Sunday, November 07, 2010
Living in Georgia, where state Republicans literally broke out a broom at their celebration in Atlanta, Tuesday night, it all seems rather insurmountable. Just because the GOP have spent the last eight years in power in this state, doesn't mean it is either inevitable or for the good of the state. Just because this is a traditionally conservative state, doesn't mean it cannot be a conservatory for strong, progressive ideas. Finally, just because the blue bleeds to red once the vote gets outside the state's urban zones, doesn't mean that the people voting there are all aware of the consequences of touch screening a Republican slate of candidates.
[caption id="attachment_440" align="alignright" width="261" caption="Blue counties in Georgia that voted for the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010. Almost all the blue represents metropolitan areas of the state's largest cities, including Atlanta, Athens, Savannah, Augusta, Albany, Macon and Columbus."][/caption]
In Georgia, like many other southern and western conservative states, the social ideals of the electorate move as slowly as a man with a push-mower on a sweltering, summer day. In fact, it could be argued that the mood hardly changes at all - only the labels worn by those elected do. After all, this is the state that awarded Lester Maddox, a segregationist Democrat, the governorship in 1966, and elected Jimmy Carter governor right after that.
To put that into context, Maddox and his Dixiecrat contemporaries, like Alabama's George Wallace, would have been darlings of Jim DeMint, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin's Tea Party followers today. If you doubt it, check out Wallace's rhetoric during his independent presidential run in 1968. "They're building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia," he said at one point during the campaign. Can't you just hear the Embarrassment of Alaska saying that?
"His campaign in California and other states attracted the interest of the far right, including the John Birch Society," cites a Wikibin article on Wallace's failed bid. If you look at the crowds from his rallies that cycle, you'll see many faces, and many signs, that are similar to today's TP gatherings. He actually carried five Southern states that election, as the candidate for the American Independent Party (any one of which could have given Democrat Hubert Humphrey the election), including Georgia.
The last two-term Democratic governor in Georgia was Zell Miller (1991-1999), whose eccentricities and knee-jerk conservatism led him to the floor of the 2004 Republican National Convention, as keynote speaker and outspoken supporter of George W. Bush.
The thirty years from Maddox to Miller shows that very little changes in Georgia politics. Yes, we elected a string of Democrats in that time, but most just rode the tide of the Southern Democrat machine that was so prevalent in this part of the country in the twentieth century. The tide shifted within four years of Miller's leaving office.
Even though we elected another Democrat, Roy Barnes, as governor in 1998, he only served one term, being swept out in the Great Changeover of 2002. That's when Georgia elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction - Sonny Perdue - and both houses of the State Legislature went to the GOP. In fact, many of the Democrats who did get re-elected, sensing the changing winds, switched parties, giving the Republicans an even more overwhelming majority.
If you are thinking, "Okay, campaign like a Republican; govern like a Democrat," that probably won't work either - at least, not in this political climate. Barnes, who lost another bid for a second term, Tuesday - to the crooked former Congressman, Nathan Deal - tried to run with Republican ideas this time. He came out in favor of an Arizona-style immigration law and against the recently passed Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform).
There's no telling if another candidate, running on a similar, pandering platform, would have done any better than Roy. That is, the majority of voters either didn't trust him because he was Roy Barnes - who took the states' rights, confederate emblem off the state flag when he was governor - or they just don't want to vote for Democrats.
Roy's disingenuousness was probably his downfall. That, and the fact that the state Democratic Party is afraid to back a bolder candidate. If you are going to be derided and pigeon-holed as a Pinko or Liberal or Socialist, no matter what you stand for, if they're not going to believe what you say anyway, you may as well say what you believe. They'll respect you more for it, and they may even vote for you, as long as you are honest and can demonstrate that you love this state as much as they do, and you're putting their best interests ahead of your own.
By the way, we would welcome progressive carpetbaggers, too. Y'all come.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
It is hard not to feel, that in a year where candidates use fictional beheadings, claim there is shariya law in American communities, and make hay about some stupid, bong-induced college prank, all in an effort to rile up people to vote for them, our ability to reason has gone into hibernation.
Imagine you are watching a magician perform on stage, and he has just "levitated" his lovely assistant. As she floats horizontally in front of him, her gown draping from her long legs toward the floor, the magician dramatically runs a hoop around her body, from head to foot and back again. He performs this maneuver because he wants to convince you that what you are witnessing is real, that the beautiful woman in front of him is actually floating. You know it cannot possibly be real, that this is some kind of trick, and still, you let your mind suspend reality for just a moment or two, and allow yourself to entertain the notion of, "But, what if it is?"
That moment of cognitive dissonance gives us a buzz. Serotonin, that lovely neurotransmitter, makes us feel we fit wonderfully and perfectly in this moment of universal time, validates us for who we are, what we are, and with whom we associate ourselves. There is no such thing as unsound judgment, because by allowing ourselves to suspend reality, we can believe that everything we think, feel and hear is actually happening. A woman is floating, ungrounded, in mid-air. Headless torsos are rotting in the Arizona desert. People in Dearborn, Michigan, are having their hands chopped off and being stoned to death. There is an anti-Christian cult of students at Baylor University that ties up young women and makes them bow to Aqua Buddha.
We believe these things because we want to, or don't in the case of the Aqua Buddha story. (The funny thing is, that even though Jack Conway's story about Rand Paul is the closest to a real event, it backfired because the Democrat's insistence that this was a legitimate campaign issue jumped the shark. Ahh, irony.)
That brings us to Saturday's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall, in Washington, DC. There was a bittersweet air about the crowd, at once poking fun at this year's insane political discourse...
[caption id="attachment_409" align="alignleft" width="143" caption="Photo by Annie Parker"][/caption]
while at the same time, lamenting the power it had over a frighteningly large amount of the electorate.
