Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Larry Craig Gay? Fine By Me!

CNN reports today that Idaho Senator Larry Craig is rapidly losing support in his home state. The Conservative Senator is under fire from both the left and the right for allegedly engaging in lewd conduct in a Minneapolis Airport restroom. The Senator, who pleaded guilty to a charge of Disorderly Conduct, is vehemently denying that he is gay, though rumours have persisted for many years.

There are many things about this case which are strange, not least among them this: If the Senator was doing nothing wrong, why did he plead guilty? He claims that "In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman's investigation and the rumors it has fueled around Idaho." Apparently the Senator thought the best way to quell said rumours was by admitting guilt to a charge that would lead people to draw exactly that conclusion.

Not exactly the brightest strategy.

But beyond that, who cares? While this story is certainly made of the stuff that sells advertising, whether or not Senator Craig is (hushed whisper) G-A-Y, really isn't the point. What should be the point, is the following:

• If in fact Senator Craig is guilty of no wrong doing, why did he plead guilty?

• If he "overreacted" due to stress caused by rumours, is he in a mental state that leaves him fit to serve?

• Regardless of his sexual orientation, Senator Craig has; 1) been a strong opponent of expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias, 2) voted against outlawing employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 3) strongly supported a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. Not exactly a record to be proud of.

It boils down to this: If Senator Craig chooses to resign or decides not to seek re-election, it should not be because of his sexual orientation.

Rather, if he is gay, then he is in conflict with his inner self and should take some time to resolve it. If he is not gay, then his behaviour is at best bizzare and calls into question his competency to make the types of judgements that a United States is required to make.

It's probably time for him to go, but let's make sure it's for the right reasons.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rove And Gonzales: Resignation Should Not Equal Off The Hook

The world seemed just a little bit brighter this morning as the radio brought forth the news about the resignation of Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. It comes on the heels of Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's recent announcement of his intention to step down at the end of September. Both leave under heavy clouds of suspicion regarding their involvement in activities of questionable legality. Their collective works allegedly include;

• Releasing the identity of a covert CIA operative to the media.
• Crafting guidelines for interrogating techniques that are widely considered to be torture.
• Failing to abide by or enforce Federal guidelines for preserving communications records.
• Bypassing existing laws regarding warrantless surveillance.
• Participating in the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys for political reasons.
• Suppressing the right of accused terror suspects to legal counsel and a jury trial.

It is a long and shameful record and our country is better off without their continued service.

Both men have garnered increasing attention from Congress and it would be easy for them to now turn their collective attention elsewhere. To do so, however, would be tantamount to stopping treatment for a disease once the obvious symptoms have gone.

It's sometimes the hidden things that will kill you!

Given the close personal relationship that both Mr. Rove and Mr. Gonzales enjoy with the President, it is likely that they will remain influential. By being out of the Washington limelight, they'll be better able to exert it away from the increasingly watchful gaze of the Democratic controlled Congress. It's critical now, more than ever, that investigations continue.

Some say that the country doesn't need partisan investigations, that to do so amounts to political payback. I disagree. Free roaming inquiries into alleged shady land deals that then morph into allegations of sexual harassment are partisan. Focused investigations into allegations of the suppression of constitutional rights, treason, or violations of the Geneva Conventions are not. They are due diligence, and due diligence lies at the very heart of our system of checks and balances.

Under the 109th Congress, the Executive Branch ran amok. If the 110th does not fully assert it's Constitutional authority and reign the administration back in, then it's members have abandoned their oaths of office.

In order to ensure that this doesn't happen, we need to do our due diligence and let them know that we expect our rights to be protected. Congressional vacations end on September 4. Give them a call: 202-224-3121.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Look, Up In The Sky! It's A Bird . . . It's A Plane . . . It's Your Government Spying On You!

In what may be the most egregious affront to privacy rights in at least the last week, both the Washington Post and Fox News are reporting that the Bush Administration has approved plans to allow domestic agencies access to data from U.S. spy satellites. Approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement officials will soon be able to utilise imagery from systems that have largely been restricted to foreign surveillance and occasional scientific study. The systems are believed to be sophisticated enough to penetrate clouds, buildings and even underground bunkers.

Now here's the REALLY interesting Part . . .

Oversight of the imagery data will come from officials in the Department of Homeland Security and from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That's right, no court obtained warrants and no approval from Congress. But don't let that worry you. According to Charles Allen, the chief intelligence officer for the Department of Homeland Security, "We can give total assurance" that Americans’ civil liberties will be protected. "Americans shouldn't have any concerns about it."

Well the executive branch of government has never lied to us. Wait, reverse that.

It is clear to me that Congress's latest passivity with regard to renewing the warrantless wiretapping has emboldened the Bush Administration. In no part of the United States is it legal for the police to just knock down your door and search your premises. Yet this technology provides law enforcement the ability to do just that. But it's not our local law enforcement departments you should be concerned about. Most are comprised of men and women of good faith. The problem goes a little higher. Consider this: In 1972 members of the Nixon Administration had the audacity to orchestrate a burglary of Democratic Party Headquarters. Had they access to this type of technology might they have gotten away with it?

Make no mistake about it: This is the type of activity that was condoned and utilised by the German Nazi government, by the Soviet Union, and by Communist China. It is antithetical to every principle upon which the United States of America was founded.

The idea that honest people have nothing to worry about is no longer, if it ever was, a valid response to this latest action. The administration has broken faith with the people whose rights it pledged to uphold and protect. If you have sat silently while civil liberty after civil liberty has been peeled away in the name of security, you can afford to sit no longer. You can afford to be silent no longer either. Our nation is in peril and the danger is coming as much from within as from without. You must act. You must raise your voice in protest, write letters to your paper and put placards in your yard. You must call your Congressional Representative and demand action. You must call the White House and voice your opposition.
These are the imperative actions that each of us must take.

And if that doesn't get their attention then WE must march on Washington until the only sound that can be heard is that of our voices raised in protest and in defense of our most cherished freedoms.