Friday, June 30, 2006

Supremes On Key Over Guantanamo

In the current political environment, it's not often that the news out of Washington is about our government upholding the principles of the Constitution or those of international law. In fact I think it would be fair to say that the Executive Branch has become a fetid sewer of lies, suspect ethics, character assassination, and policies that are more reminiscent of Benito Mussolini than Abraham Lincoln. Yep, it's been a hard couple of years to be a left of center American.

Where Have You Gone, Thomas Jefferson? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

One of the greatest marks of shame has been the detention of over 450 individuals, often without the benefit of charges, access to legal counsel, or trial, in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The crux of the case that the Supreme Court recently reviewed was that the special military tribunals devised by the Bush Administration which made it difficult for suspects to defend themselves, specifically in regards to confronting accusers and being present for all parts of a trial. This is a fundamental right that every American enjoys. But since these are not American citizens, the Bush Administration has argued that they are not entitled to the same legal protections. While perhaps technically true, the practise flys in the face of a founding principle of our nation: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Not just Americans, everyone. If we are all equal, then we deserve equal rights.

Why The Court Got It Right

What the Supreme Court did was uphold this crucial premise. They said that the Bush Administration does not have the right to simply make up a special legal system. They said that what the administration created did not provide for minimum legal protections under international law. I applaud the Court for taking a positive step to help ensure human rights and for upholding a founding American value.

If we do not live by that which we say we value, we are sure to become that which we say we despise.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Safer To Be A Dessert In The Movie "American Pie", Than It Is To Be The Constitution In The Hands Of President Bush

President Bush condemed the New York Times as "disgraceful" for disclosing a secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects, the Associated Press reported.

Um, excuse me, black pot?

Let me see if I got this right. The disgrace is NOT the fact that Mr. Bush authorized the review of private financial records, (without probable cause or properly obtained and executed warrant) but RATHER that the New York Times had the audacity to tell us about it.

Apparently, exposing a violation of the law is bad, but trampling the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans, not so much.

Vice-President, Dick Cheney added, "The New York Times has now twice - two separate occasions - disclosed programs; both times they had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging."

You bet they're damaging. They're damaging to the bad faith efforts of an Administration that has:

- Authorized the warrantless wiretapping of our phone conversations.


- Disclosed the classified identity of a CIA operative, otherwise known as treason.

Of course the Executive Branch maintains that this is all perfectly legal. After all, we're in a time of war. But a war with whom? Mr. Bush declared on May 1, 2003 an end to major combat operations in Iraq, meaning that troops there are essentially on a peacekeeping mission. There's the "War On Terror," I suppose, but again I ask, with whom specifically is this war on? Terror is not a nation or thing, terror is a tool of destruction and a crime. You don't wage war against crimes. You seek to prevent them and if committed, you capture and try those whom you believe are responsible. When fighting crime there are rules that must be observed. It is a constitutional foundation of our American justice system. You don't get to ignore the rules just because they don't suit you.

Mr. Bush knows this. Sadly, like President Nixon, he has come to believe that he is above the law. It is the duty of Congress to remind him otherwise. And it's our job to make sure that they do!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Helping The President Pull His Head Out Of His Greenhouse Gas

The AP reports that the National Academy of Sciences, a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters, has reported to the House Science Committee that the earth is the hottest it's been in 2,000 years. This runs contrary to the contentions of the Bush Administration who maintain that the global warming threat is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that they say would have cost 5 million Americans their jobs. In 2001, President Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Accords citing that it excluded poor nations and that emissions caps would harm the U.S. economy. Ironic isn't it. This from an administration that doesn't seem one whit concerned about the growing number of jobs being outsourced to China and India.

I Hate To Put It This Crassly, But Dead People Don't Need Jobs

The United States has really fallen asleep on this issue. While we remain one of the biggest polluters on the planet, emitting 24% of the world's greenhouse gasses (China is second with 12.1%), we have sat on the sidelines and let the rest of the world try to handle it. I am amazed every time I hear someone criticize someone like Al Gore for being an environmental activist. Is it so wrong to not want to breathe in, drink or absorb cancer causing agents? Is it wrong to not want our children and grandchildren to do so?

In A Fight Between Humanity And The Earth, The Earth Is Going To Kick Our Ass!

