*Campaign promises ~ we know how they usually turn out – Mike Huckabee is now promising miracles if elected. Promising a policy of energy self-reliance, he said that soon after his election "we will be able to tell the Middle East we don't need your oil anymore than we need your sand.'" The consistently irresponsible inaction by presidents and congress since the oil shortage of 1973 has left us dependent on the oil teat of the Middle East for decades to come. That is the inconvenient and unfortunate truth.
*Speaking of miracles ~ a positive comment about George W. Bush – This is the 35th edition of SVN and I have finally found something that is complimentary about President Bush. The NY Times reports, “the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (initiated 5 years ago) may be the most lasting bipartisan accomplishment of the Bush presidency... So far, roughly 1.4 million AIDS patients have received lifesaving medicine paid for with American dollars, up from 50,000 before the initiative.” Going against Republican conventional wisdom with respect to foreign aid Mr. Bush has made a meaningful impact against a widespread and devastating disease. This is a proud accomplishment.
*Campaign losses – Following extremely poor showings in the Iowa caucus both Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. I believe that both are quality leaders and offer a depth of experience but neither captured the imagination of Iowa voters. As leaders in the Senate they will play important roles toward getting America back on track.
*Iowa surprise 1 ~ the turnout – The turnout for the Iowa Democratic caucus (236,000) set a substantial record and dwarfed the Republican turnout (115,000) even though registered Dems (600,000) outnumber GOPers (550,000) by only 50,000. I also found it interesting and promising that a state with an over 97% white population would give Barack Obama such a strong win over the other six candidates. Maybe America is becoming color blind. It has been difficult for many of us over the last 7 years to feel pride in a country that we love so much and yet has erred so often. Cycles of varying scale govern all activity on this planet. Let us hope that a new positive cycle is emerging for America.
*Iowa surprise 2 ~ the turnout of youth – “...13 percent of eligible 17-29 year olds caucused. That is more than triple the percent that participated in 2004. Most significantly, young people made up 22 percent of the Democratic caucus-goers, which means they had a real impact in that race.” It is reported that 57% of these young voters chose Obama resulting in his impressive victory. In 2000 and 2004 the evangelical vote propelled Bush to victory. It will be interesting to see if the youth vote has a similar impact on the Obama candidacy. For quite some time I have been disappointed about the lethargy exhibited by young people in response to what is taking place in America and how it affects their future. Perhaps we are seeing a wakeup call.
*Iowa ~ not such a surprise – I have seen varying figures that say between 60 to 80% of the Iowa Republican voters for Mike Huckabee were evangelicals. Is Huckabee in line to be Bush light? Is it possible to be lighter than Bush? The glare of the bible’s burning bush can be blinding, leaving its message in the dark.
*A Republican against militants ~ do we feel safer now? – Jim Talent, former senator and current advisor to Mitt Romney had this to say about Romney’s brave and steadfast stance about what they perceive to be a grave threat against America, “He’s always had the same position as regards to the gay agenda. “Look, he wants people to know he values gay people as people, okay? But he doesn’t want the militant gays to be able to change the cultural institutions of the country.” I happen to love this open-code speak of the Republican agenda. They continue to put on the front pages their disdain for the principles of a democratic and free society that values choice and diversity. Couched in religion and “family” values they encourage hate and prejudice. Their appeal to a pathetic minority of Americans will ensure their minority status as a political party. For that I express gratitude.
*The real America – Congressman Tom Lantos, a representative of California since 1980 and an advocate for human rights, civil liberties and social justice, has announced that illness prevents him from seeking a 15th term in Congress. An excerpt from his press release demonstrates an aspect of America that makes me proud: “It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”
*The real Arlen Specter – My Senator from PA (R) appears so senatorial while sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee and lecturing about the rule of law. Apparently, this self-proclaimed moderate was so busy enabling Bush policies and looking the other way as Bush appointees slithered through his grasp of inquiries and investigations that he failed to notice his election campaign was breaking Federal Election Campaign (FEC) law. “Sen. Arlen Specter's 2004 re-election campaign collected more than $1 million in excessive contributions, failed to properly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in receipts from political party committees and political action committees, and missed a key reporting deadline before the primary election, according to a FEC audit.”
