Saturday, February 16, 2008

*America on Trial – This week military commission charges were handed down that seek the death penalty for six individuals accused of involvement in the 9/11 attack. There is a natural inclination to say, “fry the bastards”. And bastards they may well be. However, there is much more at stake than emotional retribution for Americans. As noted by the Center for Constitutional Rights, “For the past six years, the United States government has refused to conduct traditional criminal trials or courts martial against Guantanamo detainees suspected of wrongdoing... the military commissions at Guantanamo allow secret evidence, hearsay evidence, and evidence obtained through torture. They are unlawful, unconstitutional, and a perversion of justice... Now the government is seeking to execute people based on this utterly unreliable and tainted evidence: it is difficult to imagine a more morally reprehensible system. Executions based on secret trials and torture evidence belong to another century. These barbaric sham proceedings will likely to inflame the controversy surrounding Guantanamo and draw the condemnation of even our allies.” Some thoughts:
>If America is so proud of its system of justice, a system that it has held up to the world as the icon of a free society, why has the Bush administration chosen an alternative thorny path?
>Is this justice? “The cadre of civilian lawyers representing terrorism suspects held by the military at Guantanamo Bay are not allowed to meet their clients in private, without video surveillance. All their mail and notes must be turned over to the military. Classified information cannot be shared with their clients. They are not entitled to everything the government knows about their clients.”
> The majority of Americans and the world community will have no confidence in these proceedings.
>What jeopardy does this create for our own military men and women if captured by enemy forces?
>Losing our moral compass under the “leadership” of George W. Bush has resulted in an America tentative and uncertain. The ultra divisive politics of the Republican Party has left our country fractured.
>Actions have consequences. What price this fiasco – for Americans and America?

*House cleaning ~ the road to better government – This week politically progressive Donna Edwards (D) defeated 8-term incumbent Al Wynn (D) in Maryland’s 4th congressional district primary. Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report explains why this matters: “Was Wynn really that bad? Without question. He partnered with right-wing crooks like Bob Ney to oppose campaign-finance reform; he partnered with right-wing lobbyists on the estate tax; he partnered with right-wing lawmakers on the ridiculous bankruptcy bill; and he partnered with right-wing hedge-fund managers on the private equity tax break. It wasn't just corporate lobbyists, either -- Wynn also voted with Bush on Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy.” I have received emails from several organizations celebrating this win including Democracy for America and Act Blue. Each group deserves credit for helping to fund and campaign for Edwards. Some other organizations working to bring about better government are Common Cause, People for the American Way,, Human Rights Campaign, and You may want to visit one or two of these organizations to participate in making a difference in your community and your country.

*Only the names have been changed ~ to protect you know who – When Bush’s “personal” lawyer Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign as Attorney General (under pressure for incompetence and malfeasance) much discussion took place over his replacement. During confirmation hearings for the next Bush nominee to head the Department of Justice it was learned that a number of senators decided to vote for the confirmation of Michael Mukasey because he would be the best alternative the president would offer for this post. Last week Mukasey testified before the House Judiciary Committee and said he would not investigate torture or warrantless wiretapping (which legal experts and lay people alike believe are against the law). He also said he would not enforce contempt citations if issued by congress to current and former Bush officials for not answering subpoenas to appear before investigating committees (videos of the testimony are available at the above link). Like Gonzales, it appears that former judge Mukasey does not interpret his role as Attorney General to be an independent enforcer of the laws of the land. Both men were persuaded that their role was to be enablers and apologists of a unitary executive branch unbounded by existing law and precedent.

Life memoir ~ abridged edition – is an online storytelling community where authors write and share stories. They invited people to submit a life memoir in only six words. Over 15,000 did and 832 were selected for a book titled “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure”. I found the idea intriguing. Being a guy I am introspectively challenged so I decided to try a six-pack of six word memoirs:
>From solid parents a firm footing.
>Bush presidency did a writer inspire.
>Looked over shoulder, hit a boulder.
>Life love, life illuminated, love life.
>Became a father, never pushed farther.
>Friends, friends, friends, friends, friends, friends.
If only everyone could be so fortunate. If only politicians could be so succinct.

*Questions for the President – In Mr. Bush’s latest attempt to convince congress to approve anti-terror legislation that permits spying on Americans without court oversight he said, “Terrorists are planning new attacks on our country...that will make Sept.11 pale by comparison.” How does spying on Americans without warrant or court oversight make us safer? Should we not fear a government that attempts to reduce our constitutional freedoms? Would we be safer now if you had done a better job? Disclosure: Please remember that these are rhetorical questions. My people do not speak to his people and President Bush and I do not speak directly to each other.

*Question for Democrats in the Senate – Why do you wet you underwear every time the President says Boo? The President has an approval rating below freezing (30%). The vast majority of Americans oppose his policies. Recall Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Boo! The Democrats in the House did stand up to Bush’s fear tactics this week by not rubber-stamping the Protect America Act as the Senate did. By exhibiting some courage they did not have to pack Desitin for their week-long legislative break.

*Do we hear a bid of 30 – The announcement by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) that he will not seek re-election marks the 29th Republican congressman to do so. Some of the spoken and unspoken reasons for these representatives moving on include spending more time with the wife and kids, joining a lobbying firm, too busy being investigated by the Dept. of Justice, suffering from Bushitis and won’t get re-elected. Recalling the Republicans performance in congress for well over a decade I feel no love lost. Do we hear 30?