The craziness of this election, as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pointed out, played out under the shimmering lights and fog machine clouds of 24-hour cable news, all helping us get that cognitive dissonance rush, because like a magic show, in order for a medium like television to work, we have to believe - even if it's only for a moment - that everything we are witnessing is real.
For Stewart, reality is the give-and-take, community mentality that gets people from different backgrounds and beliefs through the Lincoln Tunnel. He's right that sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel is not the Promised Land, but New Jersey. The thing is, the rational, sane way to look at life as part of our American community, is that the light at the end of the tunnel may never be what we want or expect or think we deserve. But it's the light in which we live.
Don't forget to vote, and make that light just a little brighter.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
"I love money, I love power, I love capitalism."
- "Daddy Warbucks," from the Broadway musical, Annie (1982)
It's not hyperbole, or the overused metaphor of the battle for electoral victory. It's a war for political power - a war fought with ammunition of bucks rather than bullets.
Ho hum, you say? A tiresome analogy?
Look at how much money Tea Party darlings Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell have raised recently: $14 million for Ms. "Second Amendment remedies," compared to only $2 million for her opponent, incumbent Sen. Harry Reid - and that amount is only $5 million short of what the Senate majority leader has raised since he began soliciting for this election cycle back in 2005; and Ms. "I'm not a witch" has raised, since the Delaware primary in mid-September, $3.8 million, twice as much as Democrat Chris Coons.
In this war, O'Donnell and Rand Paul, Angle and Marco Rubio are not political pioneers, but cannon fodder for the super rich backing up the Right's rear flank. People like the Koch brothers push these Kool-Aid® drinking greenhorns out on the front line, telling them they are leading the charge, "taking the country back," and meanwhile, the truly scary maniacs are hiding in the background.
In this war, Gen. Palin raises the money and Col. Beck raises the hackles of weakened minds, and they are only two of a handful who can control the crazy corporals who are zealously rattling their sabers and flapping their gums on the front lines. It's not that they are smarter or less insane than their troops. They were just out there first.
With groups backed by relentless Republicans, like Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, spending buckets of money on ads against Congressional Democratic candidates that are either misleading or just plainly false, "campaign finance reform in this country is virtually dead," as columnist David Corn put it, Friday, "and that means any entity with a lot of money -- a corporation, a billionaire, a union -- can pour as much cash as it wants into an effort to rig the political system in its favor."
It is up to us, the real America, to not let money win the power it salivates for so greedily. This is our country, and - in this the Tea Partiers are right - we have lost control of it. Vote, and remind those with riches that money doesn't vote. People do.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
"On many important political and social issues, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement also hold views similar to the views of Americans who identify with the Christian conservative movement..."
- Public Religion Research Institute, October 5, 2010
There may not be much of a surprise here, but a new poll published by the Public Religion Research Institute says that chances are, if you are White, non-Hispanic, call Fox News your "most trusted source of news about politics and current events," and prefer extreme Christian social values, you are supporting the Tea Party and its unhinged cabal of crazy candidates in this year's midterm election.
The biennial poll, conducted by the PRRI every two years since 2006, found that more than half (57%) of those in the ultra-conservative, Palin embracing, DeMint encouraged social conservatives in the Tea Party "consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement." I guess it could be worse, considering the survey also found that more than 8-in-10 of them call themselves Christians.
[caption id="attachment_358" align="alignright" width="477" caption="What would Jesus do? This sign from the October 2, 2010, One Nation demonstration on the National Mall, in Washington, DC, has an idea, one with which the Tea Party may not agree. (photo by Carole Keith)"][/caption]
To bring home the point that these are not just fiscally-conscious, socially accepting Libertarians, the poll, which PRRI calls the American Values Survey, points out that almost two-of-three Tea Partiers surveyed are against abortion "in all or most cases," and less than 20% support gay marriage. (I would have thought that number was much worse.)
They are also - no surprise here - overwhelmingly Republican, with basically three-of-four saying they always vote GOP, and more than eight-of-ten (83%) saying they will be supporting Republican candidates in November.
Daily Beast columnist and "Wingnuts" author John Avlon, in a March column, called it "Obama Derangement Syndrome—pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism," and says this "demonizing of our president" has "infected the Republican Party."
The more appropriate and timeless quote may be the one from Jonathan Swift, which appears as the epigraph of the John Kennedy Toole classic, "A Confederacy of Dunces." Swift said:
"When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him."
Sunday, October 03, 2010
"...the current system of privately financed campaigns for election to the House of Representatives has the capacity... to undermine democracy..."
- Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), Title I
Our electoral system has been stolen from the people who need it most by the people who care about us the least. The irony is that those who fight entitlements the loudest are the ones taking the most from our tax coffers. Corporate money interferes with democracy, beguiles Congress and suckles at the government breast with such unfettered access that the rest of the people are ignored like we are the runt of Mother Country's litter. It is an issue that is Right and Left, front and center.
Republican strategist Mark McKinnon called it a "broken trust," when he addressed the Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, Kentucky on last Saturday. "Congress now ranks sixteenth among public institutions when it comes to trust," he pointed out, "behind big business, and even the media." The people, he said, feel "unable to impact the process because money has taken over the process."
"It's a mad, mad merry-go-round, where Congress endlessly chases campaign cash, and voters can't even get a ticket for the ride."
On September 23, the Fair Elections Now Act came out of committee in the U.S. House. The bill sets up a matching funding system for Congressional campaigns, with fundraising limits based on the number of US Congressional districts in each state. Like presidential elections, Candidates can opt into this fund and run on a more competitive field, or they can opt-out, and collect from big donors. Regardless, under the terms of the bill, "Joint fundraising committees between candidates and parties would be prohibited," publicampaign.org says in its summary.
Unfortunately, Congress adjourned for the fall/mid-term election break before any action could be taken on the floor of the House. In fact, our elected representatives spend far more time raising money to get us to keep them in their jobs than they spend actually doing the work of the people - if by "people" you mean the corporate special interests.