There's nothing more dangerous than a pissed off mother and, without a doubt, there is compelling evidence that the earth is fighting back against years of abuse by humankind. History has shown that Mr. Bush is usually up for a good fight, whether it makes sense or not, but this is one that he can't win. And contrary to what the President maintains, good environmental policy could just as easily add jobs and improve the economic welfare of the United States. Here's how I see it:

- Renewable technologies require manufacturing. Manufacturing creates good paying jobs.

- Fossil Fuels are a finite resource, renewable fuels are not. Need more soy or corn based fuel? No problem, grow it.
Added benefit? America's farmers get a big boost.

- Decreased pollution leads to decreases in health care costs, through less environmentally triggered diseases (i.e. asthma,

It is my hope that this is the beginning of a new understanding between government and the scientific community. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., my Congressperson and chair of the House Science Committee, said, "This report shows the value of Congress handling scientific disputes by asking scientists to give us guidance. There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change." Yep, that's right, my Republican Congressperson gets it.

Let's hope that the rest of Congress gets the message and that they can shove the Executive Branch into gear.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

27,000,000 Reasons To Stay In Iraq?

It's reported by CNN today that the President announced there would be no early withdrawal from Iraq as long as Republicans "run the Congress and occupy the White House." Bold words from a man with an approval rating hovering around 38%. The statement took place at a GOP dinner, where the President helped to raise $27,000,000 for the Republican mid-term cause. He went on to say that, "An early withdrawal would embolden the terrorists."

The true tragedy here is that while the President was blustering to the GOP faithful, two young American soldiers, according to emerging reports in the news today, were being brutally tortured and murdered. Apparently, bombings, firefights, kidnappings and beheadings don't qualify as bold in Mr. Bush's eyes.

Now I have to agree with the President on one thing. PUBLICIZING a timetable for troop withdrawal is a stupid idea. When you're in a fight, you don't give away the game plan. HOWEVER, it is not unreasonable to have an exit strategy and definable benchmarks. The President would have us believe that anyone who dares call for an end to the bloodbath in Iraq is being disrespectful to our soldiers and telling them that their "sacrifices have gone in vain." This from a President who sent troops to Iraq without proper body armor (See Story).

It's Obscene To Use Iraq As A Fundraiser!

It's not as though Mr. Bush is out there selling war bonds to fund the effort, or that the money is going to the widows/widowers and orphans of soldiers who have been killed. Instead he's filling the GOP coffers so that they can hold onto Congress during midterm elections and bring us more of the same. Am I the only one who thinks this is shameful?

If you agree, drop the President a line and let him know that it is wrong to use war as a fundraiser rallying point!

E-mail President Bush

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Anti-Flag Burning Amendment? Is This The Best Use Of The Senate's Time?

The Associated Press reported today that the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to put an Anti-Flag Burning amendment before the full Senate for a vote. The amendment seeks to give to Congress the, "power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." As things currently stand, it is generally interpreted that flag burning is protected under the 1st Amendment.

Don't get me wrong, I do not like to see someone burn a flag.

I recognize my flag as an important symbol of the United States. I get angry when I see protestors burning it elsewhere in the world. But...isn't part of what makes us unique as Americans, the right to express ourselves, non-violently, even if it is in a manner that others find objectionable?

So why now?

Simply put, politics. Again. The Republican Senate, led in large part by Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist, is trying to use the approaching 4th of July holiday to whip up election year patriotic fervor. They are hoping that you'll believe that this amendment will somehow strengthen the United States. They are hoping that you'll think, "Damn, the Republicans stepped up to the plate and got it done!"

What They Hope You'll Forget...

They are hoping you'll forget that over 2,500 American troops have lost their lives in Iraq with no end in sight. They are hoping you'll forget that gas is over $3.00 a gallon. They are hoping you'll forget the anguish you saw on television as people lived in their own waste, without food or water, after Hurricane Katrina. They are hoping you'll forget that the President authorized the National Security Agency to conduct wiretapping on Americans without the benefit of a warrant. They are hoping you'll forget that someone in the Bush administration committed treason by leaking the identity of an undercover CIA operative to the media. They are hoping you'll forget a lot of things.

But don't you do it!

Write to your Senator. Express your opinion on flag burning, if you wish, but tell them to get back to work on the real issues that we're facing. There are a lot of them. And no amount of flag burning prevention will solve them!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Perpetuating A Culture Of Fear Hurts Our Children

It seems that the best thing to come out of Arkansas in a long time was Bill Clinton. It's certainly not a 1999 state law that bans homosexuals from becoming foster parents. The Associated Press reports that the matter is currently before the Arkansas Supreme Court where the state has appealed a 2004 lower court decision that found the law unconstitutional.