*Be all that you can be – This is a phrase used in U.S. Army recruitment advertisements. I am sure that enlistment in all of the armed services has been an excellent and wonderful opportunity for millions of young Americans. The following causes one to wonder if the Army is not just plain Bushed. “A Fort Carson soldier who says he was in treatment at Cedar Springs Hospital for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team... [he had] spent 31 days in Kuwait and was returned to Fort Carson on Dec. 31 after health care professionals in Kuwait concurred that his symptoms met criteria for bipolar disorder and “some paranoia and possible homicidal tendencies.” Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, was outraged. “If he’s an inpatient in a hospital, they should have never taken him out... First, we had the planeload of wounded, injured and ill being forced back to the war zone. And now we have soldiers forcibly removed from mental hospitals. The level of outrage is off the Richter scale.” Enlisted men and women deserve better than a Command that is AWOL. Where is the outrage of military leaders that are seemingly: silent to the uncaring deployment of personnel; silent to the inadequate care of wounded troops with permanent disabilities; and silent to the frighteningly high number of suicides and emotional disorders of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are under-treated. When the history of Iraq is written the top brass will be indelibly tarnished.

*Be all that you should be – In 2007 the Food and Drug Administration received 350 reports of health problems associated with the drug heparin (a blood thinner). The drug ingredients are manufactured in China for Baxter International. Following 4 patients dying and hundreds becoming ill Baxter halted sales on some versions of the drug. The FDA admits it has never inspected the plant (a violation of its own policy), BUT, "Preparations are being made to perform an inspection as soon as possible," said FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley. Perhaps they were waiting until the summer so that inspectors could take in the Olympics and avoid the harsh winter that China is experiencing. And where was Baxter in this equation?
~Update – The Chinese manufacturer is not certified by China’s drug regulators to manufacture pharmaceuticals and therefore was not inspected by China’s drug agency. It appears that the FDA and Baxter International are on brain thinners. That rumbling you hear in the background are the hooves of personal injury lawyers.
~Caveat for consumers – From the same NY Times article: “China provides a growing proportion of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in drugs sold in the United States. And Chinese drug regulators have said that all producers of those ingredients are required to obtain certification by the State Food and Drug Administration. However, some of the active ingredients that China exports are made by chemical companies, which do not fall under the Chinese drug agency’s jurisdiction.”

*There is a positive side to the subprime crisis – You may have noticed that your junk mail is a tad lighter in recent weeks. It is the result of companies such as Citibank and Discover cutting back on credit card mailing offers following substantial losses in the mortgage meltdown. I am puzzled by this strategy because our elected “leaders” have allowed credit card companies to charge interest rates of 23% and higher for unpaid balances. One would think that more than ever these usurious financial icons would be trying to increase the number of people they can “legally” drain. What do I know?

*McCain ~ conviction versus confection – Over the last several years, as America has debated the use of torture, John McCain has consistently spoken out against its. Although the use of torture is prohibited by the U.S. Army Field Manual, agencies such as the CIA have used waterboarding. A bill that has already passed the House was voted on this week in the Senate. It requires that the Army Field Manual be adhered to by all U.S. agencies. Although the bill passed, and will likely be vetoed by Bush, McCain voted against the bill. He voted to allow waterboarding. On October 26, 2007 the NY Times reported: Of presidential candidates like Mr. Giuliani, who say that they are unsure whether waterboarding is torture, Mr. McCain said: “They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.” has a video from a recent Republican presidential debate where McCain discusses the use of torture and says, “Life is not 24 and Jack Bauer. I just came back from visiting prisons in Iraq and the Army General there said the techniques under the Army Field Manual are working effectively and he didn’t think they needed anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about.” For McCain what America is really about alters when alteration he finds.

*Sex toys – Now that I have your attention you will be relieved to know that you can once again purchase them in Texas. “A federal appeals court has overturned a Texas statute outlawing sex toy sales...” Why? The statute violated the 14th Amendment on the right to privacy. In its opinion the appeals court said, “the state here (Texas) wants to use its laws to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct... The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the state is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct.” Hallelujah and pass the batteries.

*Macho Republicans – “The National Park Service has reasonable guidelines about firearms in national parks. It is currently lawful to transport firearms through national parks as long as they are unloaded and stored.” But a pending amendment proposed by Senator John Coburn (R-OK) would allow people to carry loaded weapons in national parks. The organization Care2 provides a petition to senators and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to say NO to the loaded guns in parks amendment at the above link. The senators need our help since it was reported that a number of them believe firearms are prohibited in national parks.

*Trader Joe’s ~ another reason I like shopping there – This food store chain has announced that it will cease importing food products from China due to customers' concerns about the products' safety. I applaud this decision for several reasons: U.S. inspection of imports is questionable; China’s inspection of exports is more than questionable; numerous articles have noted very serious air and water pollution problems in China and their effect on the food supply. Another reason to reduce our purchases of Chinese products is economic. As America’s trade imbalance with China has grown so has the loss of American jobs. Buying American-made and grown products where possible just seems to make sense. Increasing the demand for locally-grown produce makes equal sense.

*Who is going to hell? – I find it interesting that the “values” voters who are so concerned about everyone else’s soul and telling others how to conduct their lives continue to support an unprovoked war, torture, the politicians who voted against raising the minimum wage, the congressmen who opposed SCHIP (health insurance for children), an administration that hides the inadequate care it is providing wounded military, a Party that attempts to suppress the voting rights of minorities and has the unmitigated effrontery to restrict the freedoms of gay men and women in our society. I’ll chance my eternal fate opposing such hypocrisy.

*"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1829)


Anonymous said...

How many times can we comment on You hitting the nail on the head? The head being... take your pick. I urge you & your readers to read the new novel Diary of a Bad Year by Nobelist JM Coetzee. He writes everything that truth-seeing Americans think but dare not say. - Ruth Z Deming

Anonymous said...

Superb round-up of the sorry state of our country with equally superb (and cogent) analysis. Thank you.