David Donnelly, of the Public Campaign Action Fund, also appearing at the Coffee Party Convention, cited a Roll Call article that estimated that in September alone, Congress was in session only seven days, "but they would have held 415 fundraisers in our nation's capital."
[caption id="attachment_341" align="alignright" width="297" caption="David Donnelly addresses the Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of September. (from livestream provided, via UStream, by 5 Steps Forward Media)"][/caption]
"That doesn't take into account the countless hours we know elected officials and candidates for office spend on the phone dialing-for-dollars," Donnelly added.
It's possible the bill may come to the floor of the House during the lame duck session following the election, especially if the fallout from the Citizens United decision has an obvious and profound influence on November 2. But it will only do that if we come together and call our Congressional leaders and make it happen. They may not know how serious we are, but they know we are here.
"Politicians' and elected officials' antennae are quivering right now," McKinnon said, "because they see what's happening with the Tea Party; they see what's happening here [with the Coffee Party]; they know that something's happening in America and they've got to do something about it."
Monday, September 27, 2010
"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."
- James Madison
Power motivates and constipates, elevates and eviscerates. Where do you stand?
"You can't stop a movement."
- Johnny 5 of The Flobots
Now is the time to recognize that not all Americans on the left are being ripped apart, excused or held back by a so-called "enthusiasm gap." For over 300 people meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, this past weekend, the worst of the gap is nothing more than a couple of centimeters between the ledge we stand on and the rest of the short climb to the mountain top - and that's only if we choose to line up behind this media driven division.
Some may allow themselves to linger, to indulge in the lazy luxury of voter vertigo that can make even the tiniest of spaces look like an intraversable gorge - but that's not how futures are built, how ships are guided or how countries thrive.
When the six-month-old Coffee Party Movement held its first ever national convention on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, two blocks from the museum dedicated to favorite son Muhammad Ali, it was not to bemoan the gap but to celebrate the fight for our country's return to its founding democratic principles. It was, in deference to the famous pugilist, a gathering of the greatest... and some famous people too.
Indeed, the fight-card was set by young Rebecca Baird, a recent college graduate and one of the event organizers, who exhorted those gathered for Friday's opening session to "roll up our sleeves and make it happen," and literally pulled the sleeves of her sweater up her small arms and curled her fists over her shoulders, making a pair of strong-man muscles. "Doing what's hard is what's good and right," she said. "Whether it's a mental or a physical challenge, you're going to come out stronger from it."
Then switch to the sixty-six year old Francis Moore Lappé, author of the seminal Seventies classic, "Diet for a Small Planet," and founder, with her daughter Anna, of The Small Planet Institute, who similarly curled her arms, saying, "This feels really good," and reminded all of us just how powerful we are. "We see power as what we create, moment to moment," she said.
Lt. Dan Choi brought the crowd to its feet with his version of Jesse Jackson's famous "I am somebody" mantra. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig got us to believe that the Fair Elections Now Act (which just came out of committee in the House) is what everyone wants, regardless of what your beverage of choice happens to be.
Seattle activist Bill Moyer (not the similarly named journalist), founder of Backbone Campaign - as in "get one, fellow progressives" - talked about the inherent contagiousness of "celebrating progressive values," and quoted the late, great Sixties activist Abbie Hoffman, who told him to "be the 800 pound gorilla."
[caption id="attachment_323" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Bill Moyer, of the Backbone Campaign, leads a course on Creative Actions, at the first Coffee Party Convention in Louisville, KY, Friday, September 24, 2010 (Rebecca Baird)"][/caption]
Even centrist Republican strategist, Mark McKinnon, told the group that "something is happening in America..we've got a real opportunity to change the system."
"The time is ripe," he said, and quoted James Madison, who said, in 1897, "The people are the fountain of all power."
"The revolt is widespread," McKinnon added, "From the left and the right, citizens recognize that democracy does not work when the power of the people is perverted."
The power of political will, when it comes to moving the country forward cannot be taken for granted. "You can't stop," as singer Johnny 5 of the Flobots called out to the audience who had come to hear his conscious rap, "a movement."
The next thing I will post, is how and why the policy experts at the Coffee Party Convention say Fair Elections is the best way we can change the tenor of the conversation in Washington, DC.
Video from the Coffee Party Convention are available through U-stream.
Monday, September 20, 2010
But before we dismiss the crack-tea-pottery of Christine O'Donnell, let's keep in mind that the more a mama grizzly is cornered, the harder she scratches, especially when her cubbette is in trouble. She may be hiding behind Palin's skirts, but like Yosemite tourists behaving badly, the tea baggers will just keep leaving more food for the bears. The more resources they consume, the stronger they get; the harder they fight.
What killed Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware's Republican primary last week was low voter turnout. The caution expressed in this column after O'Donnell's den-mate, Rand Paul, won in Kentucky still holds true. We cannot say these people are unelectable, because they managed to get elected. So the only way we can get these folks out of politics is to vote them out, defensively. They may be clawing out only a small, conservative corner of the electorate, but they are noisy and get all the attention. Only the rational sanity of the majority of Americans showing up to vote can upstage the Tea Party spectacle.
So when Bill Maher reveals he has intercepted O'Donnell's owl-borne invitation to Hogwarts, we can laugh, but make sure you're guffawing all the way to the voting booth, that you're tittering as you present your voter ID, that you're snickering when you see Diebold across the voting screen, then just let your belly explode with laughter when you vote against these people. That way, when it's morning in America, it won't look as dark as the long, Alaskan winter night.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
France claims the ethnic minority, who mostly live in poverty in more than 300 camps across the country, are disproportionally responsible for a high number of crimes and criminal behavior. France has expelled the Roma before, but the latest wave follows an attack by Roma on a police station, in reaction to a young woman from a local camp being shot and killed by police.