*The real John McCain – In November the Republican presidential candidate was asked by Charlie Rose if he foresaw a U.S. presence in Iraq lasting as long as the Korean experience. He replied, No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.” Last week McCain told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, “it would be fine with him if the U.S. military stayed in Iraq for a hundred years ... we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so.” McCain’s comments are contradictory and his analogy is absurd. Our military presence in both Asian countries does not involve an armed conflict where almost 100 U.S. military personnel die each month, where the cost is $10 billion per month and where the government depends upon the U.S. military for its very existence. In fact, Bush’s puppet leader of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, is one of the few Iraqis that want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament petitioned for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops back in May, 2007. U.S. foreign policy is in dire need of a makeover infused with some fresh thinking.
*The real Rudy Giuliani – In an act that can only be characterized as desperate or ignorant and certainly dangerous Giuliani suggested, “if he were to be elected president — he would like to choose someone like Dick Cheney to be his Vice President”. This is the Dick who deceived us into an unprovoked and unwarranted war, shredded our constitution and sold us out to the oil industry. Let’s clone that!
*The real Mike Huckabee – CNN recently estimated that the next president could have as many as 3 Supreme Court Justices to nominate. Huckabee recently said that if elected president he would nominate men such as Joseph Scalia. That would make the Inquisition look like a Saturday night bingo bash. When Huckabee strums his bass guitar he appears to be the guy next door. Unfortunately, he has demonstrated that he does not know squat about foreign policy, brings his politics from the very far right and if given the chance would shove his bible down your proverbial throat. The evangelicals may like his sermons but that is not a qualification for the leader of America and the free world.
*The real Bush – The NY Times reports, “Six months ago, the Bush administration quietly eased some restrictions on the export of politically delicate technologies to China. The new approach was intended to help American companies increase sales of high-tech equipment to China despite tight curbs on sharing technology that might have military applications.
But today the administration is facing questions from weapons experts about whether some equipment — newly authorized for export to Chinese companies deemed trustworthy by Washington — could instead end up helping China modernize its military. Equally worrisome, the weapons experts say, is the possibility that China could share the technology with Iran or Syria.” I concede that current world dynamics are very complicated. At the same time Bush policies so consistently damage American interests and increase the threat to American safety that I am reminded of the Manchurian Candidate. To avoid being accused of paranoia I will just call it incompetence on steroids.
*A real Justice Department – AG Mukasey appointed a tough, non-partisan, independent prosecutor to investigate the CIA’s destruction of interrogation tapes. “John Durham, who has served with the Justice Department for 25 years, has a reputation as one of the nation's most relentless prosecutors.” Under AG Gonzales either no investigation would have taken place or the investigator would have been Mary Poppins.
*Something to think about ~ the brain – The website New Directions often speaks about the disparity in coverage that health insurers provide for physical versus mental illness. However, like the kidney the brain is an organ. Mental health advocates have been urging congress to enact laws that will force insurers to correct this gap in health coverage. A recent article in the Phila. Inquirer discusses the toll that mental illness takes on society – 26% of adults have a diagnosable mental illness that is often untreated because coverage of mental disorders remains subject to the whims of employers and insurers. Lack of treatment not only affects the individual but also their family, friends and co-workers. In extreme cases of neglect it can lead to tragedies that we see in the headlines. Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA) is co-sponsor of the still to be passed “Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act” that would require health insurance companies to provide the same benefits for mental illness as for physical illness. It is beyond time to re-think the treatment of the brain’s illnesses. You can advocate the passage of this bill by locating and contacting your congressman at Project Vote Smart.
*Thank you ~ it’s about time – I was in my favorite bagel shop waiting for my order when I saw the following sign: “As a courtesy to staff and customers Fill A Bagel has developed a policy of no cell phones.” Cell phones offer a whole new set of ways to be rude – by employees and patrons. A well-managed business that actually keeps the customer in mind deserves our business.
*Thank you Crooks and Liars – This is one of the most popular political blogs on the internet. A daily feature is Mike Finnigan’s “Mike’s Blog Roundup” and last week it made mention of and linked to Stephen Views the News. It resulted in a significant increase in visitors to the site. Bloggers have feelings too.
*Can you hear me now – Two privacy groups recently rated countries for surveillance and privacy protection “The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance on privacy safeguards...” Countries with endemic surveillance are Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Wired.com has more details about these trends.
*Platform for Change ~ Barack Obama – I recently sent an email to the presidential candidates (I do not remember which organization sponsored the effort) requesting that they develop policies against torture and indefinite imprisonment of suspected but unproven members of terrorist organizations and abusing the civil liberties of Americans. The following is an excerpt from the email reply by the Obama campaign:
“This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court. By working with Congress and respecting our courts, I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.”
“My Administration will once again show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. When I am President, America will reject torture without exception. I will also reject indefinite imprisonment without trial and close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.”
These are certainly qualities that I expect of an American president.
* “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)