Ms. Kathy L. Hall, attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services indicated that the state's utmost concern is the health, safety and welfare of foster children. This is an admirable goal and one that I hope every person reading this shares. However, she then says, "and that can't happen in a home where unmarried sex occurs." Interestingly enough, the State does not ban single heterosexual persons from being foster parents. Ms. Hall when challenged by Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber on the point replied that unlike homosexuals, a single heterosexual parent "has the potential" to find a spouse. So apparently it's o.k. for a child to be in a home where unmarried sex occurs BUT ONLY IF there is a possibility that the foster parent could, at some unknown future time, become married. Glad that she clarified it.

This is what is known as pretzel logic.

Arkansas is trying to have it both ways and the real losers are the children. If the concern is that single people who MAY engage in sex outside of marriage are a bad influence on children, then one of two changes should apply. Either no one who is unmarried should be allowed to have foster children, or gay couples should be allowed to marry in order to role model sex as something that only occurs between adults in a commited and legally sanctioned relationship. Otherwise, the lower court is right, it's discrimination.

So, if we decide that single people who may be having sex outside of marriage, shouldn't for the moral sake of the children, be foster parents, shouldn't we really take it a step further? Shouldn't we terminate the parental rights of divorced people? They might have sex before remarrying. Or how about, God forbid, parents who had children without ever marrying?! If you take what Ms. Hall claims is the spirit of the law to the logical conclusion, Arkansas is going to have more foster children than ever.

It's ridiculous, it's discrimination, and Kathy Hall knows it.

There's a lot more that I could say about this topic. It seems obvious that it is derived from the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a deviant practise and one where someone can become corrupted by exposure to it. There is not one shred of scientific evidence to support such a theory. It may also derive from the belief that homosexuals are more likely to become child molesters. There is no evidence to support this theory either. People who molest children come from both sexual orientations and are classified under a psychiatric disorder known as pedophilia. No evidence suggests that homosexuals are more likely to be pedofiles than heterosexuals.

It's time that we begin to tell our government to focus on the crux of the issue: The fact that there are so many children who need foster homes. Instead of perpetuating a culture of fear, let's instead, put our effort into parental training initiatives, domestic violence prevention programs, and support services for families. These are long term solutions that will cost us a hell of a lot less public dollars in the long run and build stronger, better communities.

Think Kathy Hall and Arkansas are wrong? Why not tell her? E-mail Kathy Hall

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Violent Crime Increases - How It Happened And Why It Will Continue

Recently, the Associated Press reported that violent crime is up in the United States for the first time in 5 years. Taken from data that the FBI compiled from over 12,000 law enforcement agencies, the report indicates that murders rose 4.8%, robberies 4.5 percent and aggravated assaults 1.9 percent in 2005. Overall, violent crimes increased 2.5%.

This has not been the trend in recent years. Between 1973 and 1993 Bureau of Justice Statistics show the national violent crime rate to be not less than 40 victims per thousand people over the age of 12. Two years into the Clinton presidency, it reaached a whopping 51.2 victims/1000. Then something interesting happened, it started to decrease. It was small at first, but by the time President Clinton left office in January of 2001, the rate had dropped to 27.4 victims/1000!

What accounted for such a dramatic decrease? I would argue good policy.

In 1994, President Clinton signed into law the "Federal Violent Crime Control Act" which created the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program. COPS was designed to add 100,000 community based police officers to the roles by providing grant based funding to local law enforcement agencies. It also supported many crime prevention programs. By the spring of 1999 it was ahead of schedule and under budget. Another hallmark of the Act was the ban on the manufacturing and importing of 19 different types of assault weapons. Then there was the Brady Bill which created a five day waiting period before a handgun could be purchased. Is it any wonder that things got better?

Fast forward to the Bush Administration

Within months of taking office, President Bush submitted a budget to Congress that proposed cutting COPS by 17%. The following year an even more drastic cut of 80% was proposed. While Congress did a reasonable job preserving some of the funding, it was nowhere near what was available during the Clinton years. In fact it decreased by almost 40%. Additionally, in 2004, the President and Congress let the ban on assault weapons lapse.

The Net Result?

Just as violent crime remained higher during the first years of the Clinton administration, it decreased during the first years under Bush. Why? Because it takes awhile for the results of an administrations policies to take effect. In short, the crime rates under the first few years of Clinton really belong to Bush 1, and the rates under the first few years of Bush II really belong to Clinton.