What makes this episode particularly vile, is the leaking of a memorandum that was issued in the beginning of August, calling for a "systematic action to dismantle the illegal camps, in priority those of the Roma." Furthermore, to the EU's dismay, French officials have insisted that they are working "in favor of the Roma population."
"We can improve the situation of the Roma," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, "who are at the heart of our concerns and our action."
So the French are uprooting thousands of individuals, putting them on buses and airplanes back to the discrimination they will face in Bulgaria and Romania in order to "improve the situation" for them.
The French Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, defended the action, saying the deportations are happening "not because they are Roma, but because they (the camps) are illegal." Remind you of anything?
The refrain in Arizona, and elsewhere, is that the anger over illegal immigration is over the "illegal" part, and not racism. This despite the fact that the most vocal anti-immigrant groups are the ones worried about White people becoming a minority, those who see the US defined as a nation run by Europeans.
The EU's Reding pegged it Tuesday, when she said, "This is a situation I thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War." In World War Two, Vichy France was notoriously complicit in rounding up Jews and Gypsies and sending them to Nazi death camps.
So what's going on here? The French have decided that because they are French, they cannot possibly be racist. Everything they are doing - expelling the Roma, outlawing the burqa for Muslim women - they are doing for their minority populations, not to them. N'est pas?
Thursday, September 09, 2010
"Allah is great, Allah is great.
There is no deity but Allah.
Allah is great, Allah is great
And all praises are for Allah."
- Opening Takbir prayer Muslims say when Ramadan is declared over, and Eid al-Fitr begins
"It is true that You alone are the One Who judges,
proves, knows, and bears witness;
Who writes and seats, (counts and calculates);
Who remembers all that was forgotten."
- from the Un'taneh Tokef prayer, recited by Jews on
"This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day."
- President George W. Bush address to the nation on September 11, 2001
This year marks the first time since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), the Eid (festival) marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and September 11 have all aligned.
It is a poignant reminder that the faith of humanity moves as a clock, and will not be disrupted by angry men, violent weapons, and hateful words.
When this year's Ramadan began, and it became apparent that 9/11 could end up being the first day of Eid al-Fitr, Muslim leaders in America became nervous. It could, after all, appear that the faithful, with parties and carnivals worldwide, were celebrating 9/11, rather than commemorating the end of Ramadan festival in their traditional way.
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Associated Press when the month began, that he could "sense brewing" hate on the internet, especially with the Manhattan Islamic Center controversy inflaming tensions. "It's getting really scary out there," Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR told the AP.
As it turns out, the Saudi Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Eid will begin in Saudi Arabia on Friday, which is September 10. Most Muslim countries are expected to follow the Saudi lead on this. Although in the U.S., one can expect the traditional Eid celebrations to be more muted than usual in deference to the 9/11 anniversary.
Although both Jews and Muslims follow a lunar calendar - with days and months delineated by the phases of the moon - the Jewish calendar is always adjusted to make certain that the appropriate festivals correspond to the appropriate seasons. Passover, for example, will always be in the spring, Shavuot in the early summer, and Rosh Hashanah in the autumn.
The Muslim calendar, in contrast, is not locked to the seasons. It slips about ten days a year, relative to the secular, Gregorian calendar. That is why Ramadan, a holiday where people fast during daylight hours, can come in the short days of winter or the long, hot days of summer.
A specific Muslim date will align with a specific Jewish date only once every 33 years. Some find the confluence of holy days significant. "Both Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan are opportunities for thauba or teshuvah, improving one's character through introspection, increasing one's commitment to doing good deeds," according to an interfaith dialogue on one Jewish British website.
Some, like Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who just "suspended" his plans to burn Qur'ans on Saturday's anniversary, have drawn brimstone lines in the coal sands of intolerance, hoping to rally the vapid minds of rabid ignorance to their side. Instead, their line has become a circle of light, uniting Muslims and Jews, and all those for whom the insanity of this hateful act was beyond the pale.
The "extended period of soul-searching," as one author put it, present during both Ramadan and the Jewish High Holidays, must, Insha'Allah /Im Yirtza HaShem/God willing, "help bond our communities together."
Friday, August 27, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
“...we would betray our values if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, August 3, 2010
There are so many ways that the Ugly American shows itself these days. The flap over the community center and mosque blocks from the 9/11 attacks makes it clear that even though the Cowboy is out of the White House, he is an integral part of the American Manifest Destiny psyche. (I apologize to real cowboys for that remark; you are all better than he ever will be.)
Make no mistake - had the GOP controlled Congress and the Executive during this anti-Muslim mud slinging, they would have pulled a Terry Schiavo and stuck their self-righteous noses where they don't belong - in urban zoning and permitting issues.
Even now, supposedly smart people like Newt Gingrich, who should be bigger than the gutter swimmers in this country, are calling for a congressional resolution that says we will never enact sharia, Islam's strict religious based law, in America. As if!!!
Don't we already have a resolution like that, a little something called the U.S. Constitution? This is a problematic solution to a non-existent problem. I mean, why stop there? Why not say we can never enact Mosaic law, or Feudal law, or even Roman law? We must stop before we are drawn and quartered in the streets! Puh-leeze. We don't have to pass a resolution to say we'll never have a king, or never allow unreasonable search and seiz-
Well, maybe that one needs help.
You see, Newt, if you believed in the importance of the ACLU in this country, you wouldn't have to worry about sharia becoming the law of the land.
We, quite properly, have no "hallowed ground" in this country; we have landmarks on historical grounds and institutions on government grounds and echoes of war on battlegrounds. A community center for Muslims in New York City, half-a-mile from Ground Zero, is about the best in America, and the best in that great city. The Constitution keeps us from being reactionary.
What law says that it's American to be angry, resentful and racist? Wait...I got this one. "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee." Where is that one from again?
