I certainly do not believe that Democrats are inherently better than Republicans. My sensibilities lean toward what Democrats have stood for versus Republicans, but both parties have a history of good and bad. Both parties have members that are good and bad. Given campaign finance laws and lack of ethics oversight, Democrats in power will be subject to the same temptations that overwhelmed members of the Republican Party over the last 15 years. During this time the Republican Party has aligned itself with corporate interests and the religious right. I strongly believe this is to the detriment of our country, our society, our freedoms and our well-being. I anticipate that a new Democratic majority will better address the following issues:
· climate change,
· product and food safety
· labor conditions and union rights
· civil rights and the attempt to disenfranchise minorities
· voter rights and verifiable voting machines
· gay rights
· a return of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government to a state of separate but co-equal status
· appointments to the Supreme Court,
· a return to an apolitical justice system
· a fair and sensible immigration policy and enforcement of immigration laws including penalizing those who hire illegal workers
· a re-emphasis on the separation of church and state
· sensible and practical sex education
· an energy policy not dominated by the sole interests of the energy companies
· better balanced tax laws
· an improved national education program for K-12 students
· strengthening Social Security and Medicare,
· negative effects of globalization that have benefited corporate profits but not the quality and breadth of jobs for the American worker
· foreign policy not predicated on unilateralism and pre-emptive war.
The current administration will bequeath our country serious challenges. I believe that the successors will be more capable of addressing these challenges and more in tune with our needs as a society and as an important member of the world community.
*Congressional power – In response to the Virginia Tech massacre “both houses of Congress passed a bill that will strengthen the Brady background check system. It will help ensure that fewer guns end up in the hands of dangerous people like felons and those who have been found to be a threat to themselves or others because of mental illness.” It is unfortunate that sensible gun legislation first requires a tragedy but at least positive measures are being instituted. This is the first major piece of legislation to prevent gun violence in a decade. There is one caveat. To become law the legislation must first be signed by President Bush. You can learn more about the important work performed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at this link.
*People power 1 – A. Siegel at dailykos.com brought the following to my attention. IBM just released a report “Plugging in the Consumer” – “the results of a global poll showed that not only do people say that they are willing to pay more for green energy, they actually are doing so in increasing numbers ... voluntarily. Where the option exists, some 25 percent of polled people, who have the option, are paying additional money to get "clean" power.” The subtitle of this study is “Innovating utility business models for the future” and can be read at this link. I was pleased when my electric utility company recently offered the option, for under $8 per month, to source a portion of our electricity from wind power. We do not have to wait for government to solve all of our problems. The cumulative effect of each of us contributing to responsible energy usage can have very meaningful results. Whether global warming is man-made as the majority of the scientific community and world community believe or a natural cycle of nature as global warming deniers believe, the fact that we have the ability to lessen its destructive influence is undeniable. To not make the effort is mindless.
*People power 2 – The liberal advocacy organization MoveOn.org, in conjunction with the USO, sent a request to its members to donate money so that U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world could call home for the holidays. In less than 24 hours MoveOn members donated over $250,000.
*People power 3 – Helen Gym is the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Citizen of the Year. The group she heads, Parents United for Public Education, “has spent the last two years speaking out at Phila. School Reform Commission meetings, poring over budgets, pushing City Council to commit more resources to education, and insisting that the Parking Authority live up to its promise to help fund city schools.” In addition to obtaining increased funding for Philadelphia public schools Parents United seeks accountability at all levels of the school district. Like most of us Mrs. Gym says, “she'd rather not attend so many meetings or be forced to push lawmakers to do their jobs. However, one reality has emerged from the activism of People United: "If we are waiting for someone else to stand up and do what we know to be right, then we will wait forever.” There are many unsung heroes working to improve our quality of life. One may be your neighbor, or you.
*Merry Christmas Mr. President – Several weeks ago I noted that The Center for Constitutional Rights offered people the opportunity to send Mr. Bush a copy of the U.S. Constitution for Christmas. I am proud that my name was on one of the 37,000 constitutions delivered to the White House on December 20th by Santa (noted constitutional lawyer Bill Goodman). You can learn more about the CCR at this link.
*A 2008 resolution ~ just one click a day – There is no cost and each day that you visit The Breast Cancer Site a contribution is made by advertisers that helps fund breast exams for disadvantaged women. It will make you feel in the pink.
*A New Year wish – The number two leader of al-Qaeda announced that he will answer questions by reporters in the near future. I was invited by the Philadelphia Inquirer to submit a question that I would ask. My question: “Since al-Qaeda operatives justify murdering innocents to get to heaven why don’t you, Mr. al-Zawahiri, blow yourself up at the next al-Qaeda executive board meeting?”
*Returning toys ~ getting the lead out – This month the House passed much-needed legislation that gives more funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission including a new testing lab to identify products with high levels of lead. Perhaps the next step will be to mandate that companies such as Mattel take more responsibility for the safety of their products. In 2007 Mattel had to recall millions of toys manufactured in China due to safety issues. Products with safety issues should be tested before they enter the marketplace.