When viewed in this context, it becomes fairly apparent that last years increase in crime is not only the result of failed Republican crime policies, but that it is just the beginning of a trend that is likely to continue into the next administration.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Airing Things Out With Euclid

Today's commentary is a follow-up to my previous post about Euclid, Ohio and their law restricting window drapings. I e-mailed Euclid Councilperson Conway a copy of my commentary and he was kind enough to share his insights about what the Council was trying to accomplish (see comment section). Whether we ultimately agree or not, this type of thoughtful dialog is relevant and important. I thank him for taking the time to respond.

Like many communities Euclid is concerned about property values and that's understandable. Property value determines a large part of the tax base for a community and there's no disputing that it's important. It funds schools and other essential public services. Encouraging pride in a community and attempting to preserve the revenue base that funds these services is a noble goal. My quibble is with their methodology.

Feeling that the story may have been taken out of context in the media, Mr. Conway was kind enough to e-mail me the full text of the law. It states, "All interior window coverings, hardware and mechanisms shall be maintained in good repair and working order. No person shall utilize plywood, blankets, newspaper, flags, banners, signs or other building materials not intended or designed as window treatments as permanent window covering." While I am not an attorney or a constitutional scholar, I believe it could be argued that this law violates privacy rights, rights, which the Supreme Court established under the 9th Amendment. Further, by disallowing banners, flags and signs, the law almost certainly violates 1st Amendment rights pertaining to Freedom of Speech. After all, how does one determine if the items is intended as a window covering or as a political statement?

I do not know the socio-economic breakdown of the neighbourhoods in Euclid. I would hazard a guess, however, that those who are using materials as window treatments that have not been designed for that purpose are those least likely to be able to afford "proper treatments." By threatening a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail, it seems plausible that Euclid is on the verge of punishing people for being poor.

Councilperson Conway comes across as a good man and I'm sure that the other members of the Council are similarly well intentioned. I encourage and challenge them to find a way to achieve their goal of maintaining a strong revenue base, in a manner that does not infringe on Constitutional rights or disenfranchise their poorer residents.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Great Euclid Window Cover-Up Scandal!

One of my favourite news sites is "the buzz" from Each day, AZCentral apparently scours the Associated Press for the most offbeat stories and I look
forward to my daily summary. It feeds that curiosity that often manifests in line at the grocery store when I try to stealthily steal looks at papers such as The Enquirer, The Star and the Midnight Sun. I know that stories with titles such as, "Man Saws Off Own Head And Lives," aren't true, but who can deny the curiosity factour? The great thing about "The Buzz" is that all of the stories ARE true. And that's often the disturbing part.

This week there was a beauty from Euclid, Ohio, where the town council decided that an ordinance was needed to prevent people from using sheets, newspapers, garbage bags and other sundry items as window coverings. The possible consequences of breaking this law? Six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Was this a joke? I wondered, figuring that it was more likely a dying little town looking for some buzz. After all, the Scopes trial was in large part an effort to put Dayton, TN on the map. Curiosity took hold and I was off to the City of Euclid website to find out more.

It turns out that Euclid, OH is a medium sized town, of over 52,000 people, which is not much smaller than where I live. It has 9 banks, 28 churches and temples, a hometown daily newspaper, an almost 300,000 volume library, 96 police officers, a hospital, and over 6,500 children enrolled in 10, K-12 schools. I've never been there, but it certainly sounds like a thriving community.

So, what's the deal then?

Are public eye sores the worst problem facing the residents of Euclid? I'm guessing not. The AP reported that City Councilman John Conway indicated the measure was intended to give Euclid a nicer image and was prompted by complaints. It seems that Euclid has become a microcosm of a larger problem. Government electing to deal with emotionally charged issues (as much as window coverings can cause upset) that have very little impact on the day to day lives of most people. I'm sure there are people in Euclid who do think some window coverings are deplorable, but does this issue have more direct impact on them than the local property tax rate, the quality of Euclid's school system, or the condition of their roads? It's the same thing that is going on at the national level when the majority party trots out things like the "Defense of Marriage Act." What's going to really impact the average person more? Whether their gay neighbours marry, or how much fuel is costing them, whether their air and water
are clean, and whether they can afford to buy a house?

It's bait and switch, and sadly too many of us are swallowing the worm.