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
"S.B. 1070 is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and must be struck down." (from the US Department of Justice complaint, United States v. State of Arizona (et al), dated: July 6, 2010)
Like a hole in an Arizona border fence, the lack of comprehensive, US immigration reform has left what Latino advocates call a "void," into which Arizona has inserted SB 1070. "Immigration policy and enforcement falls squarely upon the federal government, and the lawsuit will ensure to reassert federal authority," Jerry Gonzalez, of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said in a statement issued after the DOJ announced the suit.
Any reform, Constitutionally, must come from the federal government, and not just in a way that pleases industry and appeases xenophobes. Indeed, watering down the law to cater to those groups is an abandonment of the charitable principles that, so proudly, we hail ourselves for every time we give our stuff to the Salvation Army and see a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
A government that is committed to the interests of its people operates dysfunctionally if it ignores the interests of the global community of which it is a member. Allowing states to make their own law irrespective of existing federal statute not only potentially disrupts the integrity of US international relations, it violates the Constitution.
The Supremacy Clause of Article VI in the United States Constitution says the "Constitution, and the Laws of the United States... shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and ... every State shall be bound thereby."
In the view of the Department of Justice, The Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, Arizona's controversial new immigration law violates this clause because - among other things - it "interferes with the numerous interests the federal government must balance when enforcing and administering the immigration laws and disrupts the balance actually established by the federal government."
The agencies involved feel that any step Arizona - or any state - takes to amend or rewrite federal immigration law, may jeopardize treaties and other federal laws with regard to the safety and security of the entire country. Specifically, the brief says, "Arizona’s immigration policy exceeds a state’s role with respect to aliens (Homeland Security), interferes with the federal government’s balanced administration of the immigration laws (Justice), and critically undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives (State)."
This follows what the Supreme Court decided in 1941, Hines [Secretary of Labor and Industry for Pennsylvania] v. Davidowitz, et al. "Our primary function," the court said, "is to determine whether... [state] law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. And in that determination, it is of importance that this legislation is in a field which affects international relations, the one aspect of our government that from the first has been most generally conceded imperatively to demand broad national authority."
Even though "the status quo perpetuates a broken immigration system," as GALEO's Gonzalez said, there is still federal immigration law already in place. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano insisted that DHS will "continue to enforce the laws on the books."
Arizona's law, therefor, is an example of a state acting on its own to change a law which every other state must follow. "Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws," Attorney General, Eric Holder, said in the DOJ press release, "will only create more problems than it solves.”
Gonzalez agreed, saying that in the case of the state his organization represents, the Justice Department action "should give pause to the Gubernatorial candidates talking about enacting or pushing for such a law in Georgia."
Napolitano also said that, as Governor of Arizona she "vetoed several similar pieces of legislation" because, she believed they "undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve.”
The lawsuit is important because it says that in our democratic society, though we speak with different voices, and often a disquiet consensus, we still believe in the supremacy of the rule of law - one nation. E pluribus unum.
Monday, July 05, 2010
It must be nice to be part of a people that take so many things as gospel. As Jews, we are taught to question everything - even established rabbinical law - until we understand why things are a certain way, why specific customs and behaviors are necessary. Because, for us - regardless of whether or not we find the relevance - we are expected to perform the customs that have been part of our heritage for thousands of years. Our faith is a constant paradox of, "Okay, following that commandment is supposed to be relevant, and I'm supposed to accept that - but why is it relevant?"
Such is the challenge for the liberal American Jew as regards supporting Israel and her government. It creates yet another struggle for an angst ridden and purposeful people, for whom tikkun olam, repairing the world, is an utmost priority. But so is the survival of the Jewish people.
The answer to what we, as Jews in the Diaspora, can do to change the often disconcerting words and actions with which the Israeli government responds to its historical regional adversity is, therefor, not an easy one, especially for an American liberal raised in a very, VERY pro-Israel home.
There is a movement in the liberal wing of the American Jewish community known as BDS, for boycott, divest and sanction, meaning, use those tools to let Israel know we do not approve of some of her government's attitudes and actions in the region. I'm not a fan of this tack. More on that later.
First, let me say, I am not one of those who would call other
members of the tribe by epithets that challenge the veracity of their faith or their identification
Too much righteous indignation on all sides there. In my opinion, the rabbis letter goes a little too far in taking a rhetorical stand on the report, which they say "affirms" accusations that the Israel Defense Forces engaged in "the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers."
The folks who advocate BDS are extremely well meaning. Their intentions, I believe, are to show - as dramatically as possible - that Jews who live in the Diaspora will not hesitate to let Israel know that we do not hold a blind allegiance to Israeli government policy. The thought is that a "bad" action by Israel reflects badly on all the world's Jews. That is a good argument.
To me, though, BDS is a BS approach for Jews, liberal or otherwise, to take regarding Israel. I'll admit, on its face, it seems pretty cut-and-dried. When there is a government - anywhere on the planet - whose policies we find uncivil, or even dangerous, BDS is the kind of global response that brings changes. Sometimes, as with the Apartheid regime in twentieth century South Africa, it can bring down an entire regime. It is because of precisely that, though, I do not support the BDS approach when it comes to changing the situation in Israel.
Bringing down the Israeli government would be as bad for Jews as bringing down Lhasa was for Tibetan Buddhists. Those who do not have our best interests in mind would run the country, and, like the Dalai Lama, we would once again be a people in exile.
BDS punishes all the world's Jews - not just Israel. On the other hand, we cannot let only Israelis decide the fate of Israel, something in which all the world's Jews have a stake.
My belief is an old one, from sixties activism - if you want to make a difference change the organization from the inside. Find the smaller political parties in Israel that take a "broader" view of the security situation, and do what you can to support them. Send your local Consul General an email with your plain, civilly expressed opinions.
If you want your opinions to matter to Israel, make your opinions matter in Israel. Instead of BDS it should be BTC - be the change you want Israel to be. If you can't do it from here, you can always move there.
In a way, it's a shame we can't vote in Israeli elections the same way exiled Iraqis got to vote in theirs, but then again, we are exiles by choice.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sometimes it feels like progressive activism is the same as having a huge, pot luck dinner party where every dish goes untasted and everyone leaves hungry and disappointed because they forgot they all brought food.