*The most important step ~ the first step – Last week I noted that the new energy legislation raised the fuel efficiency for automobiles. I was critical that some of the minimums do not go into effect until 2020 but it was a start and the bill included other promising elements: raises yearly production of renewable motor fuels; requires more ethanol in the next decade to be made from non-food "cellulosic" sources like wood chips, switchgrass and other agricultural waste (most U.S. production of ethanol is from corn); energy efficiency of lighting will be improved by about 30 percent, which will force the phaseout of the traditional incandescent light bulb between 2012 and 2014, saving consumers about $13 billion a year in electrical costs; and requires appliances, including residential dishwashers and clothes washers and commercial walk-in coolers and freezers, to use less energy. Congress was able to overcome the intense lobbying by many energy interests and the U.S. auto industry against this legislation. The well-being of Americans took precedence over corporate myopic self-interest. This is a very positive development.
*A school we can learn from – An elementary school in Decatur, GA is an amazing example of diversity and humanity. “More than half the 380 students at this unusual school outside Atlanta are refugees from some 40 countries, many torn by war. The other students come from low-income families in Decatur, and from middle- and upper-middle-class families in the area who want to expose their children to other cultures. Together they form an eclectic community of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, well-off and poor, of established local families and new arrivals who collectively speak about 50 languages.” This NY Times article details the remarkable story of the students and their history, their parents and the incredible challenges facing this school. It is an especially worthwhile read at this time of year.
*G. W. Bush ~ he brings a smile even to my face – The website thetruthaboutgeorge.com has documented the unintended wit of our nation’s 43rd President. Perhaps a selection of his malapropisms, mispronunciations and misstatements will leave us in a condition of miasma and merriment as we raise our champagne glasses and fortify for the 8th and final year of his royal ruckus:
~See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Confronted by political opposition, Bush explains his strategy on promoting Social Security reform. (Washington Post, "The Ostrich Approach," Dan Froomkin, May 25, 2005)
~"Well, I quit drinking in '86." —Bush, when asked whether, as he embarked on his second four-year term, he saw ghosts of past presidents. (C-SPAN interview, Jan. 30, 2005)
~"Because he's hiding…" —Bush, explaining why Osama bin Laden has yet to be captured. (Washington Post interview, Jan. 16, 2005)
~"The world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership."Source: The Boston Globe, Oct. 29, 2003
~"I am the master of low expectations."Source: Agence France Presse, "Bush Says Middle East Summit 'Met Expectations'," June 4, 2003
~"Do you have blacks, too?"—Bush, speaking to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Source: Salon.com, "Bushed," Jake Tapper, June 20, 2002
~"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."Source: Business Week Online, "A Gentleman's "C" for W," Richard S. Dunham, July 30, 2001
~Tribal sovereignty means that, it's sovereign. You're a -- you're a -- you have been given sovereignty and you're viewed as a sovereign entity.”—Bush explaining what tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century to a gathering of minority journalists on Aug. 6.
~"First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill."—Bush, speaking about terrorism and povertySource: Public Papers of the Presidents, "The President's News Conference With President Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines," May 26, 2003
~"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says: Fool me once, shame on [pause] shame on you. [Pause] Fool me [long, uncomfortable, agonizing pause] you can't get fooled again."Source: The Washington Post, "The Reliable Source," Lloyd Grove, Sept. 18, 2002
~"The second pillar of peace and security in our world is the willingness of free nations, when the last resort arrives, to retain aggression and evil by force."—Bush, speaking in London, England, Nov. 19, 2003
~"We've got an issue in America ... too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."—Bush, telling a crowd assembled in Poplar Bluff, Mo., about a previously underappreciated domestic problem..Source: The Washington Post, "A New Problem, or the Wrong Word?" Dana Milbank, Sept. 7, 2004
~Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.—Bush addressing a group of witnesses at the signing of the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005 in Washington, DC on Aug. 4.
*A brighter future for America – Since June of this year I have been writing about the people, issues and policies that I believe demean our country. In the 1960s critics of the critics said, “America, love it or leave it.” They sorely missed the point. One of the marvelous aspects of America is that its citizens have the freedom to voice their opinion. The founders of our country ensured that free speech was an elemental right. It has served us well through times of peace and times of war, through economic struggle and prosperity, through attacks on our freedoms and the expansion of human and civil rights, through strong leaders and weak leaders. Over the last seven years we have seen a president attempt to usurp the power of the congress and the judiciary to serve its narrow ends and the attempt of one political party to makes its position of power permanent. We have seen the economically most fortunate and the business leadership attempt to ensure its increasing dominance of society and we have seen hardcore religionists attempt to extirpate our nonsectarian society. I trust that Americans will vociferously reject these trends and embrace the principles that make us a great society. Happy New Year.
* “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Charles F. Kettering