I don't know the reason why there are apparently so many
non-traditional window coverings in Euclid, OH. More than likely, it's economic. But, I do know this. If I lived in Euclid, I would immediately take all of my window coverings down and I'd urge all of my friends to do the same. Then I'd walk around naked....A lot. I guarantee that before long, City Council would not only retract the law, but that they'd pony up for some proper window coverings to boot. Maybe the folks in Euclid should give it a try!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ann Coulter - The Patron Saint of Compassionate Conservatism?

Few of us who were alive five years ago will likely forget the events of September 11, 2001. The sights, the sounds, the numbness and horror we felt when we realized that the first plane crash was not an accident, but rather the first in a series of well coordinated attacks. Many of us on the East Coast knew someone who perished or had a friend who knew someone who perished. 9/11 was a defining day for my generation. It was up close, personal and unfolding in our living rooms, minute by minute, in what they used to call, "In Living Colour." It was a gut punch and we felt it the way the children of the 60's felt the Kennedy and King assassinations.

For me, 9/11 stands frozen in time. It was that rarest of moments when we shed our political differences, reached downward and deep within ourselves, and touched our innermost humanity. 9/11 was a common thread that bound us to one another as compassionate human beings. Or so I thought until today.

My Uncle was good enough to put me on to this one. As I sifted through the many stories about the demise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, I came across this in the Associated Press:


For those of you who don't know Ann Coulter, she is an attorney and conservative author who recently released a book entitled, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." In her book she targets four 9/11 widows, Kristen Breitweiser, Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza, whom she refers to as the "Witches of East Brunswick." She writes, "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by the grief-arazzis, I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

She went on to say, "And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy."

If you're like me, you're probably sitting in front of your computer stunned. Hopefully you're asking yourself why on God's, or anyone else's green earth, would someone utter such unsympathetic, foolish and, frankly, mean spirited words? What terrible thing could these women have done? The answer? They had the audacity to call for an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. Oh, and they also happened to support Senator Kerry in the last election, though I'm sure that this played no part in Coulter's criticism.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I present to you, in living colour (drumroll please)...


Yes, here it is alive and well, a shining example of that value on which President Bush has so often waxed philosophically. Outraged? Disgusted? Then do something about it and drop Ann a line! She kindly left an address on her website to do so. I know I will.

E-mail Ann

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bush And Republican Congress Out Of Goosestep With The Times

The Associated Press is reporting today that the House of Representatives is debating a bill (S. 193), already passed in the Senate, where the FCC would be able to increase indecency fines ten-fold. Current violations cost broadcasters $32,500. President Bush is widely expected to sign the bill into law.

Here we go again.

While I fully agree that television, particularly reality television, is contributing greatly to the dumbing down of American culture, that's not what this bill aims to address. This is a morality bill, plain and simple. It's an attempt by a right wing dominated government to define American culture in conservative Christian terms. And American conservative Christianity as I've come to learn, has very little to do with the teachings and philosophies of Jesus. Conservative Christianity cares a great deal about exposed nipples, what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms and if the almighty f-bomb is dropped on television. Jesus on the other hand cared about things such as the dignity of each human being, the danger of being in love with money, and the embracing of individuals with values that might differ from his own.

Do these sound like the same movement to you?

If you're not sure, why don't you ask an African-American person in New Orleans, a single parent working two jobs, or a gay person in a long term relationship who doesn't have any rights in the care of a sick partner.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm 41, I'm the first wave of Gen X, and you bet your ass I'm pissed.

Welcome to the inaugural post of my blog. A lot of people seem to use these things as personal journals, that is, if you can consider standing virtually naked before the entire world and spilling your guts to be personal. If that's why you surfed in, do yourself a favour and ride the next wave out. I want no part in feeding your nasty little voyeuristic predilections. If you must satisfy those, I'm sure that Paris Hilton is out there somewhere in Reality TV land waiting just for you.

So here's the deal. A strange thing happened sometime during the last six years. The country that I knew and loved was hijacked. (Note To NSA Data-Miners: Use of the word 'hijack' is not meant as an endorsement of the technique) It's like I woke up one day and found myself in that old "Bizzaro World" Saturday Night Live sketch. Gas is over $3.00/gallon, we're being spied on by our government, it's o.k. to leak the names of undercover CIA operatives to the media, torture is an acceptable interrogation technique, and the two most critical issues facing the United States today are the possibilities that homosexuals may someday marry and that someone may burn a flag.

What The Hell Happened?

That's what this blog is about. This is my forum to rant, rave, cajole and maybe goad a few of you into action. I'll write when I see fit and you'll read whenever the mood strikes you. And maybe, just maybe, we might even start to turn things around.