Ah, the salad days of 2008! How I miss them. The progressive jelly was so thick and rich on the good old American marble rye that we could not even taste the goobers scattered like pinheads across the pock-marked, doughy landscape.
The times, though, have changed. The American political appetite has become a quest for the perfect blend of dense, nutty paste and the wistful promise of sweet, fruity spread. Cowering in opposite corners with independently constructed sandwiches - sticky jelly for us and smooth goober butter, for, well, them - leaves a majority of voters hungering for the tasty integrity achieved through condiment cooperation.
It is not that neither side, on its own, offers a tasty sandwich. Indeed, those munching peanut butter will continue to cluck their tongues, and those slurping jelly from the sides of their bread will keep smacking their lips. The real issue is viscosity - busy little molecules of political will, interacting to keep their respective gooey stuff together, lest it squish out from the bread under consumer pressure.
But in that battle, it seems, the goobers have an advantage; it takes a awful lot of pressure to get them to gush from their cushy Wonder® bread slices. Our sweet malleability means the slightest pressure on the whole grain goodness we call America gets too many of us to abandon our positions and ooze toward the exits.
The nuts stay and we just stain, hoping the voters won't forget the promise of our pectin.
We need more gumption to be a flavor for major consumption. Instead, we wait for the people to tire of the stale flavor of goober heads so they have no choice but to see what a sample of smart jelly has to offer. But they don't stick around, because we neglect to create the energy to keep them next to us.
We each have a duty to be extra sticky for the liberal causes of progressive politics. What will you do to get your glue on?
Friday, June 11, 2010
Doctor: "Congratulations, Mrs. Private! It's a corporation"
Mrs. P. : "Wow! I think I'll name it Inc."
Mr. P. : "Aw. Look at him. Coo-chee-coo! Ow! Damn! He bit me!"
Some kids don't eat their vegetables. Inc was not one of those kids. He at his vegetables and bread and meat. He ate dirt and flowers and trees. He drank rivers, lakes and oceans of water.
There is nothing the growing Inc would not eat, and the more he ate, the fatter he got.
Some of the other kids stayed away from Inc because they were afraid he might eat them too. Others would actually let Inc chew on their arms and legs - even nibble the nose off their faces - because it made Inc giggle with contagious delight. Indeed, it was said that his laughter was viral. Word quickly spread that a bite from Inc was like a thousand little kisses.
Like most who are morbidly obese, Inc sweated - a lot. Amazingly, it was found that the sweat pouring from his saturated glands was 5.3 times more happy inducing than the toe tickling saliva from his flesh nibbling. People began to clamor for whatever few drops from that stream of Inc's sweat they could get.
An entire industry grew up around Inc's sweat glands. There were the people who had the dangerous task of collecting the sweat (many of whom died from laughing lung disease), and those who's job it was to find the living, willing Public to feed old Inc Private so he would keep sweating his bullets of happy, so those folks could drink Inc's sweat and be very happy too.
It did not take long for the feeders to develop side effects from all that happy. Their noses turned red and bulbous; their hair - the ones that didn't fall out - turned bright orange and exploded like transformer wire from their whitening scalps; they lost so much weight that their clothes began to look old and many sizes too large; and they each developed a permanent, crazy grin behind their smiling, colorless lips. To cover their balding pates, they found hats that were many sizes too small, and they wore flowers in their jacket lapels that squirted happy sweat on as many of the people they met as possible. They were addicted clowns, needing Inc's sweat, and certain that happiness came from everyone not just wanting, but having a little jar of sweat they could call their own.
But there were still many, many people who found that feeding their flesh to Inc was just too high a price to pay for a little euphoria. Don't misunderstand; they loved to be happy. They just preferred to regulate from where, and under what circumstances, they derived their happiness. They were distressed that the clowns who were devoted to Inc had managed to create a policy that made it too easy for clueless crowds to get a touch of happy sweat.
These folks also felt that, while it was okay for Inc to be fat and happy, his sweat was just too big a distraction for the clowns, who were all convinced that what was good for Inc was good for everyone. Even hiring others to pull the clowns in another direction failed, because Inc's sweat was so powerful, that once even rational people got a little sweat on them, they became happy, unaccountable clowns too.
His juice was more powerful than anyone imagined. Under its influence, the catatonic clowns contracted antiperspirant manufacturers to create tons of the stuff that they made others wear, just in case anyone could compete with Inc's special talent for spreading happy. They also started wars to make sure there was plenty of people fodder to keep Inc eating and sweating.
The clowns even managed to convince hoards of people that Inc's unique specialness made everyone else unique and special too, even if they never even saw more than a thimble full of the happy-sweat. The clueless crowds became angry, screaming in blinding rage, if anyone suggested that the clowns had it wrong.
"What's the matter with you," they yelled between clenched teeth, "that you don't want us to be happy? Don't you understand that being fodder for Inc makes us happy? Don't you understand that having Inc sweat makes us unique, special, better and more important than anyone else? Leave the clowns alone! They are great for ensuring there is always Inc sweat."
One day, a stranger came through town, someone who had no direct connection or relationship with Inc or the clowns. The normal folks figured they could trust him to deliver an impartial opinion on what they saw as the corruptive influence of Inc on the clowns.
"What do you think about Inc's control over the clowns," they asked him. "Doesn't his big, unfailingly happy sweat have undue influence?"
The stranger stroked his hairless chin and paced the floor as he deliberated the difficult questions the people had asked him. Inc, after all, was free to be Inc. Everyone is special in some way, he thought, and Inc's talent happens to be intoxicating sweat.
The people who resented his influence, though, also had a point; if Inc's talent is so special that it is distracting, no one would listen to a thing they had to say. Still...
Finally, the stranger confidently grasped the lapel of his coat with one hand and pointed nowhere in particular with the other.
"I think it's obvious," he said. "Yes, Inc's abundance of happiness inducing sweat makes him very powerful, especially when it comes to influencing the clowns to create policies that serve him." The people were encouraged, until the stranger opened his mouth and said, "But." They froze.
"But," he repeated, "he is just Inc. You who are complaining can, I believe, gather your resources form a group to counter Inc. You're free to do that. Pool yourselves, if you want to go against Inc's influence. Won't your clowns allow you to do that?"
There was a general, dissatisfied murmuring. No one seemed to like what the impartial stranger had to say. The clueless hoards abhorred the potential of a united opposition to Inc's special status. They felt that was unpatriotic. Those who could potentially unite in opposition hated that they had to go through a unionization process just to get the clowns to listen to them.
No, thought the opposition, if Inc's happy sweat was going to trump the influence of any tiny, separate, freethinking groups they could muster, then they just needed a prolific Inc of their own. They needed someone whose influence would woo the clowns away from Inc's seemingly unstoppable happy sweat.
Her name was Ink. If Inc oozed a powerful, happy making drug, Ink glistened with pearls of knowledge, and a truth so pure that even Inc's powerful perspiration had no effect on her. Just looking at her made everyone feel smart, confident and secure. Some of the clowns even risked having their picture taken with her, because they thought it made them look smart too.
But a clown with a mortar board and stole is still a clown, and they would have to have many more visits with Ink before it would make a real difference. After all, as far as these jokers were concerned, the powerful bottles of Inc's sweat being delivered to their offices is what kept them in charge. What did Ink have to offer them, anyway? An elitist, thoughtful education? That did not get you hired by the clueless minions. Unfortunately, the clowns never realized how clueless that made them, and that they were the minions.
When it cam right down to it, though, Ink alone was not a strong enough counter. She awakened nothing in the clueless clowns. Holding a mirror in front of them to show them how irresponsible they were being was an unsuccessful tack, because when a clown looked in a mirror, he did not see a clown. He saw a patriot.
Ink had one suggestion. "If we cannot convince the clowns to cooperate," she said, "then we must get to the people, those who are easily swayed by the clueless crowds, the ones who think they have no choice but to give the limbs of their sons and daughters to feed fat Inc's endless appetite for irreverent exploitation.
"If they wake up, stop the senseless feeding of Inc, stand up for their own interests, then the gross perspiration that so woos the clowns will dry up, and they will have to detoxify and disengage from fat boy.
"They will know - in their hearts and their minds and their God fearing souls - that real happiness will come to everyone, even the clowns and the clueless, when the idiocy ends."
Don't be a clueless clown. Be a force in getting the idiocy to end. Be smart people, because the clowns in charge have forgotten how.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
July 3, 1988 - The Persian Gulf - A ship-to-air missile fired from the USS Vincennes downs an Iranian civilian airliner, after mistaking it for a fighter jet, killing all aboard. Bodies floated in the water of the Gulf.
January 16, 1989 [MLK Day] - Miami, FL - A policeman shoots a suspect on a motorcycle and kills him. The incident precipitates what became known as the Super Bowl Riots. The officer is convicted by a court in Miami, but acquitted when his appeal is moved to a more force-friendly venue.
March 19, 2003 - Iraq - An immense army invades a country based on faulty (if not manufactured) evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Hundreds of thousands dead - so far.
May 31,2010 - the Eastern Mediterranean - Navy commandos board a flotilla of stubborn idealists on a [provocative (if that's not an oxymoron)] humanitarian mission, and open fire on them, killing at least nine.
In each of the above cases, the use of power, often obscene, was justified as permissible, excusable, by those who exercised it. In each of those cases, the threat was not even real - just a warped perception of the facts at hand, seen through the gauzy filter of programmed enmity. In each of those cases, there were smarter, safer and more reasonable responses available to those who had their fingers on the triggers.
Particularly in the case of the latter, the confrontation did not begin with deck hands swinging steel bars; it began with the navy believing it had no other choice but to board. (It could be argued that it began 43 years ago, but that is a discussion for another time.)
As long as we continue to accept that violence is a reasonable response to any threat - real or imagined - there will be misguided maneuvers conducted by fearful automatons with potentially catastrophic, even deadly, results. Seeing no other way to keep a perceived threat in check, the fearful lace up the heavy boots and grab the ammunition.
This is where we need the United Nations to step up to its potential as an organization committed to abating the threat of war between nations. Too often, the UN reacts to crisis instead of attempting to mitigate it. Then, when there is a crisis, inevitably someone on the Security Council quashes any statements that may potentially threaten the strength and sovereignty of an ally.
The deflective "it's not me; it's them" approach to global affairs is unproductive by its very nature. Suspicion belies a real commitment to peace. As long as the UN works toward supporting toward its member-nations' dysfunctional approach to peace, they assume the posture of the one whose blade is at the end of a sword waiting for blood, not the one whose blade cuts rows in the ground for food.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Five weeks into the worst eco-disaster in US history, and things are getting worse. For the first few days after the April 20 explosion on the Deep Horizon vessel/rig/platform, bloggers and pundits were already criticizing the administration, hyperbolically calling the looming problem "Obama's Katrina."
It was early then, and there was still some hope Washington, DC, could stem the black tide before it reached the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf Coast, so comparisons to W's reaction to the 2005 hurricane were certainly overstatements - at the time. Now, the only thing that separates this terrible event from the Katrina catastrophe is that after the hurricane, Bush and Cheney were purposely delaying aid, trying to find ways that their deep pocket special interests could make money on the deal. Obama and company are not on that agenda - they are simply at a loss.
The fountain of oil flowing at a diarrheatic pace from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is washing up on Louisiana shores, killing fish and particularly rare pelicans. The governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal (R), is complaining, the people who earn their livelihood from those waters are frustrated and environmentalists are seething. They are all wondering, what is the federal government going to do?
Keeping its "boot on the neck of BP" is an expression of policing - not a course of action. Look, I know Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is not just picking up the phone to BP CEO Tony Hayward every couple of hours asking, "Are we there yet," but these are extraordinary circumstances requiring the quicker than the tortoise-like, business-as-usual approach for which Washington is infamous.
What are they waiting for?
My thought is that BP feels like as long as it is getting some oil out through the bendy-straw thing and into its tanker, then it will wait to cap the leak until after the tanker is full. Even the hose - which has not even been able to slow the gusher - "began sucking up oil at a slower rate over the weekend," AP reported. Once the tanker is full, I conjecture, BP will make an effort at capping, which is why I believe the action was delayed until the middle of this week. (I admit I have no evidence for this. It's just a scenario that makes some sense to me.)
So what to do? It seems all we can do is wait until BP pays what it says will be "all reasonable claims" stemming from the unstemmed flow - whatever they (and the courts) decide "reasonable" means. To hold them to it, I propose the following, until BP cleans up the mess:
- seize the full tanker, and put the oil in the Strategic Oil Reserves;
- fine BP - retroactively - the rate they were paying Transocean for the lease on the platform, which is reported to be $500,000 per day (definitely not a typo!); and
- ensure that no federal fleets use BP/Amoco petroleum based fuels.
Additionally, Congress should enact new legislation that charges an additional cleanup insurance fee on top of the offshore leasing royalties, which could go down in time if the operator has a clean record for a particular number of years. Also, re-examine the entire royalty process - it is an obvious conflict of interest.
Maybe if we keep our foot up Big Oil's ass, it will be harder to kiss it.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Enter Rand Paul, the new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, with his election victory "message from the Tea Party," saying, "We have come to take our government back." The message goes even deeper than that. The Tea Party movement thrives on its marginalization by the "establishment," and we dismiss the group at the peril of all that is civil about America.
Before the sun was even cracking the horizon in Appalachia Wednesday morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had issued a press release critical of what it called Paul's "out-of-touch views to the general election electorate in Kentucky." It seems to me, that is exactly what got him elected - his out of touch views. Even his missteps with Rachel Maddow the next night only made the revolutionary tea baggers appreciate him even more.
Compare the DSCC's attempt to thwart Paul's momentum with that of his challenger in the GOP primary race, the McConnell backed Trey Grayson. Grayson issued one television ad accusing Paul of wanting to "hide his strange ideas." Senator McConnell issued an ad saying, "I know Trey Grayson and trust him." Trust from someone as inside Washington as the Senate minority leader doesn't go very far in an election where there is a pervasive, irrational loathing of incumbency. Despite the fact that Grayson even had the endorsement of Dick Cheney, he was just too "establishment."
"A lot of the things we [in the Tea Party] talk about are a chastisement to both parties," Paul told CBS News on Tuesday, before the polls closed, and both parties - like Wall Street before the collapse - are blind to the threatening rhetoric from those who walk in lockstep with Glenn Beck.
They would be wise to heed the words of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), who told CNN, "It was an anti-incumbency vote across the nation. If you ran against Washington, you did well."
That anti-Washington sentiment, and telling voters their candidates are outside the mainstream, will only embolden and strengthen their willingness to confront the status quo, now that the Tea Partiers have a face in the race.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Partisan Politics requires three kinds of actions to thrive: to exist, through blind faith and bottomless financing; to replenish its adherents, luring them with passionate, serotonin inducing rhetoric, and fear of what happens if the other side gets control, that makes their hearts beat rapidly and their palm sweat in hungry anticipation; and to define the behavior of the adherents, so that everyone understands the amount of tunnel-vision necessary to maintain their roles, and the stubbornness required, to the survival of the dogma (which ups the passionate responses).
In the communities where political opinions are given more weight than they are probably worth, they are represented by three targets: money, passion and a strong belief in the moral high ground. In that way, the pervasive political partisanship assures adherents to their respective sides and gridlock in the political process.
As for passionate partisanship, it is further defined as the enjoyment of feeling that you sound, look, smell, feel and pray better than those whose politics you choose to despise, for they are your unholy adversary. Particular to this passion is the relationship between the talking point and the myopic mind, and the consciousness of pleasure from that contact, which is called partisan politics.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
In the unlikely event you find yourself forming a, well, unregulated militia, the first rule should be to leave God out of it. God and guns do not mix. Government and guns, for the purpose of a common defense, while not for some easy to dismiss, is still understandable. The Bible may be a defense of good action, but it is not a modern paramilitary call to action.
If we, who hold government accountable for keeping religious zealotry demilitarized, were to be struck down by the violence of the faithful, does it matter if it's the sword of Islam, the burning spear of Christianity or the gun of a flag robed American with a Bible in his pocket? Not really.
What matters is which of them are hiding under white sheets and behind bushes, plotting to blow up corteges, and which are influencing the halls of government power, sourcing God for the nation's fortunes like a football player after the Super Bowl. They are both dangerous to the future of our country. The armed recluse believes he hears a divine call and the politician who shouts out "baby killer" believes his election gives him Divine Right.
These are the days to question infallibility of power, whether it comes robed in red or dressed in a dark suit. The countering of this trend is no longer just an exercise of exorcised thinkers. It is waking our citizens up to their own inaction, which is empowering the behavior that condones attacking our representatives and killing abortion doctors.
In his own arrogant display that comes from being empowered by a dysfunctional, deist-addicted populace, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, told a press conference in Atlanta two weeks ago, "I think the Democratic leadership has to take some moral responsibility for having behaved with such arrogance, in such a hostile way, that the American people are deeply upset," in responding to questions about the reported attack on Democratic lawmakers, after health care reform passed.
Now is not the time for vain exercise. Lift a pen, or your voice or join the Coffee Party Movement, and call for civil discourse. We cannot make those who are blinded by fear see, but we can make men and women of vision step forward, for the good of our country.